Transcendental Meditation: The Solution to Stress in the Workplace

Business.com / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Learn how to combat stress in the workplace through transcendental meditation.

"Stress is the trash of modern life–we all generate it, but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life." Danzae Pace, author

If you consider a 50-year career, working an average of 39.2 hours a week, an average person will spend 92,120 hours of their life working.

As the proverbial saying goes: you are a long time at work, so you better enjoy what you do. The sad fact is that many people are in roles where they have increasing work capacity requirements and have to deal with difficult co-workers and ever reducing deadlines.

The desire to have a bigger house, better car, luxury holiday, iPhone, designer clothes and more, also contributes to our escalating stress levels through our pressure to earn more money.

“Stress is caused by being 'here' but wanting to be 'there'.” - Eckhart Tolle

Meditation in the Workplace Significantly Improves Productivity

It is now widely recognized that stress contributes to the majority of health issues and this equates to a significant amount of time and money lost in businesses, due to absence from work. "Mindfulness" techniques are often the first experience people have with meditation, due to its rise in popularity in recent years.

It is now accepted as having great benefits in relieving stress, and research shows its direct reduction of anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Transcendental meditation, which is considered a progression for meditators wanting a deeper experience and even more profound results, also has a strong research evidence base a reduction of stress, depression and anxiety on a physiological and psychological basis are indicated, amongst many other benefits to health and well-being.

Research into TM also indicates that regular meditation within the workplace significantly improves job satisfaction and productivity. This would suggest that business owners would be prudent to invest in meditation programs to increase their workplace wellbeing and output.

Many high-profile business leaders practice regular meditation integrated into their hectic schedule to allow them to cope with the extreme levels of stress and hard work. Surely we should follow their lead and begin to take advantage of the benefits that meditation can offer our stress levels in the workplace.

“TM is a competitive advantage in the business world … I have the mental clarity and alertness for both laser-like focus on the details as well as broad comprehension.” - Steve Rubin, former CEO of United Fuels International

Related Article: Mental Health In The Workplace: 5 Effective Methods To Reduce Stress-Related Illness

The Cost to Employers Is £26bn

In 2013, 131 million days in the UK were lost due to absence from work because of sickness, according to the Office for National Statistics, of which 15 million days were lost in the workplace due to mental illness described as "stress, anxiety or depression".

The Centre of Mental Health claims that UK employers have faced a cost of £26 billion through sickness absence, reduced productivity and recruitment costs, all as a direct result of the increase of mental illness in the workplace. Forty percent of employers are seeing an increase in reported mental health problems and working days lost (CIPD’s 2014 Absence Management Survey).

Stress is an Internal Physiological Response to an External Event

While stress is often thought to be an external problem in the workplace itself, it is, in fact, an internal impression, or imbalance, left in the physiology. It is a result of our interpretation of, and consequent response to, challenging events, not the event itself. This is why two people can react in very different ways to the same situation.

The "stress" response is our evolutionary survival mechanism, a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat, preparing our bodies to react quickly. Stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline are secreted, temporarily changing the functioning of the whole body. Stored glucose and fats are released for energy, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, muscles tense, and oxygen consumption increases, whilst other processes not needed at that time are suppressed, such as digestion and cellular repair. 

Effects in the brain cause heightened emotional responses and reduced decision-making processes. If we face a high level of demand or challenge without allowing the body adequate rest and recovery time, these temporary imbalances can become prolonged and sustained, affecting our health, wellbeing and functioning.

None of this is good for people or company productivity it is a misunderstanding which causes people to claim “I need stress to keep me motivated and meeting demands, targets and deadlines”. Whilst challenge is good, residual imbalance from our ‘stress’ response is not.

Stress becomes a self-perpetuating cycle: accumulated stress in the body means we are more likely to perceive subsequent events in a threatening way and in turn this increases the activation of the "stress response". And so on.

Related Article:7 Simple Mindful Tactics to Reduce Stress for Leaders

Stress Is at the Root of Most Health Problems

It is now widely recognized that stress has a role to play in almost all health problems affecting the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, immune and central nervous systems.

Research suggests that prolonged stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits precipitating heart failure, peptic ulcers from the imbalance of acids in the stomach and skin disorders such as eczema from the abnormal chemical secretions in the skin. Other organs such as the lungs, bladder and reproductive system are also susceptible.

As stress accumulates, it increases the ‘chatter’ of the mind: thinking becomes less clear, less efficient and less creative, and research indicates brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction.

Meditation Helps Employees to Cope With Stress

Mindfulness techniques are increasingly being used to help people cope. The mind is trained to be in the present moment rather than caught up in concerns about the past or worries about the future. In July’s edition of People Management, a survey showed that 43 percent of participants used mindfulness training as an intervention to help people suffering from mental ill-health.

Mindfulness, as a meditation practice, is a step in the right direction but by progressing to a deeper meditation technique, such as Transcendental Meditation, even greater physiological  benefits can be experienced.

TM gives the body very deep rest, much deeper than in sleep. This has been called by scientists a "restructuring state" because it produces physiological reactions exactly opposite to those of the "stress" state. There is a great deal of both scientific and anecdotal evidence about the benefits of TM, which is talked about in greater depth here.

TM Can Increase Job Satisfaction and Productivity

Research specifically in workplace settings has indicated that TM practice within organizations can significantly improve relationships between supervisors and co-workers. Also, it can increase job satisfaction, performance and productivity, reduce job-related worry and tension, and improve the ability to make decisions. These benefits have been found in employees at every level of an organization.

TM has also been compared to the numerous stress management programs, which work on the principle of relaxation. “Stress management programs offer some small help by periodically reducing our level of stress…however, most SMPs offer only superficial rest and relaxation.  We need a far deeper rest to remove the deep-seated stresses that accumulate in our lives”. Wallace, 1986.

Sony, General Motors, IBM and Toyota Make TM Available to Their Employees

All of the benefits that we see occurring within and between individuals from the practice of TM cannot help but improve the workplace environment and subsequently, productivity. People of all professions rediscover their natural ability to remain calm under pressure, free from tension and fatigue, and operate at the peak of their mental clarity and performance.

Companies such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Sony, General Motors, IBM and Toyota have all made TM available to their staff. Business leaders such as Arianna Huffington, Russell Simmons, and Marc Benioff, to name but a few, advocate the practice and attribute their ability to cope with exceptional workloads and stress to their daily meditation.

Related Article:6 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout

Regular Meditation Can Have a Positive Impact in the Workplace

All the research and evidence strongly points to a conclusion that regular transcendental meditation can have a positive impact on the workplace, through well-being, reduced stress, increased mental clarity and the ability to remain calm under pressure.

TM tackles the stress itself, which exists exclusively within the employee, affecting their perception of, and response to, external workplace issues. It doesn’t mean that we ignore bad practice in the working environment, but by going to the root of the problem and dissolving the stress in the individual, the apparent problems on the surface can resolve themselves very naturally. The focus on the employee changes them from being part of the problem, to part of the solution.

The benefits of TM will impact on every aspect of personal, family and social life. An employee with a happy and fulfilling private life will translate that effect into their workplace. Therefore, a business wanting to improve their workplace environment and productivity would be wise to consider a meditation program for their employees.

This article was co-written by Dr. Gemma Beckley, Clinical Psychologist, and teacher of Transcendental Meditation for the Meditation Trust.

"When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author, 1613-1680"

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