Stress. We're all familiar with this emotion.
Tight deadlines, the pressures of everyday life as well as the constant stream of information from our phones (which we cannot. switch. off.) are all bringing on stress and anxiety. But what can we do to reduce the pressure on our brains?
Kim Murray - ex-marketing guru at Red Bull and Founder of mindfulness service, Happy Heads - came in to Jelly London HQ to teach us about stress, mindfulness and how to meditate.
We sat Kim down to ask her a few questions on Meditation and Mental Health.
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation is really simple - it's firstly focussing on your breathing. Your breath is the conductor for your whole body so calm this down and your whole nervous system calms. It’s focusing on the present moment and it’s looking at your internal world. As busy human beings we spend so much time focussing on our external world and other people its vital that you take time to check in with how you’re feeling.
Meditation engages your pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that connects to self regulation of your emotions. We can’t control everything that life throws at us but we can control how we react.
Most people think they can’t meditate and it's all about sitting still and being silent but I promise you it's not - I make it really simple and accessible for everyone no matter what your age, experience or temperament.
How did you first get into meditation? Who inspired you and when did you start making it part of your life?
I lost my father due to depression when I was just 7 but never let that dictate me. I have always been a very positive, optimistic and upbeat person. But, anxiety and depression hit me out of the blue when I was 32 due to a stressful work situation and it was the lessons I learned getting back to myself that led me to launch Happy Heads. My life experience and skills mean that I can teach with complete authenticity knowing exactly how people feel and most importantly how to improve their mental fitness.
A big part of that journey came when I completed the Hoffman Process and realised the power of visualisations (guided meditation) in improving both your mental and physical fitness, enabling you to process a huge plethora of emotions. I wanted to help other people, specifically children and families intially. But as I trained and qualified, a broad range of people sought and valued my help, which led to me to where I am today helping everyone.
Describe a typical day at Red Bull
Like many people chasing their dream career in the big smoke, I led a big team and worked far too many hours than was sustainable. I was always on work emails, answering calls, in constant meetings, travelling, creating and delivering presentations, reporting etc. It felt like the right path for over ten years, but like many people, I burned out and needed a greater purpose in life.
Describe a typical day now
I wake up at 7am most days and the first thing I do before anything else, such as check my phone or email, is meditate and anchor myself in the present moment. I sit in a chair and do my morning check-in to notice how I’m feeling that day. Depending on what's going on for me in that moment the morning meditation will vary - finishing with positive affirmations is a really great way to start your day.
My mind is clearer first thing so before it's been bombarded with information I try to do anything that requires a creative output early - blog & social posts, creative writing, meditation workshop planning, designing new visualisations and retreat plans.
I’m based in Haggerston and Weds, Thur, Fri is when I tend to have my 1:1 sessions with people. The 1 hr 30 mins includes guided meditation, breathing techniques and Emotional Freedom Technique also known as tapping. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing the huge shift people make during a session.
In the afternoon I often lead meditation workshops in companies. Having come from that world I know exactly how to help people live a happier, calmer and stress free career, which leads to improved work / life balance
Do you think stress is damaging to our health? If so, why?
Stress is damaging for our body because it means our Amygdala is being triggered (fight or flight response). Back in caveman times this was an invaluable tool to help us survive against saber toothed tigers, but fast forward thousands of years and our brains don’t know the difference between a genuine threat and say - being asked to stand up and present in front of our colleagues.
When this response is triggered it fills our body with cortisol, which is great in small doses but when this is constantly triggered it can be very damaging, making it hard to focus and self regulate your emotions.
Everyone seems to invest a lot of time in their physical health – do we need to be investing the same time on our mental health? If so, why?
So much of our physical fitness comes from our mental fitness so its absolutely vital that you look after your mind. You don’t get rock hard abs after one gym session so in the same way - you have to train daily to look after your mind (even if its just 10 minutes a day).
When we’re stressed, we tend to hold that tension in our body - bad digestive system, chronic back paint, sore neck etc. These physical reactions have come because our mind is stressed. Look after your mind and your physical self will improve. So many people think it's the other way around.
What does Happy Heads do? / What services do you offer?
Being a qualified meditation teacher and EFT practitioner is great as they compliment each other perfectly.
Every human is unique so each session is tailored to your needs. I always adapt to what someone's energy needs, a moving meditation may work for one person but not for the other so it’s important that you use the tools and techniques that you resonate with most.
1:1 sessions are a really effective way to work on your personal challenges - they include short-cut breathing techniques (mini meditations) guided meditation and EFT. I run lots of workshops for companies and business leader and have lots of amazing retreats coming up with my incredible yoga partner Deanne (Wild Thing Yoga).
We’re doing an event on the 10th of March called The Wonder of Wellness as part of the amazing HeForShe campaign by UN Women to raise awareness about gender equality. The day is filled with meditation, yoga, empowering workshops using EFT, and much more. It's all for such an important cause and tickets have just gone on sale :)