There are a number of occupations which incorporate exposure to high levels of extreme stress. Think about the Olympic athletes in Vancouver, who have spent months if not years preparing for those few special minutes which could lead to the ultimate dream of winning an Olympic medal.
What about those who are sent out to deal with major road traffic accidents or who provide aid to natural disasters such as the recent earthquake in Haiti?
Then of course there are the soldiers deployed to war zones, to highly dangerous areas with the knowledge there is a high risk to their own life.
It takes a certain type of person who is willing to embrace and take on these jobs and they are not without personal risk to their own physical or mental well-being.
We know that stress kills brain cells.
We know that continued exposure to high levels of stress triggers sustained cortisol release which can lead to a lessened ability to be able to think quickly and effectively and make well thought out decisions.
There have been reports of high levels of post traumatic stress disorder and mental illness in soldiers returning from war.
This week, a study was published by “Science Daily” looking at how mind fitness can be improved by using mindfulness training a group of soldiers prior to their deployment to Iraq.
Soldiers have to be physically fit. They undergo rigorous training to ensure they are at their peak of physical fitness. The study looked at whether increasing mind fitness would produce soldiers better equipped to deal emotionally and mentally with the demands of modern warfare ie they have improved “mental armour”.
So what is mindfulness training?
Mindfulness is described in the study as the ability to be aware and attentive of the present moment without emotional reactivity or volatility.
If you can practice mindfulness you may be able to avoid panic in a dangerous or difficult situation.
You may be able to evaluate, and respond in a rational, logical way to produce the best outcome.
This of course is immensely valuable to anyone, not just those exposed to extreme stress.
The study showed that those who engaged in the mindfulness training over an eight week period developed an increased capacity of their working memory and reduced negative mood.
This would suggest that mindfulness training may be of significant value to all involved in high stress occupations and the spin off from that, may also be that those who work in other high pressure environments, in the corporate sector for example would also benefit from such training.
This is where the value of this study could lead to increasing awareness of the benefit of mindfulness training as a means of improving psychological resilience for the working population at large.
I can see numerous opportunities where mindfulness training could have a lasting and beneficial impact on those who practice it regularly.
Would it help you?
Are there situations you have to deal with on a regular basis which would be made easier if you could assess the situation presented, without emotion, with clarity and rapid rational thinking?
Let me know what you think.