Reduce College Student Stress and Burnout with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“a mindfulness intervention can help reduce distress levels in college students during a stressful exam week, as well as increase altruistic action in the form of donating to charity.” – American Mindfulness Research Association
In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance and lead to burnout.
It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students. They have also been shown to reduce burnout.
There have been identified 3 different types of burnout, “(1) Frenetic, which is characterized by overload and the perception of jeopardizing one’s health to pursue worthwhile results, and is highly associated with exhaustion; (2) under-challenged, which is characterized by lack of development, defined as the perception of a lack of personal growth, together with the desire for a more rewarding occupation that better corresponds to one’s abilities, and is most strongly associated with cynicism; and (3) worn-out, which is characterized by neglect, defined as an inattentive and careless response to responsibilities, and is closely associated with inefficacy.” It is not known which forms of burnout that mindfulness is associated with.
In today’s Research News article “Testing the Intermediary Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Mindfulness and Burnout Subtypes in a Large Sample of Spanish University Students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7579009/ ) Martínez-Rubio and colleagues recruited Spanish college students and had them complete measures of perceived stress, and mindfulness, and the burnout subtypes of overload, lack of development, and neglect. The associations between these variables was explored with structural equation modelling.
They report that perceived stress was positively related to the overload, lack of development, and neglect forms of burnout. So, the greater the levels of stress the greater the levels of burnout. All facets of mindfulness were negatively associated with perceived stress. So, the greater the levels of mindfulness, the lower the levels of perceived stress.
They also found that the facets of mindfulness, acting with awareness, and non-reacting, were also associated directly with the three types of burnout. Acting with awareness was positively directly associated with overload burnout while negatively associated with lack of development and neglect forms of burnout. Non-reacting was positively associated with lack of development and neglect burnout. On the other hand, the non-judging and describing facets of mindfulness were only indirectly associated with the burnout types. They were negatively associated with perceived stress thereby being associated with lower burnout.
These results are correlative and must be interpreted with caution as causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, they suggest that mindfulness tends to be associated with lower levels of all types of burnout by being associated with lower levels of perceived stress. This association of mindfulness with lower stress levels and lower burnout has been well documented previously. Given these associations, the further direct associations of acting with awareness and non-reacting mindfulness with the different forms of burnout are more complex.
It would appear that the primary association of mindfulness with burnout is via a negative association with perceived stress, regardless of the facet and the burnout type. It can be speculated that mindfulness reduces the students’ reactions to stress and thereby reduces all types of burnout.
So, reduce college student stress and burnout with mindfulness.
“students . . . mindfulness practices became fundamental to easing their stress and creating resilience. Having a foundation in mindfulness will serve them throughout their life as they continue to navigate the increasing complexities of our world.” – Nina Paul
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Martínez-Rubio, D., Sanabria-Mazo, J. P., Feliu-Soler, A., Colomer-Carbonell, A., Martínez-Brotóns, C., Solé, S., Escamilla, C., Giménez-Fita, E., Moreno, Y., Pérez-Aranda, A., Luciano, J. V., & Montero-Marín, J. (2020). Testing the Intermediary Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Mindfulness and Burnout Subtypes in a Large Sample of Spanish University Students. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(19), 7013. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197013
The burnout syndrome is the consequence of chronic stress that overwhelms an individual’s resources to cope with occupational or academic demands. Frenetic, under-challenged, and worn-out are different burnout subtypes. Mindfulness has been recognized to reduce stress, comprising five facets (observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judging of inner experience, and non-reactivity to inner experience). This cross-sectional study aimed to assess the relationship between mindfulness facets, perceived stress, and burnout subtypes in a sample of 1233 students of Education, Nursing, and Psychology degrees from different universities of Valencia (Spain). Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was computed showing an adequate fit (Chi-square, CFI, TLI, RMSEA, and SRMR). Four mindfulness facets (all but observing) significantly correlated with general second-order mindfulness. Unexpected results were found: Acting with awareness facet was positively associated with frenetic subtype, while the non-reacting facet was positively associated with frenetic and under-challenged subtype. Ultimately, mindfulness facets negatively predicted the perceived stress levels, which in turn, predicted burnout. However, mindfulness plays different roles in the early stages of burnout syndrome (i.e., frenetic and under-challenged).