Amy Polly brings mindfulness to financial services

Former accountant turned mental health advocate and podcaster Amy Polly introduced members to the benefits of mindfulness at Cayman Finance’s quarterly event on Wednesday, 19 Sept.

Mindfulness, the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing without being judgmental or reactive or feeling overwhelmed, is something that can be trained through meditation and other activities.

More and more businesses are teaching mindfulness techniques in the workplace to reduce stress.

Mindfulness not only alleviates the effect workplace pressure has on mind and body, it also helps develop the ability not be driven by one’s emotions. As such it can have a big impact on the work environment and staff wellbeing.  

Proactive mental health care is often overlooked

Polly encouraged the audience to first think about their own personal mental wellbeing strategy before thinking about implementing one in business.

This begins by understanding what mental health is. Mental health cannot be reduced to depression or anxiety or a topic to shy away from, Polly said.

“Mental health, everybody has it all the time. Mental health doesn’t mean mental ill health. It is just your health, the same as physical health.”

And just as employers have a duty of care to make the workplace safe and prevent risks to physical health, the same should apply to mental health.

Any mental wellbeing strategy in business will therefore start with a risk assessment.

Polly said, “Often, we think that strategy consists of crisis call-lines or help if you’re mentally unwell. But a strategy is really about prevention, and protection.”

The mindfulness teacher believes these proactive aspects tend to be overlooked in the workplace.

She explained that when implementing a mental wellbeing strategy for the fire service in the UK, the process consisted of a risk assessment, asking employees what impacted on their mental health and early engagement and communication. Measures were then categorised according to prevention, protection and response.

Prevention for instance included work on HR policies, parental leave and sick leave and other elements that ultimately informed the action plan in terms of action items and timelines.

Mindfulness as a tool for mental wellbeing

Mindfulness can be one of the important elements in such a strategy. 

“If you’re thinking about the proactive, preventative care in your strategy, in your organisation or for yourself, mindfulness is one of the most brilliant forms of mental health care that you can have,” she said.

Polly noted there is much confusion about what mindfulness really is. Mindfulness is not mumbo jumbo or as Polly said “woo woo”. It does not need to be spiritual, but rather it is a practice that aims to reduce stress, increase focus and develop calm.

And there is a growing body of research that highlights the measurable effects of mindfulness on the body and the mind.

Using an experiment showing the audience how even simple verbal prompts can conjure up images in one’s mind and evoke emotions, Polly demonstrated not only how powerful thoughts can be but also that each individual is in control of their own thoughts.

“You can change your thoughts, you can change your mindset, and mindfulness affords us the space to be able to do that.”

While there are many different techniques ‘to be in the moment’, from taking a purposeful break when having a meal to going for a walk, mediation is an effective way to train and catch a wandering mind.

The goal of mindfulness is then not to stop thinking but to pay more attention to thoughts, emotions or physical sensations.

Following a guided meditation, Polly said, mindfulness can be trained like a muscle any time of the day by just taking a moment, “switching off the auto pilot”, “being more present with the tasks that you are going to do anyway” and “by consciously choosing to be more present with the people in your life”.

“Once you practice, you will start to see the benefits,” she added.

Related news

Cayman Finance News

Industry associations and insurance regulator to jointly represent the Cayman Islands at US captive conference 

Cayman Finance News

Joint regulator and industry participation in ASHRM conference provides valuable connections for insurance sector