Springfield, MO

Stress relief provides health benefits

Posted online
De-stressing after a long workday can be difficult, but many are finding relief through methods that relax the body and mind.

Donna Cannefax, a nurse and certified yoga instructor, is the coordinator of St. John’s Women’s Heart Center.

She said that in 2004, she spoke to more than 30 businesses about stress management.

“I customize it to whoever I am talking to,” Cannefax said. “I’ve done a lot of presentations at companies; whether it’s a 45-minute presentation or a four-part series of classes. I’ve worked with everybody from factory workers to lawyers and everybody in between.”

Among those companies she worked with in 2004 are American National Property and Casualty Co., Assemblies of God Financial Services, American Dehydrated Foods and Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.

One of the main techniques Cannefax teaches is breathing – a key to relaxation therapy.

“It helps people have what I call a calm confidence. You are not on a roller coaster,” she said.

Cannefax said the cost for a one-hour session on stress management typically costs $85 – a cost that many businesses are willing to pay in an effort to save on health care expenses.

“We know absolutely without a doubt that stress is related to health conditions,” said Shelley Hampton, owner of Shape Shifters Pilates.

“If that all by itself is true and you can (improve) how your body handles stress … and learn how to handle the stress better … you are going to reduce your health care costs,” she said.

Cannefax said signs of too much stress include headache, inability to sleep, back pain and tense neck and shoulders. Relief for many of these problems may be found in relaxation therapies such as yoga and Pilates.

Loa Freeman, a certified yoga instructor and owner of Success Naturally Yoga and Image Center Inc., said yoga offers mind and body stress relief.

“As a stress-reducer, yoga helps with many of the physical problems people face due to stress in the workplace. Just taking classes two times a week, headaches go away, low back pain goes away. We actually address carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a problem with a lot of people spending time on computers,” Freeman said.

Les Joslyn, an imbedded systems programmer for Ferguson Beauregard, a Texas-based company, takes yoga classes at Success Naturally. He said that he’s pleased with the results.

“It’s been an amazing tool for me … and not just for stress reduction, but physically I’m stronger. I have had several back surgeries, and since I’ve gotten into yoga I have not had any back problems,” he said.

Sally Larson, certified yoga teacher with Success Naturally, said the center teaches approximately 500 area students the basic methods of yoga.

“Yoga takes into consideration all the systems of the body which aid in lowering blood pressure, balancing blood sugars, lowering the heart rate, activating our immune system and strengthening the musculoskeletal body,” she said. “This, in turn, prepares the body and mind physically, psychologically and mentally, reducing stress in all walks of life, not just the work environment.”

The cost of yoga varies depending on the number of classes but a basic eight-week program with one 90-minute class per week costs $73.

Pilates, another stress-relief option, focuses on flooding the body with awareness, Hampton said.

“You move a lot in Pilates. You are moving all the time,” Hampton said. “The reason Pilates is used for stress management … is because it requires huge focus. You basically focus on yourself for an hour.”

Frances Tuck, co-owner of Tuck Rental Properties with 150 rental units, said at the age of 82, Pilates is what keeps her going. “I work an eight-hour workday managing rental property … and I’m responsible for people’s welfare, collecting rent. It’s a constant thing. I go twice a week to Pilates and it’s a wonderful stress reliever,” Tuck said.

One session of Pilates at Shape Shifters costs between $15 and $45 per session, Hampton said. There is no minimum or maximum time in Pilates. However, Hampton said the results of Pilates are directly related to the amount of time spent doing the exercises.

“If you do it for 40 hours, you’re changed, but if you do it for four years you are changed way more, so it’s however peaceful you’d like to be,” she said.

For many companies, providing opportunities for employees to relieve stress is becoming more common.

“We set up private business classes where we go on campus,” Freeman said.

The convenience of having classes in the workplace has encouraged many people to take an extended break before heading home.

“Whenever you try to belong to a gym, you have to go home and change, but with (classes being here), it gives you a chance to de-stress before you go home so you don’t bring work home with you,” said Lisa Hyde, actuarial analyst at American National Property and Casualty Insurance Company.

“I feel like whenever I go into my yoga class, that is just one hour of me time. It’s not time to worry about deadlines, or do I need to call this person or any of the (matters) of daily life.”

Karen Shannon, manager of human resources for Jack Henry and Associates, said that yoga fits easily into the busy schedules of working professionals. She added that as her job began requiring more travel, that flexibility became more important.

“The beauty about yoga is that you can literally do it anyplace. And with traveling … I’ve done yoga on airplanes before, coming back and forth (between southwest Missouri and) Italy this summer,” she said. “You can do it sitting in a chair anywhere. It is just so convenient there is no excuse.”

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