More and more individuals are taking the plunge to start their own business. Unfortunately, according to the US Census Bureau Business Dynamics Statistics Database 41% of the retail industry and 47 % of the services industry will fail in 5 years. [http://www.isbdc.org/small-business-failure-rates-causes/]. Generally, this is due to inexperience and lack of planning. I suspect that stress also has a lot to do with this, according to surveys 65% of employees feel that stress affects their performance and causes problems in their work and violence is becoming a bigger and bigger problem at work. Workers are working longer and harder without being compensated. Job stress costs US businesses over $300 billion dollars a year due to: (1) accidents; (2) absenteeism; (3) turnover and diminished production; (4) stress related illness and disease; and (5) worker’s compensation costs. [http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/].
Almost 50% of adults experience health issues due to stress and up to 90% of all physician visits are due to stress related illness. Stress can cause headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety. Chronic emotional issues are often caused by stress. [http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body].
What I am about to suggest may sound radical to some in the corporate world…but these practices can save lives and careers. When I refer to spirituality, I am speaking of a broad range of philosophical and psychological concepts. This does not omit religion, but since many religions or creeds have strict rules and requirements I want to refer to the underlying belief system of morals and integrity. Principally I want to discuss meditation as well as other behavioral models that have been proven to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
Let’s start with meditation. The object of meditation is to stop thinking for as long as we can. For most people that would be like asking them to breathe in a vacuum. Chronic thinking is akin to mental masturbation. After all, that is what people are trained to do, think. Not thinking is the absolute last thing our minds want to do, but it is absolutely critical to our feelings of peace and well being that we detach from our thoughts. Meditation is like engaging the clutch on that hamster wheel in our mental cage so that the thoughts stop spinning around and around. There are as many different types of meditation as there are people. Do some research and reading and find the kind of meditation that appeals to you (no pun intended). There is yoga/breathing meditation, guided meditation, group meditation and prayer groups. As long as the prayer involves a period for you to listen, quiet your mind, and be still, you will get the benefit of the process.
The second concept to consider is breathing. Yes, breathing. Most people (as well as the general population) do not breath deeply enough. The problem is shallow breathing cuts off adequate oxygen to the frontal lobe, which results in higher brain function shut down. When we sense fear or threat, we automatically start breathing faster and more shallowly. This results in the fight or flight syndrome, also known as panic. When we focus on breathing deeply, we supply enough oxygen to our frontal cortex which is our analytical brain and we can reason. Otherwise we stay in a state of panic and fear as if being chased by a wild animal, snakes or spiders and our ability to analyze and make good decisions is compromised.
The third concept is what is now being called “mindfulness”. I call it “paying attention”. When we detach ourselves from our thoughts, we can actually master them faster. The whole notion of the power of positive thinking only works if we are controlling our minds, not the other way around. People train their minds to work a certain way, to anticipate problems. We have to detach from that unique ability long enough to stop anxiety from setting in. We can control our thinking, but we have to be aware that we are thinking. We can control our thoughts if we are aware of them. If we are afraid, we can be aware of the feeling of fear. If we are stressed, we can be aware of the feeling of stress. We can then turn our thoughts to a positive theme and let go of the negative feelings. It is easy to do with practice.
When we gain control of our thoughts, we can realize that we are simply good people who are doing legal work for a living, not people who are trying to be good people. When we fall into the trap of identifying ourselves as people we are letting the tail wag the dog. Many people I know are compassionate, peaceful, and happy. My observation is that they have not let the thinking mind overtake their conscious mind. People who are caught in a loop of “win at all costs”, “get that sale no matter what”, or “how do I pay my bills” have fallen into a lose-lose mindset. When we perceive practicing law as a “win-lose” scenario, we also fall into the lose-lose mindset. What we have to do is consider ourselves as family as opposed to employees and add tools like breathing, meditation and mindfulness to our toolboxes.
One of the biggest sources of stress and suffering is wishing that our life was different. This is not so much that we want to improve, but that we hate our lives as they are. We feel we are victims; we feel that life is not fair. We have to accept that the life that we have is the life we have acquired through a life time of choices, but it will change as we grow emotionally and mentally.
We need to play. This can be something as simple as drawing with crayons or blowing bubbles with bubble gum. This helps people relax and stop their chronic anxiety. This also includes getting out in nature, even doing something as simple as walking on grass in bare feet. We are creatures of nature, and we need to get out in nature to remember that fact. When we shut ourselves into cubicles for most of our life we lose connection with our nature. When we live in a concrete world, we cut off our connection to nature. We can grow a window garden, we can walk in the park, we can have a pet. Anything that reconnects us to nature will make us better and happier.
We need to smile more. Many times we don’t even know we have lost our smile until someone gives it back to us. Smiling has been shown to make us more attractive, improve our mood, relieve stress and strengthen our immune system. We can also use oils and fragrances to reduce stress and improve our moods. Lavender has especially been shown to be beneficial. Floral scents are also helpful, a bouquet of flowers can lift any mood and make people who are stressed out feel better.
Finally, exercise can reduce stress. One of the most over looked spiritual principles is our body is our temple. When we don’t take care of our physical body, our mental and emotional bodies will suffer. Suffering causes the same symptoms as stress. Stretching and calisthenics have been shown to help concentration and health in the workplace.
When employees and workers are happy, customers are happy. The ripple effect is a spiritual principle that can help a business succeed or fail. When we are healthy we can be more present, which means we listen better to each other and customers. When customers can see that employees are having fun, it increases customer confidence that the company is built on principles that are sound. When employees are healthy and happy, employment costs decrease. Bring spirituality into the workplace and it will become a nurturing, profitable environment.
Reprinted from The Elephant Journal