Transforming stress

by 31 Mar 2009

Stress is going through the roof for many organisations and their employees. Craig Donaldson road tests a paradigm-changing solution: HeartMath Australasia’s Transforming Stress workshop

Many organisations are struggling with the ques tion of how to reduce stress in the workforce. This problem is further exacerbated by the or ganisational fallout of the economic downturn such as restructures, redundancies and in creased pressure to make budgets.

Stress can play a big role in affecting both general health and wellbeing as well as prevent ing peak performance and productivity in the workplace. With this in mind, the Institute of HeartMath has developed a workshop called Transforming Stress – a practical half-day work shop designed to help participants respond ef fectively to and manage pressure, emotional challenge, stress and change.

The Institute of HeartMath is a non-profit re search organisation and globally recognised au thority on the physiology of and relationship be tween stress and emotions. With a client list including McKinsey, AT&T, Harley-Davidson, HSBC, Motorola, Boeing, Stanford Graduate School of Business and the US military, the insti tute has spent 15 years decoding stress and de veloping a unique system to quantifiably and dramatically boost the health and performance of individuals and organisations.

HeartMath conducts a number of workshops around Australia, and the one reviewed here was facilitated by Olivia de Bergerac, a PhD director of HeartMath Australasia, in March at the headquarters of Good Health Solutions, Australia’s largest provider of health services to corporates and other organisations.

Based on the book Transforming Stress, by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman PhD (two of HearthMath’s founders), this workshop is prima rily designed to show attendees how to trans form negative, stressful reactions into positive solutions. HeartMath research has demonstrat ed a critical link between the heart and emotions and demonstrates how the heart responds to emotional and mental reactions.

The basic principle of the workshop is that stress and emotions cannot be separated, and subtler or more mechanical everyday emotional reactions tend to go unnoticed and accumulate. It posits that, by staying in the head, the options open to us in terms of how we react (as opposed to choosing how to re spond) to situations are limited largely to our past experience and knowledge.

However, by getting “out of brain” and using HeartMath’s process for tapping into the intelli gence of the heart, this assists us in becoming less reactive and responding in a more positive and constructive way. It is a real-time stress in tervention which, when practiced consistently, leads to a peak performance state, also known as being in the zone or flow.

The workshop examines how stress occurs when our perception of events does not meet our expectations and we are unable to manage our reaction. It teaches, however, that by shifting our perception we have the ability to reduce stress and anxiety and increase harmony and balance in the mind and body.

A number of techniques for transforming stress are introduced, which are practised throughout the workshop both individually and in group activities. HeartMath has also devel oped technology to measure positive states, and this technology is employed towards the latter end of the workshop to assist participants in be coming familiar with the positive state brought about by employing HeartMath techniques.

While these techniques are solidly based in established scientific research, Hearth Math is unconventional in what it teaches. However, nothing new comes out of estab lished convention, and at a time when busi ness is grappling with the problem of in creased stress, this workshop can bring about a positive and much needed paradigm shift for individuals and business.