The Shortcut organized a Stress Control and Scientific Meditation Workshop at The Shortcut Lab this week. Keeping in mind the importance of stress management in work environments (and life in general), the workshop introduced some science-based tools used in meditation and stress control.
This workshop caught my attention because our team has been discussing a lot about work stress and mental resilience, especially in startup environments. Startups are beginning to seriously address the issue because rising stress levels are starting to overshadow the perks of this otherwise flexible ecosystem. But we shall discuss this at length in another post. For now, this workshop seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore the topic.
I have tried traditional meditation before and failed as it requires commitment and time. So if I could learn a shortcut to better stress control then I was ready to try it! Fernando Guerrero who conducted the workshop pointed out that the average attention span of a person nowadays is about 18 minutes and therefore it is important to focus on techniques which can bring out results in a relatively shorter duration. We took about 25 minutes to complete our meditation. But it felt like 8–10 minutes to me. Perhaps, this time-lapse had something to do with my actually being in a state of meditation.
It seems, there is a lack of general awareness about identifying symptoms of stress and tackling them. Mind fatigue, depression, low concentration, anxiety, irritability, creative blockage are some of the things which are sometimes tricky to identify. But physical symptoms like sleep disorder, headaches, lower back pain, nausea, high blood pressure and heart diseases are also very common symptoms of stress. Still we end up ignoring the connections.
Stress is actually our body’s way of responding to a demanding task or threat-like situations. It can be real or imagined but our body’s defenses kick-start the moment it detects such situations in order to protect us. Technically, we call it the ‘stress response’. It helps us stay hawkish, combat challenges and save our lives when in danger. But after a prolonged period of having our stress response mode active, it stops being helpful and poses a threat to our overall wellbeing. And when things get out of control we feel burned out, a state of complete emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. It happens more at work spaces because our minds demand constant performance on the job.
Fernando is a ‘wellness and personal development’ expert and he guided us through a very interesting meditation process where we used our senses to visualise different calming environments. This kind of exercises are believed to benefit our health in ways such as boosting immunity, curing insomnia, healing wounds and stabilizing blood sugar level.
We went through 6 steps of meditation. Beginning with mindfulness as a warm-up we went through the processes of body and mind relaxation by using senses like touch, taste, sight, and sound. Then came the processing phase where we created our own spaces to block out stress. Also, we had to do an exit step from that space which is necessary to awaken the body out of the meditation.
Imagining a bright yellow paint (pick your colour) poured over my head and the paint gradually soaking through my skin while healing my stressed body may sound funny to you but it kind of worked for my tired eyes and hurting back. Also, I am not ashamed to admit that the personal space I created in my mind had an infinity pool with a margarita on its ledge waiting for me.
Fernando also maintains that holistic meditation is still very effective if you can commit to it but if you are not very spiritual then this technique can work for you (particularly at work). No lotus position and holy chants required!
Outside the workshop, Fernando helped me try a brain sensing meditation headband. When used with an app the band guides you through calming meditation sessions, provides EEG based real-time neurofeedback and records sessions to help set realistic goals. It is a pretty cool way to get hooked to meditation, mainly for the techno-savvy millennials who are the most stressed of the lot. It is also a good subject for debating whether this kind of meditation is real or not.
I wouldn’t use the headband. One less app to use, of course! But I could challenge my teammates to use visualisation techniques as this might add a new dimension to our ‘work stress’ discussions. Random musings coming up!