A Literature Review on the Impact of Yoga Way of Life on the Reduction of Job Burnout of Managers Sangeetha Vinod Sudhakar B [email protected] [email protected] Manipal University, Dubai “Burnout is the biggest occupational hazard of the 21st century,” Job burnout is debilitating psychological condition which has serious repercussions for an individual’s personal health as also on the organizational effectiveness. Yoga way of life has direct relevance to address the issue of stress and burnout. It is aimed at making managers more evolved individuals with better understanding of their job situation in the overall context of life. The main contribution of this paper is to present a comprehensive literature study in this area and present a description of empirical studies conducted by yesteryear researchers. Keywords: Job Burnout, Stress Management, Yoga Way of Life, Transcendental Meditation (TM)
At some point in your career, you will experience burnout. Regardless of how much you like your job there will come a time when you just don’t feel like doing it anymore. If you could choose between being sick enough to stay home (and not just lying about being sick) and going to work, you would actually choose to be sick. It would be far less aversive than facing your boss, your co-workers, your clients, and your desk. What exactly is burnout? It is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Who’s stressed and frustrated? Many people! Mass layoffs are making workers very nervous. Many are afraid of losing their jobs and are therefore working harder and longer hours to prove their worth. Survivors of layoffs have to work harder to fill the gaps left by their departed colleagues. Burnout can also be defined as the end result of stress experienced but not properly coped with, resulting in symptoms of exhaustion, irritation, ineffectiveness, discounting of self and others, and problems of health (hypertension, ulcers and heart problems).
Literatures both fiction and nonfiction, has described similar phenomena, including extreme fatigue and loss of idealism and passion of one’s job. In modern corporations, institutions working not-for-profit, and government organizations, one of the important concerns is the issue of burnout that employees experience at their workplace. This has serious consequences including reduced productivity at workplace, bad health, and mental stress for the employee. If not addressed effectively, this can threaten to manifest as a social problem at a later time. Recent research has identified the negative impact that burnout has on both the employees and organizations. Louise (2008) observed that the lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50 per cent, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress as a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually. In the physiology and management literature, job stress is usually defined as a characteristic of the individual, i.e., the psychophysiological changes experienced as a consequence of job related demands on the individual. Stress management refers to the adaptive behavior of changing any aspect of the environment or person in such a way as to decrease stress response (sometimes referred to as “strain”) and promote organizational and/or individual health. The Yoga way of life has direct relevance to address the issue of stress and burnout.
2. Stress and Burnout: Causes and Impact
Maslach and Jackson (1981) conceptualized burnout as a syndrome consisting of three components. Emotional exhaustion refers to mental and physical tension and strain resulting from job related stressors. Depersonalization refers to distancing of oneself from others and viewing others impersonally. Diminished personal accomplishment is a feeling of negative self-evaluation. Exhaustion is the central quality of burnout and the most obvious manifestation of this complex syndrome. Maslach (1982) reviewed literature on burnout and concluded that there is no single definition of burnout that is accepted as standard. However, despite the differences, there are also similarities among various definitions of burnout. Several studies in the past concluded that burnout has negative effects on job performance. Burnout leads to lower productivity and effectiveness at work (Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter, 2001).
Consequently, it is 640
International Conference on Technology and Business Management associated with decreased job satisfaction and a reduced commitment to the job or the organization. People who are experiencing burnout can have a negative impact on their colleagues, both by causing greater personal conflict and by disrupting job tasks. Thus burnout can be “contagious” and can perpetuate itself through formal interactions on the job (Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter, 2001). Stress in organizations has been documented to produce wide-ranging psychological, physical, and behavioral ill-effects. The costs of stress are variously estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars annually, or 12 percent of the US GNP (Siu, Lu and Cooper, 1999).
The visible portion of these costs stems from compensation claims (Kottage, 1992), reduced productivity and increased absenteeism (Manuso, 1979), added health insurance costs (Mulcahy, 1991), and direct medical expenses for related diseases such as ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart attacks (Newman and Beehr, 1979). Louise (2008) observed that 43 per cent of all adults in the US suffer adverse health effects from stress. He further reported that 75-90 per cent of all the doctors’ office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. A study of the literature reveals that several variables were tested for their moderating effects on stress.
People who display low levels of hardiness (involvement in daily activities, a sense of control over events, and openness to change) have higher burnout scores, particularly on the exhaustion dimension. Burnout is higher among people who have an external locus of control (attributing events and achievements to powerful others or to chance) rather than an internal locus of control (attributions to one’s own ability and effort) (Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter, 2001). Srivastava (1985) studied the moderating effect of the need for achievement on the relationship between role stress and job anxiety. Another study (Pestonjee and Singh, 1988) investigated the moderating effect on locus of control on the stress and job satisfaction relationship in the case of 101 role incumbents of a private electricity supply company.
Pestonjee and Singh (1988) also investigated the moderating effect to Type-A pattern of behavioral disposition on the relationship between role stress and state-trait anger. The finding revealed that stress, Type-A behavior, state and trait anger were correlated positively and most of the coefficients of correlation (for example, 79 out of 88) were statistically significant. (Pestonjee, 1999) Singh and Srivastava (1996) tried to examine the independent and moderating effect of Type-A behavior pattern on the stress-health relationship.
Type-A managerial personnel scored significantly higher on role ambiguity, role conflict and overall job stress in comparison to Type-B managers. Type-A managers also showed elevated levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure as compared to Type-B managers. Based on these studies, we conclude that several variables have a moderating effect on stress. These include organizational climate, locus of control, Type-A behavior patterns, needs (need for achievement, selfactualization and personal growth), mental health, job satisfaction, hierarchical level, coping strategies, grouporiented attitude, participation in opinion-seeking, cognitive failure, and effort and outcome orientations.
3. Yoga Way of Life and Stress Management
Yoga is one of the six foundations of Indian philosophy and has been used for millennia to study, explain and experience the complexities of the mind and human existence (Feuerstein, 1998). Patanjali, an ancient Yoga sage, defines Yoga as a technique used to still the fluctuations of the mind to reach the central reality of the true self (Iyengar, 1966). Ashtanga Yogo encompasses cognitive learning, moral conduct, physiological practices, and psychological therapy. The stages of Asana and Pranayama are meant for disciplining the body and regulating subtle energy flows. In the fifth stage of Prayahara, secondary input is regulated so that mind is not distracted. The stages of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are for uplifting one’s spiritual self and for heightening consciousness. As a holistic science concerned with all aspects of human functioning, the science of Yoga provides unifying framework by which stress can be understood and eliminated.
According to Yoga, we are unconscious of those mental/emotional/perceptual processes which habitually create stress. Yoga involves a systematic method by which we can begin to expand our awareness of these processes and thus begin to gain control over them. So, in a very practical sense, Yoga gives us the tools and techniques by which we can expand our conscious awareness into the unconscious parts of the mind in order to become aware of the patterns and habits which lead to stress. 3.1 Banishing Burnout: Live Cases of Individuals who made radical and not-so-radical changes to ease their job stress-and along the way, transformed their lives.
For eight years, Karl LaRowe worked in the emergency room at an inner-city hospital in Portland, Oregon. As a crisis intervention counselor, he helped hundreds of people each month cope with everything from domestic violence and depression to psychosis and suicide attempts. Eventually, the constant adrenaline rushes and biweekly 48-hour shifts took their toll. “I wasn’t sleeping well,” says LaRowe, who’s now 50. “Thoughts about the patients would come crashing into my mind, and I became acutely aware of noises.” He began to drink 641 heavily and to use drugs, and spiraled into a deep depression. When antidepressants and talk therapy did not help, LaRowe felt he had no choice but to quit his job. After drifting for a while, he remarried and moved to Singapore, where he met a master of qi gong, a Chinese system of exercise and breathing performed in a meditative state. It was this ancient technique, which he now practices for 15 to 20 minutes every day, that LaRowe says gave him back his life.
“I got lots of ideas in therapy,” he says. “But nothing was happening. Qi gong was my first experience of really feeling the frozen energy in my body release.” Eventually, LaRowe returned to the health field; he now works two to four days a week assessing mental health clients in the court system. “Though my schedule is very busy, the difference is that today when my day is done, it’s done,” he says. “I no longer take my patients home with me.” He also leads regular workshops on body awareness, breathing, and compassion fatigue—things he wishes he’d learned about years earlier—for social workers, psychologists, and other professional caregivers. As LaRowe learned, making your work less stressful does not have to mean leaving it behind for good. (And how many of us can hope to do that, anyway?) Instead, the key is to transform your relationship to the stress so that it no longer overwhelms you. More and more people are discovering that mind-body practices like yoga, qi gong, and meditation can be hugely helpful in shifting the way they react to stress. The need for anti-stress practices has become increasingly urgent.
Americans now work nine full weeks more per year than our peers in Western Europe. And even if we get time off, we do not always use it: At least 30 percent of employed adults do not take all their vacation days, according to a 2005 Harris Interactive poll. Each year, Americans hand back 421 million days to their employers. Constant emails and ever-increasing workloads have too many of us working through lunch and staying late, yet still feeling as though we can never catch up. The upshot, say experts, is that we are overscheduled, overworked, and just plain overwhelmed. Recently, a team of researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that stress may even accelerate aging at the cellular level. The study found that the blood cells of women who had spent many years caring for a child with a health condition appeared to be, genetically, about 10 years older than the cells of women whose caretaking responsibilities were less prolonged.
Although the study focused on caregivers, the findings apply to overworked employees, too. “People with other sources of life stress showed similar relationships between their levels of stress and cell aging,” says Elissa Epel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF and the study’s lead author. Stress itself, Epel emphasizes, is neither inherently good nor bad. Instead, how you perceive and react to it determines how it will affect your health. “In the study,” she explains, “the perception of stress was more important than whether one was under the strain of care giving or not.” So how do you shift your perceptions so you no longer feel like one big rubber band about to snap? That’s where yoga and other mind-body approaches come in. You are likely to feel many of yoga’s benefits the first time you step onto the mat, says Timothy McCall, M.D., an internist and Yoga Journal’s medical editor.
“When you are doing Downward-Facing Dog, your mind is saying, ‘I want to come down now; my arms are tired,’ but if your teacher tells you to hold the asana a little longer, you find the strength to do it,” he says. “At that point, you realize that you do not have to respond to every urge you feel. At other times, when your body says it needs to come down, it really needs to. Yoga teaches you to tune in to what your body is telling you and to act accordingly.” With practice, this awareness will spread into other areas of your life, including your work. “As you learn to separate the urge to act from the reaction, you begin to find that something like a canceled meeting or having a last-minute project handed to you may not rattle you as much as it once did,” says McCall. That’s what happened for David Freda, a 41-year-old software engineer in Pasadena, California.
He had practiced yoga sporadically to help him deal with job-related anxiety in the past, but after he took a new position at an investment company in 1999, he decided to get serious. “I have very high standards as an engineer. As a result, I have a pattern of getting fed up with co-workers and bolting from my jobs,” he says. “When I took this job, I decided to stick it out to see what I could change in myself. I had a strong sense that yoga could help me do that.” Flush with a holiday bonus check, Freda signed up for a full-year, unlimited-use membership at a yoga studio near his office. He started practicing regularly—sometimes at home, sometimes at the studio—between 60 and 90 minutes each day.
Six years later, Freda is still at his job, and still on the mat. “When I’m doing a challenging posture such as Revolved Triangle [Parivrtta Trikonasana], I can stay in the posture, focus on my breathing, and perhaps not push quite so hard,” he says. “That approach helps me in my job. When I am confronting someone who is making a bad technical decision, I consider what I could say that would facilitate what I want to achieve. In the past, my emotions would have gotten the best of me, but now people are more inclined to listen and to engage.
Even my boss has commented on the changes.” Of course, there’s more to yoga than just the asanas, or postures. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, or eight limbs (“ashta” = eight, “anga” = limb). These eight branches act as guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. The principles can collectively go a long way toward helping you stay centered in the face of cranky bosses, impossible deadlines, and unending piles of paper. “A good understanding of the eight limbs can strengthen your understanding of yourself; it can allow you to make the choice to be in less stressful circumstances,” says Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute in Makawao, Hawaii, and the author of several books, including Yoga for Transformation (Penguin, 2002). While this insight might lead you to realize that you’re in the wrong job altogether, Kraftsow explains that the yamas and niyamas that form the first and second limbs of ashtanga yoga can also help you overcome the difficulties that led to your stress in the first place.
(The five yama disciplines are ethical principles, and the niyama practices are moral observances.) For example, one of the niyamas, self-study (svadhyaya), can help you understand what triggers your negative moods, so you can avoid those situations at work. “I tend to move very quickly and get agitated if I am running late,” Kraftsow says. “Since I know that about myself, when I am going on a business trip, I always show up half an hour earlier than I need to.” The yamas and niyamas can help in more mundane ways, as well: Cleanliness (saucha) can help you get your desk in order and not double-book your calendar; surrender (Ishvara pranidhana) can teach you that you can’t control everything. But the main reason for reflecting on these principles is to know yourself more deeply, so you can design your days in a way that suits you.
If you know you get exhausted by long stretches toiling in artificial light and stale office air, for instance, you might approach your boss about working from home one day a week. At a minimum, make a point of going outside for a walk before tackling an afternoon of back-to-back deadlines. Another approach to turning stress inside out is mindfulness-based stress reduction, the name given to an eight-week program rooted in meditation and hatha yoga. Little by little, it teaches you to gain perspective and become more accepting of your thoughts. It was pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. The mechanics of the technique are simple. First, find a comfortable seated position (either on the floor or in a chair). Then close your eyes and become aware of your breath, paying attention to it for a few minutes as it enters and leaves your body.
You can start with five minutes a day, then increase to longer periods as you feel able. Using this practice to cultivate what Kabat-Zinn calls “nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness” can transform the way you handle workday stressors. “Learning to watch your thoughts, rather than reacting to them, provides a whole other level of freedom,” he says. “At work, if you’re thinking, ‘I hate my boss,’ you can begin to ask yourself, Is that actually true? There’s tremendous satisfaction in taking a step like this right in the middle of feeling overwhelmed by your day-to-day activities.” 3.2 Controlling the Uncontrollable While becoming more mindful can go a long way toward staving off burnout, it can’t solve everything that’s wrong with a job. Today’s workers face some very real external challenges, such as having to do more work with fewer resources in the wake of downsizing, outsourcing, and shrinking corporate budgets. Other workers feel demoralized by their bosses’ unrealistic expectations or because they lack the training they need. There are times when the best way to banish burnout is to ditch a dead-end job.
But if your job is simply so-so, taking an inventory of the areas that bother you most—and coming up with ways to change them—can help you gain greater control. Just the act of taking charge itself, experts say, is one of the best ways to keep from feeling overwhelmed. An emotionally demanding job can have stressful aspects, but if they are balanced with feelings of control and accomplishment, these elements will buffer the bad stress. Begin by keeping a diary to track your daily stressors and how they affect your mood.
“For one week, write down events during the day that cause you stress, such as a morning meeting with your boss,” says Martha Davis, Ph.D., a psychologist in Santa Clara, California, and the co-author of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Publications, 2000). Be sure to note any physical sensations you feel in your body, such as back pain or tension in your shoulders. Then write down the thoughts and feelings you had during the stressful event and what you did in response.
“At the end of seven days, review the diary and look for patterns, both in your job stressors and in your responses to them,” Davis advises. You may find that working at a computer for long periods gives you a headache and makes you spacey, for example. Next, formulate a plan that will help you respond better to the stressors you can anticipate. Make your goals specific and achievable, and reward yourself when you have attained them, Davis says. For instance, instead of drinking coffee when you’re bored and tired, plan to take regular breaks every couple of hours. Or make a date with a friend or co-worker to go to an exercise class during your lunch hour.
3.3 Seeking to Simplify If you find you need support staff or other forms of assistance to put your plan into action, do not be afraid to speak directly to your employer, says John de Graaf, the coauthor of Affluenza (Berrett-Koehler, 2005) and the national coordinator of Take Back Your Time Day (http://www.timeday.org/), an initiative that seeks to stem the epidemic of overwork. “Ask your boss if you can have time off instead of a raise or bonus. Consider job sharing or asking for more-flexible hours. If you are going for a new job, negotiate more vacation time up front,” de Graaf says. “Think creatively. I find that people often have more choices than they realize.” (And if you do get those extra vacation days, do not forget to use them!) When Liz Ryan, 45, recalls the years she spent as the head of human resources for a start-up software company, she can still feel her body stiffen.
“My work life was horrible,” she says. “I’d wake up every morning with a pounding headache and a jaw like iron from grinding my teeth all night. I gained weight, I was a nervous wreck, and I hated myself for being in that job.” She commuted from Chicago to Boston four days a week, so she had little time with her husband and children. “It was all sucking more energy out of my family than it was worth,” she says. The final straw came when, on the eve of a big electronics show in Las Vegas, Ryan ruptured a disk in her back and ended up in the hospital. When her boss telephoned to chastise her for not being available, she knew that something had to give—namely, her job. Shortly after she gave notice, Ryan decided to move her family to Boulder, Colorado, a place she had enjoyed visiting in the past, and where her sister had moved a few months earlier. “It was definitely scary, and it was by no means easy to make such a big change, but today our life represents us so much better than it did before,” says Ryan, who went on to launch WorldWIT, an online community for women in business and technology.
“Our expenses are a lot lower. We have more time. The stress level is drastically reduced for all of us.” Even if you can’t or don’t want to quit the job you have, you can change it so it suits you better, says burnout expert Maslach. “Often there is a real imbalance or mismatch with your work, and burnout is tied in to that. Ask yourself: Are you working in conflict with your values?” Margot Carmichael Lester, 43, owned a successful marketing company based in her hometown of Carrboro, North Carolina, but was aware of an uncomfortable disconnect between her values and her work. As her list of clients grew, so did her stress levels and sense of dissatisfaction. Eventually, she found herself working 12 hours a day promoting causes she did not believe in. It was not until one of her close friends was killed in a car accident that she forced herself to reexamine her relationship with her job. “I took a month off, and when I returned, I vowed to work only on things I cared about,” she says.
“I pushed off the clients I didn’t feel aligned with and kept the ones that represented the causes I believed in.” Both Lester and Ryan say that despite the shifts they have made, they still feel stressed out at times. “But this time, I feel more in control. I’m in charge of my own success or failure,” Ryan says. “Making the changes was terrifying. But ultimately, I had to do it for my own sanity. My health and my life depended on it.” Therefore, it is very clear from the above live cases that in any stress disorder, the para-sympathetic autonervous mechanisms fail to function adequately to minimize the impact of stressful stimuli. Among several relaxation practices, Yoga has the potentiality to influence the auto-nervous mechanisms in various ways.
The science of Yoga is based on the principle of stimulating one’s body and mind and then relaxing it turn by turn. This restores the functioning of sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous systems and so stress does not get built up. 3.4 Yoga Reduces Job Burnout, Stress: IIM-A A study published in the quarterly magazine of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), ‘Vikalpa’, says that adoption of yoga way of life significantly reduces job burnout and stress. The study was conducted on 84 executives of Grasim Industries Ltd, a flagship company of Aditya Birla Group, based in Bharuch, by IAS officer and Principal Secretary, Education, Government of Gujarat, Hasmukh Adhia and two other researchers-H R Nagendra and B Mahadevan.
The group of 84 executives was divided into two groups of 42 each. The yoga group was given 30 hours of yoga practice (75 minutes every day) and 25 hours of theory lectures in the philosophy of yoga. While the second group formed physical exercise group, which was given training of equal number of hours of physical workout and lectures on success factors in life based on modern theory and not yoga. Stress was measured using a standard self-reported questionnaire on experience of both pre and post the experiment for a month on both the groups. Measurement of certain parameters such as blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar and weight was also taken both pre and post experiment.
“Stress, when measured, showed statistically significant drop for managers in the yoga group, while ironically in the physical exercise group, stress increased as their working schedule became more hectic due to additional exercise,” Adhia said. The study said burnout is prolonged response to chronic and interpersonal stress on the job and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism and inefficiency. Job burnout is debilitating psychological condition which has serious repercussion on individual health as also on the organizational effectiveness, it added. The study said that according to an estimate stress costs American industries more than $300 billion annually, stemming from reduced productivity, compensation claims and increased absenteeism.
The corporate scene in India is not different with stress and burnout at workplace causing a number of victims to seek professional therapy, it said. Several studies in the past have established that yoga addresses the issue of stress, but no empirical data co-relating the yoga way of living specifically reducing stress at workplace, has been done till now. The yogic lifestyle comprises meditation, breathing techniques, correct postures, low-fat non-spicy diet and behavioral modification. The study espouses that practicing the yogic lifestyle can bring about a complete transformation in one’s personality on physical, mental and spiritual levels which strengthens one’s stress coping skills. On further literature surveys, the researchers have come to this understanding that Yoga is regarded as a promising method for the treatment of stress-related problems.
Several studies have shown Yoga to be promising for physiological (Murugesan, Govindarajulu, and Bera, 2000) and psychological outcome measures (Malathi, et al, 2000). Studies such as those conducted by Singh and Udupa (1977), Datey (1977), Sachdeva (1994), Vasudevan (1994), Venkatesh (1994), and Rao (1995) throw light on the positive effects of yogic practices on experienced stress. Udupa, Singh and Dwivedi (1977), in their study on two groups of volunteers who practiced Vipasana meditation for 10 days, had noted a significant increase in the levels of acetylcholine, cholinesterase, catecholamine, and histamines activities in the blood. On the other hand, there appeared to be a reduction in the level of plasma cortisol, urinary corticoids, and urinary nitrogen.
These findings suggest that volunteers were neuro-physiologically more active following yogic meditation and yet, were physically and metabolically stable. In a study done by Granath, et al (2006), a stress management programme based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles was compared with a Kundalini Yoga programme. Psychological (self-rated stress and stress behavior, anger, exhaustion, quality of life) and physiological (blood pressure, heart rate, urinary catecholamine, salivary cortisol) measurements obtained before and after treatment showed significant improvements on most of the variables in both groups as well as medium-to-high effect sizes. However, no significant difference was found between two programmes, the results indicate that both cognitive behavior therapy and Yoga are promising stress management techniques.
In a study done at Vivekanand Yoga Anusandhan Samsthan, Bengaluru, Telles et al (2004) found that Yoga training can help people to reduce their heart rate, which has possible therapeutic applications. In another study done at the same place, Patil and Telles (2006) found Cyclic Meditation Technique, developed by Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthan, Bengaluru, to be more effective in achieving voluntary heart rate variability as compared with another yogic technique of Supine Rest (Savasan). An experiment on stress reduction using the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique and Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) was conducted at a South African firm with 80 employees (Broome et al, 2005).