Make Stress and Burnout Obsolete
From the May 8th NY Times “In Her Words” column:
Over half of women surveyed in a 2021 CNBC and SurveyMonkey poll said their mental health at work was suffering to the point of burnout.
For women of color, the numbers are worse. Black women experience accelerated “biological aging” in response to repeatedly encountering stress. While 9.8 million working mothers in America experience workplace burnout, it’s more pronounced for Black, Latina and Asian mothers, according to the largest study on working parents to date.
The column adds that research shows health care workers, such as nurses, are at greatest risk.
This sums it up. There is no reason to discuss the problem further. What needs discussion now is how to solve the problem: can we address the problems of stress and burnout by increasing resilience to stressful stimuli, releasing accumulated stress and slowing the aging process.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” But the point is that we want to do more than just manage stress—we want to find a means of eliminating it and ultimately preventing it.
Transcendental Meditation accomplishes these desired outcomes.
How the TM technique reduces stress
The physiological response during TM has been found to be the opposite of your body’s stress response. During the Transcendental Meditation technique your mind transcends (goes beyond) more agitated, active, concrete thoughts. You effortlessly experience quieter, subtler levels of the thinking process and can even transcend thought altogether. Because your mind and body work in synchrony, as your mind gets more settled your metabolism drops, allowing your body to gain a state of profound rest that is much deeper than ordinary relaxation. It is this deep rest that allows accumulated knots of stress to be released. Research on the Transcendental Meditation program shows that recovery from stressful experiences becomes faster the longer one has been practicing TM.
How TM increases resilience
Research has found that the TM practice has a holistic effect on health, with normalization of hormone levels and blood pressure and measurable improvements in diabetes, cholesterol, cardiovascular health and brain functioning. The body starts to maintain a more rested, calm, flexible and energetic style of functioning even outside of meditation, making us more resilient to stressful stimuli.
According to a former senior NIH researcher: David Orme-Johnson, PhD did a “stress test” by exposing both TM meditators and non-meditators to loud noises and then measuring their galvanic skin response. GSR is a part of the fight-or-flight response in the sympathetic nervous system. In the case of meditators, the GSR went up quickly in response to the stress, and then came down quickly and stayed down. That is an ideal response. When the stress comes, you want to be able to have your stress response system respond to it, take care of it, and then settle back down to baseline. People in the control group (they did not practice TM) had a slower settling down of the stress response. And even after settling down, their GSR jumped up a couple of times like false alarm responses to the original stress of the loud noise. A second study, out of Harvard University, reinforced what Orme-Johnson found.
More than 90% of disease is either caused or aggravated by stress. These psychosomatic (mind/body) diseases include a broad range of illness from headaches to cardiovascular disease to cancer. Rather than dealing with symptoms through medical intervention, the first choice is to reduce stress enough so that these diseases don’t occur. That requires a daily routine of reducing stress and building resilience from within, which sleep only accomplishes on a more superficial level. TM reduces deeply rooted stress so that we can avert the growth of psychosomatic disease.
Younger biological age
Stress accumulating in the physiology is a major factor in how we age—as well as in how we feel and how we look. Peer reviewed published research has shown that people practicing TM have a much younger biological age than their chronological age: long-term TM meditators are an average of 12 years “younger” than their non-meditating counterparts.
One study on the TM technique showed a 23 percent reduction in all mortality causes and a 30 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality for meditators who had previously been in controlled studies of blood pressure. Looking at death records approximately ten years later, the TM group had much better longevity than the control group.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA.