Below are listed several mechanisms behind stress and mental health at work, which can be greatly helped with “low tech, low cost” interventions such as therapies or fitness.
The result is then accompanied by increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.
- Fight & flight mode closure. The function of stress, with its specific neurogical “wiring” has not changed since prehistory. It is aimed at preparing the individual for either “Fight” or “Flight” with increased blood supply to brain, lungs and muscles, and decreased activity of background tasks such as digestion. But in an office environment, we do not fight anymore against predators of the Paleolithic period but against virtual enemies such as dead-lines. Stress at work does not lead anymore to a physical outburst, instead we remain seated at our desk, boiling inside. Exercise allows the sedentary worker’s body to complete the expected neurological “Fight & Flight” loop cycle. The nervous system is then tricked into thinking that stress was aimed at the activity expressed during exercice, it can therefore come back to normal state afterwards. Medium to Strong Intensity exercise ( e.g. with a personal trainer) is therefore a good way to regulate the nervous system, in times of increased stress.
- Acute stress takes its toll on the body when it lasts too long. Imagine a cat which is constantly startled with a round back and raised hair. His whole body would be quite uncomfortable to live in after a while. Physical therapy (massage, osteopathy, acupuncture, etc.) helps rebalance the different parts of the autonomic nervous system involved in stress and therefore reset the tone of the contracted tissues, to help the body to come back to “neutral mode”.
- Chronic Stress is also the body’s response to almost any lasting disturbance, inflammation, toxic load, etc… in addition to mentally challenging situations. It is the body’s attempt to best regulate itself when its normal physiological limits are challenged. Osteopathy and Acupuncture can help normalize the different systems of the body : endocrine, musculoskeletal, digestive, etc…and therefore decrease the general stress burden of the body. As a result the body will be more resistant to specific stressors including work-related stressors .
- “Mental dissociation” starts when people are no longer in touch with their body. This state is common among sedentary office workers, when cerebral functions are over-stimulated to the detriment of somatic functions. This can result in a lack of conscious acknowledgement of the signals from the multiple receptors in the body and a resulting lack of general awareness. This can affect the quality of the general perception of the employee, and as a result the quality of his decision making by altering his intuition. “Mental dissociation” is a condition which is also shared by PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) sufferers, for whom the connection of the individual to his body sensations has been severed as a coping strategy. Therapeutic touch has been widely studied and helps the individual re-integrate their body.
- Therapeutic presence, such as unconditional positive attention, and empathic understanding also conveys the intention of the therapist, which is at the heart of the healing process of the client, as studied in clinical psychotherapy.The client’s system benefits from the support of this attentive positive presence to balance itself out.
- Hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and counselling are specifically targeted at mental issues, by allowing the invidual to reprogram specific mental patterns deemed conterproductive. The position of the practitioner as an external stakeholder ensures that the problem is addressed outside the confines of the workplace.