There is no doubt that healthcare work is immensely rewarding. Not only do healthcare professionals earn generous compensation, the work itself is personally fulfilling on a level that most jobs cannot compare. Nurses, nurse aides, doctors, and other staff have an opportunity to touch the lives of hundreds of patients in need of life saving care. All this comes at a cost, however, as HCP work is among the most demanding and stressful.
Healthcare workers deal with heavy expectations, high stakes, and loaded shifts on a regular basis. They can spend a combined 7 to 11 hours on their feet in one shift alone. If you are not careful, the physical and emotional stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and (worst case scenario) burnout. In the face of this, meditation has gained popularity among medical professionals, over the years. How effective is meditation, when it comes to daily workplace stress? And should you incorporate it into your daily routine?
What is meditation?
Meditation comes in different shapes and sizes. Some variants have deep religious or spiritual roots, while others are more secular in nature. Moving forward, this article will refer to the Transcendental Meditation variant. This form of meditation involves getting into a comfortable position and breathing from your diaphragm. From there you close your eyes, while repeating aloud a phrase or “mantra” to yourself. This is done for 15-20 minutes a day, every day. The idea is that this calms you down to a state of relaxation. From there, you think inwardly, and achieve a deeper level of self-consciousness. Although you are settled and calm, your mind is active and entering a “fourth state of consciousness.” For reference, the other three states consist of waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
Another popular form of meditation is mindfulness. At the beginning, you must clear your mind of all thoughts. You become consciously aware of your lived experience in the present moment, without being informed by prior attachments or worldly thoughts. Compared to Transcendental Meditation’s passive nature, mindfulness asks you to take a more proactive approach.
Where did meditation come from?
Transcendental meditation traces its roots back to the 1950s. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught meditation based on a number of traditional Indian practices. Despite this, this variant of meditation is viewed as divorced from traditional religious or spiritual connotations. Most commonly practiced forms of meditation take on a more secular angle, as practitioners learn these techniques for physical and mental health reasons. From that point onwards, meditation exploded in popularity. It has become a billion dollar industry with millions of practitioners, worldwide. Celebrities such as Martin Scorsese, Julia Fox, The Beatles, and Oprah Winfrey have observed meditation, and have celebrated its various benefits.
What are the benefits?
Numerous studies have shown that meditation provides a variety of tangible health benefits to its practitioners. Most famously, it allows you to lower your blood pressure levels in a safe and sustainable manner. Some organizations, like the American Heart Association, even want to integrate meditation into clinical practice. Along with lower blood pressure, practitioners can experience a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress after some time. This does not completely do away with these conditions, but it helps with managing them.
Some even claim that meditation has changed their mindset for the better. Practitioners become emotionally more at peace with themselves, and grateful of the blessings they enjoy in life. With a clearer mind, their productivity and performance in the workplace shows marked improvements. They have an easier time thinking outside the box, and have more energy to focus on the task at hand.
Some of the studies regarding the benefits of meditation have been noted to have bias. That being said, mediation has been shown to have a tangible and positive effect on a practitioner’s mental and physical wellbeing. Its efficacy and the potency of the effects will vary, from person to person.
How can I start meditation?
To begin transcendental meditation, you need to find a certified instructor. There is a preliminary one hour lecture, followed by a one hour instruction period. Here, your instructor will try to find a “mantra” and approach fits the best for you. These sessions are one-on-one, and the instructor will adjust the course to suit your needs. Once you have found your mantra, and after three follow-up sessions, you will be able to practice meditation on your own schedule. Normally, it is done on a daily basis and twice a day. There are free instructionals and resources available to you online, but finding a certified instructor helps you ensure the best possible results.
It should be noted that these courses can be rather expensive. The price can range between $380 to $960.
Are there cheaper alternatives?
Not everyone will be able to afford close to $1000 for a meditation practice. If you want to save money, but you still want to enjoy the benefits of meditation, mindfulness is a worthwhile alternative. There are a host of different resources available online, with sites like the New York Times providing their own guides. You can also sign up with a number of courses, like Harvard’s mindfulness program, though this will cost you.
Why is mediation so useful for HCPs?
Healthcare work is extremely time consuming. 12 hour shifts and weekend shifts are extremely common in certain departments or facilities. Even when they get home, it is common for HCPs to be too tired to indulge in their hobbies or any recreational activities. Meditation, however, is a brief daily routine that does not take much time. As has been stated before, transcendental meditation is done twice a day, and 15 to 20 minutes each time.
HCPs can meditate before a shift, during their lunch break, and/or after their shift. It is not time or energy consuming in the slightest, and the potential health benefits are numerous. Mindfulness meditation can also be practiced while doing your daily routines, or practicing yoga. For stressed HCPs without much free time, meditation is the perfect fit for them.