Therapies like yoga, meditation, mindfulness and sound healing programmes can help us manage work-realted stress, which often translates to ill health and low productivity levels.
Increasing job uncertainty, grueling work hours and an abject lack of work-life balance often translates to heavy stress in our professional lives. Rapidly changing nature of jobs, 24/7 connectivity and the resultant pressure of constant deadlines have turned Indian workplaces into pressure cookers where thousands of young professionals struggle to maintain mental balance. Rates of burnout or exhaustion syndrome are high among bright professionals who fail to reach their full potential because stress gets the better of them on their way to success. A survey by insurance company Cigna TTK found that a whopping 89% of people were suffering from stress, with work and finances being the primary causes of stress.
Interestingly, a number of corporate organisations have realised the negative impact stress is having on their employee productivity, and holistic wellness programmes have gained much traction. However, it is important to educate people at individual levels as well to learn to cope with stress on a daily basis. While we cannot change the stressors, we encounter every day, we can most certainly change the way our mind deals with them.
A number of alternative therapies can help individuals achieve better mental health and wellness. These therapies can be adopted as a way of lives as coping mechanisms for the mind. A study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal concluded that yoga, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy were very effective in promoting overall mental health and preventing burnout due to work-related stress among participants.
Let’s take a look at some alternative therapies that can help you cope with professional stress:
Mindfulness is a psychological process through which one tries to maintain complete awareness of the present moment. It trains the mind to prevent distractions of the future or past musings. Achieving a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, acts, sensations as well as the environment plays a very impactful role in reducing stress. When you are bathing, you are focusing completely on the act of water interacting with your body; when you are eating, you are doing it so mindfully that all your thoughts are focused on your movement from the plate to the palate and beyond. A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine review found that a mindfulness-based programme helped reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalised anxiety disorder. Another study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry found significant changes to the brain on scans after just three days of mindfulness meditation on 35 unemployed people experiencing major stress of a job search.
Mindfulness works by inducing a sense of calmness and improving focus. Mindfulness is even associated with lower levels of inflammation markers.
Yoga and meditation are widely known to induce benefits for mental health including stress management. Yoga combines the physical and mental disciplines to help achieve a peaceful alignment between the body and mind. When combined with meditation, yoga relaxes and soothes the nerves, aligns the mind towards a calm centre and helps an individual become more mindful of the present. Approach has significant benefits for stress and anxiety. Yoga doesn’t just help in stress management, it also helps curtail the negative impact of stress on the body and reduces risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga modulates the stress response systems by training the mind to perceive stress and anxiety differently.
Sound healing or music therapy is another highly under-utilised therapy that has significant benefits on stress and anxiety healing. It can effectively be termed as vibrational medicine with the use of music, singing, and sound tools that release vibrations to better the mental, emotional and physical state of a person. Sound healing creates a shift in our brainwave state by using entrainment; a bio-musicological sense that refers to the synchronisation (e.g. foot tapping) of humans to an external perceived rhythm such as music and dance. Entrainment creates a stable frequency in the brain. This allows for the mind to go from the normal beta state (normal waking consciousness) to the alpha state (relaxed consciousness). Quite similar to meditation which regulates the breath, sound healing influences the shift in the brain through its frequency.
Sound healing particularly helps in reducing anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders. A study published in the Journal of Evidence-based Integrative Medicine examined the impact of sound meditation, specifically Tibetan singing bowl meditation, on mood, anxiety, pain, and spiritual well-being. It found participants experienced a significant reduction in tension and feeling of spiritual well-being also significantly increased through sound healing.
The author is the director, Poddar Wellness Ltd and managing trustee, Poddar Foundation