Welcome to the launch of Bio-Mastery for Business News. As editor and senior correspondent, my team and I will be providing critical commentary on issues relating to stress management and resilience building. On our News website, we will offer decision makers, as well as current and emerging professionals, insight into the topic through leading research, debates and discussions.

For our launch edition, founder and CEO of the Bio-Mastery for Business, Barbara Parker, discusses the journey and purpose of the company since its inception in 2010. With more than 23 years of board and executive management experience, Parker has spent most of her executive tenureship exposed to and solving stress related issues.

Parker takes up the story: “Experiencing stress as a leader in the mid-1990s was a classic drowning scenario: keeping one’s self and others afloat while trying to avoid being drowned in the process.

“The most surreal part of stress management at that time was the denial. Despite extensive grapevine discussions about personal exhaustion and burnout, it was tacitly implied that the stress problem involved only a few ‘weak’ characters and everyone else would get over it.

“For a long time various stress responses, such as anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, panic attacks and burnout were bundled together in the basket of mental illness. No one in the workplace had a clear understanding of what it was or how to respond to it, other than giving time off.

“As we entered the new millennium, few people were functioning at optimum levels. Absenteeism was on the increase and we witnessed the emergence of ‘presenteeism’, a phenomenon where people were present, but not engaged with their work. It was the sheer scale and scope of the problem that was so shocking. No one seemed immune to stress – from the boardroom to the backroom,” explains Parker.

The subsequent impact on companies, markets and economies forced the subject of mental health onto the world stage. Major stressors in the workplace were identified and given names.

By 2001, Parker was working on a stress management and resilience building solution designed specifically for the business environment. Research had shown that industries with similar stressed circumstances, such as the military and high performing athletics, were using skills and abilities derived from the practice of meditation. As such, she made meditation her primary focus for the next 10 years.

The problem, she says, was the broad and all-encompassing aspect of ‘meditation’.

“The word comes from the Latin word ‘meditari’, which means to concentrate. It’s defined as a practice that uses various techniques to train attention and awareness to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”

Despite the clearness of the definition, the practice was fraught with layers of traditions and cultures that influenced and diversified the techniques over millennia.

“It gradually became apparent that there were core skill similarities that remained unaltered. It was based on these skills that we designed and built Bio-Mastery for Business to cater – in language and practice – to the needs and circumstances of the business world,” says Parker.

Today, bio-mastery, is the process of achieving mastery over one’s biology, specifically the autonomic nervous system to manage stress and build resilience. The Bio-Mastery Training is a comprehensive stress-management and resilience- building programme that gives trainees both foundational and advanced knowledge and skills to apply practically in their professional and personal lives.

“Business has subsequently had the advantage of enormous research strides made in neuroscience, as well as associated sciences such as physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, mathematical modelling and psychology. These give insight into how neurons and the nervous system engage to modulate behaviour between alert and reactive states and rest states, the speed at which this is achieved and the implications of sustained stress,” says Parker.

Today and in the future, the difference between those who have a working future and those who are functionally unemployable will be their ability to manage stress and build resilience.

Parker says the world is evolving in ways unprecedented in human history and at the core is the rapid and relentless increase in stress. “When organisations are faced with continuous disruptions that impact the productive capability of their staff, it is the decision maker’s perception of the disruption that influences how they describe it to the rest of the organisation, how they organise the response, and how they allocate resources.

“It is our responsibility as business leaders to ensure sustainability in the workplace and thereby the sustainability of productivity and ultimately, profits. This can only be achieved through embracing the number one skill of the 21st century … resilience,” concludes Parker.