Reduce Health Symptoms of Burnout with Yoga and Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Teachers who practice yoga say it has given them an outlet for the daily stresses and frustrations of teaching. It also equips them with strategies to stay calm during chaotic moments and helps them understand and reflect on both their mindset and that of their students.” – Madeline Will
Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations burnout is all too prevalent. It frequently results from emotional exhaustion. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. Sleep disruption is an important consequence of the stress. This exhaustion produces a loss of enthusiasm, empathy, and compassion. Regardless of the reasons for burnout or its immediate presenting consequences, it is a threat to the workplace. From a business standpoint, it reduces employee efficiency and productivity and increases costs. From the worker perspective, it makes the workplace a stressful, unhappy place, promoting physical and psychological problems that can become so severe as to result in sick leave. Hence, preventing burnout in the workplace is important.
Mindfulness techniques, including meditation, yoga, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are gaining increasing attention for the treatment of the symptoms of stress and burnout. They have been demonstrated to be helpful in reducing the psychological and physiological responses to stress and for treating and preventing burnout in a number of work environments. It is not known, however, which of the myriad of mindfulness training techniques is best for the treatment of burnout.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of traditional yoga, mindfulness–based cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, on health related quality of life: a randomized controlled trial on patients on sick leave because of burnout.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5839058/ ), Grensman and colleagues recruited workers who were on sick leave for work-related burnout. They were randomly assigned to receive either traditional yoga (Ashtanga Yoga), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Therapy included three hours of supervised group training per week and the participants practiced on their own for 1–1½ hours, 3–4 times a week, including homework. They were measured before and after treatment for health-related quality of life.
They found that all three interventions produced significant improvements in 12 of the 13 subscales of health-related quality of life; including physical well-being, emotional well-being, sleep, cognitive function, general health perceptions, satisfaction with family and with partner, and sexual function. The outcomes produced by the interventions containing mindfulness training (yoga and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)) were slightly, albeit significantly better than those produced by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The study implies that the physical and psychological state of workers on sick leave for work-related burnout can be significantly improved by all of the three therapies tested. It is unfortunate that a no-treatment control or a non-effective treatment was included as without such comparison conditions it is impossible to tell if the treatment was effective or that the patients improved due to healing over time, spontaneous recovery, or participant expectancy effects.
But the fact that yoga and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) were slightly better than those produced by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) suggests that the effects of these treatments that contained mindfulness training were not due to these potential confounding variables. This further suggests that mindfulness-based treatments are effective in reducing the symptoms of severe burnout. It appears that training in mindfulness is a very important component of any treatment for the symptoms of burnout.
So, reduce health symptoms of burnout with yoga and mindfulness.
“meditation helps in a number of ways. When you are forever on the go, you can easily disconnect from the fact that you’re ready to drop, your neck is crippled with tension or you haven’t breathed deeper than your upper chest for over 24 hours. Meditation provides an opportunity for you to check in with your body. It also provides a framework within which you can practice observing your thoughts and emotions rather than trying to tackle them. This gives you a new perspective on a very busy mind and far more space to make more rational decisions and reduce procrastination.” – Shona Mitchell
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Grensman, A., Acharya, B. D., Wändell, P., Nilsson, G. H., Falkenberg, T., Sundin, Ö., & Werner, S. (2018). Effect of traditional yoga, mindfulness–based cognitive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, on health related quality of life: a randomized controlled trial on patients on sick leave because of burnout. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 18, 80. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-018-2141-9
To explore if health related quality of life(HRQoL) increased after traditional yoga(TY), mindfulness based cognitive therapy(MBCT), or cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT), in patients on sick leave because of burnout.
Randomized controlled trial, blinded, in ninety-four primary health care patients, block randomized to TY, MBCT or CBT (active control) between September 2007 and November 2009. Patients were living in the Stockholm metropolitan area, Sweden, were aged 18–65 years and were on 50%–100% sick leave. A group treatment for 20 weeks, three hours per week, with homework four hours per week. HRQoL was measured by the SWED-QUAL questionnaire, comprising 67 items grouped into 13 subscales, each with a separate index, and scores from 0 (worse) to 100 (best). SWED-QUAL covers aspects of physical and emotional well-being, cognitive function, sleep, general health and social and sexual functioning. Statistics: Wilcoxon’s rank sum and Wilcoxon’s sign rank tests, Bonett-Price for medians and confidence intervals, and Cohen’s D.
Twenty-six patients in the TY (21 women), and 27 patients in both the MBCT (24 women) and in the CBT (25 women), were analyzed. Ten subscales in TY and seven subscales in MBCT and CBT showed improvements, p < 0.05, in several of the main domains affected in burnout, e.g. emotional well-being, physical well-being, cognitive function and sleep. The median improvement ranged from 0 to 27 points in TY, from 4 to 25 points in CBT and from 0 to 25 points in MBCT. The effect size was mainly medium or large. Comparison of treatments showed no statistical differences, but better effect (small) of both TY and MBCT compared to CBT. When comparing the effect of TY and MBCT, both showed a better effect (small) in two subscales each.
A 20 week group treatment with TY, CBT or MBCT had equal effects on HRQoL, and particularly on main domains affected in burnout. This indicates that TY, MBCT and CBT can be used as both treatment and prevention, to improve HRQoL in patients on sick leave because of burnout, reducing the risk of future morbidity.