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Chill-out Zone


Contemplative manTo mark National Stress Awareness Day we asked Rebecca Midgley to speak to industry notables for their tips on how to encourage a more holistic work environment. We're also linking to a 10-minute audio file of a relaxation and breathing exercise, kindly recorded for by Annie Lawler, owner and director of Breathing Space. It is designed to be done at your desk or as you travel but not while driving!

In researching the previous article on training holistically I came across a wealth of information to suggest that workplace wellness is slowly creeping onto every organisation's agenda. However, although it's one thing to be aware of health and wellbeing issues, it is quite another to work the concepts into our daily working lives.

Being conscious that you may be suffering from stress is not always as obvious as it sounds. In many cases people attending a doctor’s appointment for seemingly unrelated issues are diagnosed with stress and/or anxiety.

Annie Lawler says that one of the biggest issues is a lack of training in managers who have been entrusted with the task of spotting stress among colleagues. She says: "The key to sharing responsibility is to make sure that relevant training is provided by employers for individuals and line managers so that they recognise when they are overloaded and know what actions are available and relevant and can act on this knowledge."

"In addition, materials can be made available so that individuals have practical tools to work with in their own time, for example, online learning programmes, CDs, downloads, articles, one-to-one coaching, counselling and therapeutic interventions."

Gemma Middleton of Righttrack believes that as individuals, we need an individual approach to stress management, and adds: "I think it would be fantastic if organisations actually set some time aside for employees to conduct their own choice of activity within the working day/week, as this would encourage participation without taking precious time away from the family."

Jackie Cross, of Employee Motivation Today also shares her top tips on how to keep yourself energised and in top physical condition, which, she says, is crucial to mental strength.

So without getting into a debate about who should take responsibility and when time should be allocated, here are some top practical stress-busting tips from our experts.

Photo of Annie LawlerAnnie Lawler

Q. What techniques can be employed in the workplace to alleviate issues relating to workplace stress/poor work-life balance?

Annie says:

Training in a variety of techniques which help people maintain healthy stress levels and share responsibility for their wellbeing can introduce employees to practical techniques including:

  • Breathing and relaxation
  • Break-taking
  • Diet and exercise
  • Clear roles, goals and objectives
  • Clear communication and training
  • Reasonable demands
  • Ability to work under own steam (control)
  • Organisational techniques and time management
  • Communication
  • Providing one-to-one support in terms of counselling, coaching & mentoring, especially where further learning is needed
  • An ongoing development scheme where training is given to help the individual develop their skills and feel confident in their career progression and ability, which also makes them more useful to their employer

This relaxation and breathing exercise, kindly recorded for by Annie Lawler, owner and director of Breathing Space, is designed to be done at your desk or as you travel to work but please note that this recording is not suitable for use while driving.

Photo of Gemma MiddletonGemma Middleton

Q. Do you envisage companies will integrate good, positive health concepts at work, and what are your top tips?

Gemma says:

Participation is key. Organisations cannot come up with wellbeing programmes and activities without consulting the employees. The beauty of the human race is that we are all different and so this needs to be addressed; otherwise forcing people to take part in activities they dislike will only add to their stress levels!

So my main tip is to get talking. By opening communication lines ideas are sure to flow, which will help create excitement and motivation – exactly what is needed. Everyone is busy, so to find an excuse wouldn’t take anyone too long. But if people engage in activities they want to, then they will find the time.

There are many different activities such as gym sessions/classes, cookery lessons/groups, creating clubs and societies, rambling, yoga, meditation and drama: whatever floats your boat.

The final tip I would offer is open your mind and be willing to try, otherwise just going through the motions will not create the results that are possible from making a conscious effort to look after your wellbeing and health.

Photo of Jackie CrossJackie Cross

Q. What are your top tips for trainers?

Jackie says:

  • Energy is the key element in the delivery of any course. As a trainer you need to ensure that you are full of energy and the only way you can achieve this is with a balanced diet. The first tip is to start the day with a mug of hot water and freshly squeezed lemon, which will give your liver a boost first thing in the morning
  • Connecting with your audience at the beginning of your course, and maintaining their attention at all times is imperative. To ensure that you are engaged at all times you need to be fit and healthy. A great way of achieving this is through participating in activities in your social time. I don’t mean actual physical exercise - instead you can enjoy pleasurable activities with your friends and family. Ideally, you need to be doing something at least three times a week to keep your courses fresh
  • A good training consultant is always alert and spots any delegate who is struggling and in need of assistance. In order to achieve this, go steady on the coffee. A good habit is to ensure that you have a litre of water on your table and sip this throughout the course
  • Beat the mid afternoon slump by having porridge oats for breakfast. Oats are a great way to help you to maintain your blood sugar levels - a great start to the day! Ensure that you are prepared for the whole day, don’t tuck into the provided sandwiches that are high in fats, as this could affect the delivery of your course in the afternoon. Opt for fruit if it is available and think of the food provided as fuel not a luxury
  • Improve your confidence and self esteem by skin brushing – you would never leave the house without brushing your teeth so a great way to start the day is with a 30-second skin brush before you get in the shower. It is great for circulation and gives you that feel-good factor that helps with the delivery of your training!
  • Avoid temptation: a good-quality training provider will look after the delegate, which means plenty of refreshments. This is great for the delegates. However, you could be there for some time delivering courses, therefore you need to make sure you do not fall into bad habits by eating too many biscuits, etc. This will obviously result in weight gain over a period of time, which could cause future health problems
  • Do you feel exhausted at the end of a training day? If you do, take a quick self analysis and run through a typical training day checklist. This will provide you with valuable evidence to identify bad habits and routines that have become routine. You need to make sure that you have enough energy to enjoy your evenings, especially at this time of the year when the nights are drawing in and the weather is slowly growing colder. Training courses can be tiring but they should not stop you from enjoying your time at home with family and friends

This relaxation and breathing exercise, kindly recorded for by Annie Lawler, owner and director of Breathing Space, is designed to be done at your desk or as you travel to work but please note that this recording is not suitable for use while driving.

Journalist Rebecca Midgley is the newest member of the features team.

What features would you like to see on Please email us with your comments and let us know what you would like to read. Email


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