Mental Health issue at work cost the UK Economy £34,9 billion in 2017. (according to Centre for Mental Health)
When I was a young girl growing up in China, I was always inspired by the female seen on TV practicing martial arts and fighting for justice (like Mulan).
‘That is who I really want to be!’ I said to myself.
Though at the time my parents didn’t favour the idea of me doing martial arts as they thought it was a ‘boy’s thing’, I started taekwondo when I was 18 and loved it since!
Fast-forward 13 years, I am now a black belt in taekwondo, and a taekwondo instructor who is dedicated to bring taekwondo to the professional environment and use it as a tool to promote workplace mental health. Having been an accountant as a former profession, I understand the stress and challenges as a busy professional, and practicing taekwondo has helped me improved focus and manage stress better. And I am now giving away the same benefit to other people.
Speaking from my experience, here are the reason why martial arts can promote mental health benefits to busy professionals.
Building inner confidence and resilience
This is speaking from my personal experience. Before I started martial arts, I was very insecure from the inside, due to being bullied at school. I learnt that in order to avoid people taking advantage of me, I need to put up a strong mask to show people how strong I am. It was energetically draining for me.
When I started practicing martial arts, I was in touch with my inner warrior. I felt so secure and strong inside that I no longer need to put up a mask to guard myself. It felt a weight lifted off my shoulder and I am free to be myself.
How many people can relate to the need of putting on a strong mask especially at work? Attempting to be strong can make people feeling stressed, anxious and doubtful. Martial arts can be a pathway to build inner resilience so you can be free to be yourself.
It is also a mindfulness practice
Traditionally martial arts and mindfulness are coming hand in hand. Chinese martial artists meditate everyday before they started their practice, in order to enhance mind and body connection.
In a busy and hectic lifestyle, a lot of people go to the gym with their mind still at work. When the mind and body are disengaged, it can cause injuries and have negative impact on physical and mental health.
My approach to taekwondo is to bring mindfulness into the practice. At the start of the class, I usually guild participants through a short meditation, to put aside any anxiety or worries from work, and allow the participants to be fully present to each movement, so that the mind can have a break from the pressure and challenges from work.
Promote better relationships with others
Integrity, Courtesy and Compassion are the tenets of many forms of martial arts, including taekwondo.
Relationship issues at work or life also cause stress for many people. When we practice martial arts, we also observe the philosophy of the martial arts, such as being respectful to fellow practitioners and seniors, never misuse martial arts, and be a champion of peace and justice. Being a martial artist remind us being truthful, respectful and gracious to anyone we are in contact with, which is the foundation of healthy relationships both personally and professionally.
Kick off tension and stress
It does release endorphin when we are practicing some kicks and punches. Also certain taekwondo techniques can help release body tension so make people feel better about their bodies.
For example, back kick practice (1) can help release lower back pain, which is a common pain from a sedentary lifestyle. Whilst martial art practice may not be a cure for chronic pain, practicing them regularly can help prevent the pain become a long term health issue.
Finally, you may ask how do I start? The good news is a lot of practice can be done without equipment and don’t require too much space. In my Youtube channel ‘360 Kick 4 Mental Health’ (2), I have free follow along taekwondo sessions that help release shoulder and body tension, improve mobility and release stress, etc, that you can easily practice from home with short period of time.