Entrepreneurs and Mindfulness #TheBQBGuestBlogger Glenda Riovallan

bepresentBusiness leaders in general and entrepreneurs in particular, experience high levels of stress/distress due to the increasingly competitive and uncertain environments they operate within (Ayala and Manzano, 2014).
Challenging circumstances and the adoption of the behaviour patterns of the surrounding culture minimize the likelihood of self-care (Freeman as cited in Bruder, 2014). In complicating matters, as well as neglecting their health, many entrepreneurs, harbor secret demons (Bruder, 2014). In particular, new entrepreneurs struggle through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair, times when it seems that everything might crumble. Rather than showing vulnerability, business leaders have practiced what social psychiatrists call impression management (Piwinger and Ebert, 2001; Goffman, 1959) also known as “fake it till you make it” (Nagy et al, 2012).
However, this can come at a psychological price with entrepreneurs reporting higher levels of mood vulnerability, anxiety and depression than employees (Bruder, 2014). The development of resilience in individuals (Mowbray, 2011; Jackson, Firtko & Edenborough, 2007; Neenan, 2009) and entrepreneurs (Bullough, 2014) is viewed by many as a potential answer to the stress associated with contemporary lifestyles and workplaces.

Increasing interest in the development of resilient workers has meant an enormous growth in interest in the role of holistic practices such as mindfulness mediation (Foureur et al, 2013). Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and Barnard and Teadale’s mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT) are the most commonly used by those seeking to practice, theorise or research mindfulness across mindfulness contexts.

The idea that there is a relationship between mindfulness training and improved resilience in the entrepreneur is on the premise that mindfulness, mindful learning and mindfulness processes develop the key constructs of resilience (resourcefulness, hardiness, optimism, positive emotion and self-awareness) and that self-awareness is the underexplored linkage between both mindfulness and resilience.

In addition, traditional mindfulness courses do not include aspects of values-based goal settings and therefore these were introduced on the basis that entrepeneurs may often prioiritise work and projects at the peril of neglecting important areas of their lives such as family, leisure and relationships – with potentially detrimental long term consequenses.

It was following a chance meeting at a barbecue that Glenda Riovallan, a local entrepreneur and Director of Healthhaus and Dr Alessio Agostinis, a local Consultant Psychologist an Accredited Mindfulness Teacher, decided they could likely develop a package that would both suit this specific group of individuals and businesses alike, would stay sensitive to the needs of the local market and would also keep fidelity to the MBSR and MBCT packages on which most of the current research is based. They felt this would be important as Mindfulness today has become a general term that, without the appropriate context, rigor of approach, containment of materials and attention to the standards set internationally and in the UK by mindfulness experts such as those on the UK network for mindfulness teachers and trainers (link), risks being diluted to such a degree as to being ineffective. For both Glenda and Alex it is important that we avoid the emergence of a McMindfulness culture to develop where people would not see appropriate benefits because of not having experienced and received the apporpriate ‘jumpstarter training’. At the same time, in line with the recommendations from a recent international mindfulness summit (October 2015) world Mindfulness Experts advice that the skill of a teacher is that of applying a package to the context of a given audience – in this case entrepreneurs.

Whilst, currently (though that’s likely to change in the very near future) there is no regulatory restriction on who can self-allocate the title ‘mindfulnes teacher’, secular mindfulness is not something one can learn by going on one course or by simply ‘knowing and remembering’ it. It’s a bit more like driving a car and specific competencies are required: first of all, teachers have to practice mindfulness. Some pathways, such as the one offered by Breathworks, an internationally renowned mindfulness provider for long term conditions and stress, expect that (in line with guidannce) trainee mindfulness teachers must develop a regular routine usually for twelve months after having attended a full 8-week accredited and recognised mindfulness course. Before being considered for a teachers training package, which involves being coached to teach, ongoing assessment, reequirement for at least two week-long meditation retreats and then a supervised practice course is also required. However, it is not unheard for others to ‘teach’ mindfulness off the back of just a personal meditation practice or attending a half day workshop. It is also an expectation that the trainee in some cases will have a background in health or mental health services themselves.

What they came up with was therefore a bespoke Mindfulness for Entrepeneurs Package accounting for all these important factors:
1) Materials close enough not to divert from the essential aspects of the most well researched mindfulness packages
2) Adaptation for an entrepreneurial audience on the basis of Glenda’s doctoral Thesis literature review, her valuable personal experience as a successful entrepreneur trying to juggle work and life, as well as Alessio’s input as an experienced mindfulness teacher and a provider of mindfulness based psychotherapy to a variety of individual, corporate and Government clients.
3) Best of all, the opportunity to work with a bunch of enthusiastic local entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries: Finance, IT, Health, Marketing, Business and Performance Consultancy, Change Management, Wellbeing and many others.
4) The opportunity to use a scientific process to establish if and how this will improve resilience in the entrepreneurial and business settings. This involves growing a local team of interested entrepreneurs to produce a standardised platform to develop Jersey’s first International Mindfulness Centre. This aims to compete with the demands of the huge surge that Mindfulness will have as part of a recently published UK Government report: ‘The Mindful Nation’ – which will create huge demand for mindfulness service but unfortunately will also attract a huge range of providers many with the issues reported above.

For more information on this topic you can contact Dr Alessio Agostinis or Glenda Riovallan, Director of Healthhaus, at Glenda@healthhaus.co.uk

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