Doctors, nurses, and caregivers perform critical roles in our society and unfortunately, many feel the effects of stress, long work hours, and physically challenging work. Burnout and compassion fatigue are unfortunately common occurrences in these professions.
In a 2002 study that surveyed 10,000 nurses in five countries, the number of nurses with burnout ranged from 32 per cent in Scotland to 54 per cent in the United States.
Moreover, in another study of 301 nurses, "more than half scored so highly on the burnout inventory scale so as to indicate considerable emotional exhaustion".
It doesn't matter which part of the healthcare industry you work in, there are problems throughout. For instance, an online study by the American Medical Association found "an overall physician burnout rate of 44 per cent, with 15 per cent saying they experienced colloquial or clinical forms of depression".
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These are shocking statistics and we need to take a serious look at helping those who help us. There isn't a "one size fits all" solution, but there are ways to help the medical profession.
Regular exercise, getting enough rest, eating healthy food, and doing the things you love, can all help refresh the body. We have all heard these actions so often they can almost sound cliche.
They are important things to do, for sure, but we could be missing a vital link to help keep our medical professionals be healthier, and this link is yoga.
In numerous research studies, yoga has been found to:
• Reduce serum cortisol levels;
• Improve confidence in dealing with stressful situations;
• Increase GABA levels in the brain thereby reducing anxiety levels;
• Increase brain-derived-neurotropic factor thereby enhancing brain and central nervous system function;
• Be helpful to nurses whose jobs require intensive physical work;
• Be effective in relieving chronic lower back pain.
With these benefits, creating a healthy body and mind is achievable for the medical profession through yoga.
The NHS, in the UK, has started looking at adding yoga classes for staff members while they are at work, as a focus to improve the well-being of their workforce.
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In the preliminary trials with nurses, many were sceptical at first; but, after attending just a few yoga sessions, "these nurses shared that the yoga made them feel lighter, more peaceful, and less time-constrained". Moreover, "some nurses who were experiencing burn-out described feeling more connected to the original reason they came into the profession".
These are some great outcomes, particularly if we got over the stereotypes and unfounded stigmas of yoga.
Yoga is for everyone - regardless of age, body type, or level of athleticism.
There is a practice out there for everyone to modify for their own purpose. Moreover, yoga is not only a physical practice, to build flexibility, but is intensely focused on accessing the mind, staying in the present, and helping us deal with modern life.
This is what differentiates it from other exercise because it transcends the idea that the number of calories burned is all that is important. Yoga brings us back to the present, by focusing on our breathing and connecting our bodies and mind together.
There are many ways healthcare professionals can add yoga to their lives. Doing a regular mindfulness/meditation practice, coupled with simple yoga postures can start you on the road to better health and well-being.
If you have enough time to look at Facebook or Instagram, you have enough time to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and be present, thus adding a few mindful moments to your day.
Furthermore, going to a yoga class regularly and taking time for yourself can help you find your passion back in your work and help overcome emotional fatigue. If you don't have time to get to a studio, then downloading an app, or using other online resources, can help you practice whenever you can fit it in.
There is more benefit to practicing yoga 10 minutes every day than trying to fit in one 60 minute yoga practice each week. When we think like that, there are potentially numerous times we can fit some sort of yoga or mindfulness practice into our lives.
We can't solve all the problems in the healthcare industry overnight, but by adding in a regular yoga practice we can reduce burnout and help our doctors, nurses, and caregivers deal with the high stress nature of their work.
Yoga goes beyond stretching and will provide calm and a practical means to keep our healthcare providers healthy so that they can perform when we need them most.
• Tim Seutter is a firefighter, and director of the Loft Studio and Yogafire.tv .