• Gaby Schwingshakl

How To Combat Burnout With Mindfulness Meditation

Does going to work feel like a chore? Do you leave work more stressed than when you arrived? Do you feel overworked, frustrated, and unproductive at work and at home? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be burned out.

Do you feel overworked, frustrated and burned out?
Illustration by Nadia Mokadem

Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion often caused by high work demands and the inability to cope with those demands.¹ The consequences of burnout are endless. It can affect every aspect of one’s life from job performance to mental and physical health.


Employees often burn out because they are under a great deal of stress. Chronic stress can lead to fatigue, loss of concentration, and even accelerated aging.² When we are stressed at work, our productivity decreases which has vast consequences on our careers and companies. Studies show that companies lose around $60 billion a year from decreased employee productivity.³


Because burnout has such extreme consequences, we must avoid it to save our work. So, how do we do that?


What is Mindfulness Meditation?


Mindfulness meditation is a cognitive exercise that teaches control over intrusive thoughts.¹ This meditation practice focuses on maintaining a quiet mind to promote peace and tranquility. Quieting the mind allows us to be more present in the moment and pay attention to our surroundings.


Studies have shown that meditation has calming effects on many physiological systems. These relaxing effects include decreased heart rate, oxygen consumption, and blood pressure.³ When we experience stress or anxiety, our bodies produce excess lactate in our blood. Research has shown that individuals who meditate have significantly lower blood lactate levels.³


Mindfulness meditation is known to relax the body and prevent excess stress. But, how does this cognitive practice stack up against burnout?


Mindfulness Meditation Can Help You Avoid Burnout


While meditation may seem unnecessary, it has profound effects on career success and job satisfaction. Several research studies have indicated that practicing mindfulness meditation can prevent burnout.


In a recent study, researchers conducted an experiment to test the effect of meditation on burnout and stress. A randomly assigned group of participants underwent a 4-week meditation intervention. The group was later assessed on perceived stress, depression, and burnout.


After the intervention, participants experienced a significant reduction in all three outcome measures. These results showed that meditation was effective in reducing employee burnout and stress.


Another recent study showed similar results. The researchers wanted to test the effect of meditation on burnout and emotional wellness. Participants went through a 12-week mindfulness meditation program before assessment.²


After 12 weeks, the participants displayed less burnout and experienced improved emotional wellbeing.² Mindfulness meditation effectively decreased their burnout and boosted their emotional state.


While mindfulness meditation may seem like a challenging practice, it is quite easy. Here are some basic steps for beginners who want to start their meditation practice.


Mindfulness meditation can help your burnout symptoms
Illustration by Nadia Mokadem

How to Mindfully Meditate

  1. Sit upright in a chair or cross-legged on the floor.

  2. Focus on your breathing. Notice how it feels as you inhale and exhale.

  3. Once you are focused on your breath, begin to expand your mind. Start to notice different sounds, smells, and sensations in your surroundings.

  4. Recognize and embrace all your passing thoughts whether positive or negative. Don’t judge your thoughts. Let them be.

  5. If you notice that your mind is racing, focus on your breathing. Once you are ready, expand your mind again.¹


Mindfulness meditation has been shown to significantly reduce burnout, stress, and anxiety. If you are experiencing burnout, try meditating. Remember to trust the process, and don’t judge your thoughts. Soon, you’ll be feeling relaxed and excited to go back to work!




References

Davies, W. R. (2008). Mindful Meditation. Holistic Nursing Practice, 22(1), 32–36. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.hnp.0000306326.56955.14

Grim, R., Pargament, R., Risques, R., Sibliss, K., Thimmapuram, J., & Toorens, E. (2017). Effect of heartfulness meditation on burnout, emotional wellness, and telomere length in health care professionals. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 7:1, 21-27, https://doi.org10.1080/20009666.2016.1270806

Anderson, V. L., Levinson, E. M., Barker, W., & Kiewra, K. R. (1999). The effects of meditation on teacher perceived occupational stress, state and trait anxiety, and burnout. School Psychology Quarterly, 14(1), 3-25. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.vanderbilt.edu/10.1037/h0088995

Elder, C., Nidich, S., Moriarty, F., & Nidich, R. (2014). Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study. The Permanente journal, 18(1), 19–23. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/13-102