Stress is one of the biggest challenges in the workplace and in modern living.  Stress increases sickness rates and decreases our concentration, creativity, communication and relational abilities.

I offer tailored resilience training for individuals, groups, managers and their staff in the workplace.  I also offer staff retreat days where we learn resilience building skills and whilst enjoying time away from the work environment.

My clients have included Durham University, Scottish Government, Cygnus Support & Mentoring, Blind Veterans, Rocket X, Parkinsons UK, David Gray (Solicitors), RVS. 

Mindfulness and Yoga are becoming more recognised as stress reducing strategies which help regulate our nervous system.  Science shows that it is not just about being present but being able to feel sensations in the body which takes us out of the stress mode, off the hamster wheel of rumination, into a place of clearer thinking and relaxed responsiveness.

Most of us need to learn how to relax, but that is only one part of the story.  We need our nervous systems to be more resilient.  This means being able to rev up to perform when the pressure is on, and quickly relax when we're not at work.  Recharging our batteries, enjoying our time off and returning to work refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

A key aspect is learning how our nervous system works which helps us have an awareness of what is actually going on in our system.  This opens a window to using appropriate resiliency skills to shift our underlying physiology.  Some of the skills I share can be practised in the moment, at a desk or in a lunch break.  Others are tools for home time to help us de-stress, relax and sleep.

As well as employees learning to manage their stress, organisations can also impact stress in the workplace by using an understanding of nervous system regulation to identify environmental and social factors which potentially help or hinder nervous system regulation.

Secondary trauma and subsequent burn-out is becoming more commonplace in caring organisations like the NHS, social work and hospices.  I offer compassion training which can help individuals and organisations to care for themselves whilst caring for others.

 

Sally is a member of NE Wellbeing – Mindfulness & Resilience Trainers

“When I was stressed at work I went for a walk at lunchtime and did a mindfulness practice .  I felt calmer in the afternoon”

Lorna

I have been working for HMRC for 4 years as a Senior User Researcher.  I have developed a program of Empathy which I have introduced to different directorates across the UK.   In August I moved to US, but am continuing this work, supporting the spreading of the ‘ME WE Workplace Empathy Program’ to other UK Government departments.   In this role I was previously experiencing a lot of stress and had issues with my gut which I couldn’t resolve. 

This year I have attended ‘Building Resilience & Mindful Stress management’ (3 week course) and the ‘Compassion Based Living Course’ (10 week course) with Sally.   These gave me a new perspective about dealing with stress and my relationships with others looking at it through the lens of the Mindfulness, nervous system regulation and Polyvagal Theory.

Through this work I gained a greater understanding of my stress patterns.  I am now able to differentiate between types of stress, the Fight, Flight & Freeze and how they are held in my body.  I am able to be with feelings in my body and hear the messages to stop rather than trying to push through.

The Compassion work cultivates the evolved part of our nervous system, the social engagement system.  The combination of the theory and the meditation practices helped me to notice how I was getting triggered by something in a particular moment.

This work also highlighted to me the importance of seeing similarities in people.  I realised that seeing people as different was more likely to lead to judgements.  Whereas when I started to look for similarities it reduced the defensive energy in my system and noticed how this really reduces my stress levels.

Fairly soon this work with Sally helped me manage my general stresses.  The bit that was harder was the stress around delivering programmes to senior leaders.  It took longer to manage this but the courses helped me understand why I was stressed and to be connected with how it felt in my body. Now when I go into those situations, I start from a place of knowing I have the tools to manage and I see things as a process.  If things happen that are difficult, I can reflect on the interactions and learn from the process. 

My empathy work was enhanced by the understanding that how we behave is a function of our nervous system.  Empathy is a natural part of being in our social engagement system, whereas being in survival mode is a barrier to empathy.  Getting a feel for how to shift from survival mode to the social engagement system and how to support others in doing this was very valuable.

In my new role of spreading the the ‘ME WE Workplace Empathy Program’ across government I see that this work is helping me to support the people who are taking it on.  Accepting other people and how they show up.  Allowing them to bring their own skills to the table.

I also feel more at ease when having difficult conversations.  Understanding what is going on in people’s nervous systems means I can create an emotional safe space for myself and others to have more productive interactions.   I think that everyone has a different reaction to challenges and it’s important to keep on being empathetic with people even when it is difficult.

Something I have learnt is that it’s not just about the impact of stress on my own life, it’s also about how I impact on people in a team.  My own self-care has a huge impact on other people.  If I’m not listening, you are not feeling heard.   If someone is getting left out their nervous system feels it in a similar way as if they had been punched on the nose.

When we are stressed, we go into our head too much, we don’t notice the people around us and their visual cues.   My meditation practices impact on how I work in a team.

I can see that for people who are managing a team, the ideal is to keep people at a level of optimum nervous system activation.  So, this would be slightly activated/energised.  If people are too far over this point, it’s not productive.  They don’t hear each other, think clearly, they miss things, they don’t make such good decisions.  Whereas if we can get people back to this healthy anxiety/activation point the work environment is so much more productive, creative and less stressful.  Teams can learn how to self-regulate, understand their individual impact on others and how to help others to regulate through connection.

For myself, I now feel that my ability to cope with stress is so much better.  I can be with the body sensations, listen to them and not take on too much.  My gut is so much better. 

And now I seem to be doing less yet it seems like I’m achieving much more

Dr Emma Jara Jefferies

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