Smart Body Smart Mind

A program for business teams & leaders
to reduce stress and harness our biological responses

According to a Medibank Private study in 2008, stress in the workplace costs the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year due to presenteeism* and absenteeism, and directly costs employers $10.11 billion a year.   Current indicators suggest that that number is still rising.

There are many practices and strategies for managing stress in the workplace, and while they may be on the right track, they do not go far enough to address the source, and consequently only act to provide temporary relief – much like dealing with the symptoms and not the cause.

Taking the stigma out of stress

What is stress?   It is biological response to our external and internal environment.  Through a process called neuroception, subconscious neural circuits discern whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life threatening.  Basically, our bodies determine how safe we feel and how we should respond.  Our response to stress is mainly determined by our exposure to stress, the amount of stress we have experienced, the intensity of the stress and the duration.  It is not a weakness or flaw in our character or personalities.DSC05729

Is stress good?

Yes, when:

  • It is in small amounts, and helps us to focus
  • It is not ‘off the scales’
  • There is sufficient space between the stress moments to allow the nervous system to release the ‘charge’ associated with the stress and return to equilibrium

Under prolonged and/or extreme stress, however we use up valuable resources – such as energy to maintain vigilance or prepare our bodies for fighting or fleeing, and our:

  • focus narrows (we become fixated on the threat, and literally our eyes tighten so that our periphery vision is restricted) and limits our capacity to take in the whole – the good as well as the not-so-good
  • health is compromised (our immune and digestive systems specifically are slowed or shut down during times of stress – over long periods, this leads to illness and disease)
  • capacity to think clearly is diminished, let alone be creative

This is no longer speculation or theory.  Every book, research, article, paper, and conference on the effects of stress on the body – from a neuroscience perspective confirms this.

Managing stress

Stress management techniques may often make small incremental changes and provide temporary relief, but without addressing the source in a specific way, significant change is not possible.

The nervous system is the source of our energy, creativity, and all our biological, physical, mental, and emotional processes.  To put it simply… the nervous system governs EVERYTHING.

Almost everyone’s behaviour is appropriate according to what is happening in their nervous systems.  Let that sink in …

Imagine if we could apply reverse engineering by adjusting our behaviour to change our biological responses to our environment so that we maintained well-being, and clear thinking?  That is exactly what we can do.

One more thing – the oldest part of our nervous system (and usually the more dominant) literally doesn’t know the difference between a thought or emotional threat (such as pressure in the workplace), and a nearby snake in the grass.  It releases Adrenalin and Cortisol in preparation for survival (fighting or running).  During this period of stress, the body doesn’t have time for the slower, linear-thinking, rational brain, or need to digest food, or worry about fighting off illness, so all these systems are compromised.

However, when we put our attention on what is happening in our nervous system, and take actions to release the built up ‘charge’ (which is accumulated energy produced by the body in preparation to cope with threats), and allow the body time to restore equilibrium:

  • we become more resilient
  • we teach our nervous systems to respond differently
  • we develop a new default state of being
  • our health improves
  • we have more energy
  • we think clearly and are more creative

At Free Rein Australia, we engage with a herd of horses to learn about our own nervous systems and apply this learning to restore balance in our bodies.  When the body is functioning efficiently, the brain is functioning efficiently.  Hence our program name:  Smart Body Smart Mind!

Horses are prey animals and NEED their nervous systems working efficiently to survive.  A stressed out nervous system makes them susceptible to predators, and they become someone’s dinner.

Our nervous system is a learning system – and it can only learn through experience.  As social mammals, horses have the exact same nervous system as we do.  Who better to teach us what our nervous systems need to stay in balance than these social beings whose ancestors lived over 55 million years ago, and continue to thrive today – because they got their stress response cycle right?

A program with the horses involves:

  • Learning about our nervous systems  – that explains why we do what we do
  • Experiencing the different states of our nervous system and what equilibrium feels like
  • Learning to notice what our nervous systems are doing
  • Learning to notice other people’s nervous systems (as relational beings our nervous systems are sensitive to others’ and will adapt to match or resonate with others)
  • Learning practices to restore equilibrium to our nervous system and influence others’ nervous systems

Contact us to discuss how our unique program,  (informed by Polyvagal Theory, Somatic Experiencing, Heartmath Institute, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and others) can help your team become more resourceful, creative, and productive while costing you less (in absenteeism and presenteeism, staff turnover, staff development, and recruitment).

* Presenteeism is defined as the lost productivity that occurs when employees come to work but, as a consequence of illness or other conditions, are not fully functioning. In comparison, absenteeism occurs when employees do not come to work.