A US study has shown dramatic stress reduction among intensive care nurses after teaching them on-the-spot relaxation techniques, claim researchers.
The study found that a workplace mindfulness-based intervention reduced stress levels of employees exposed to a highly stressful occupational environment.
Members of a surgical ICU at the large academic medical centre were randomized to a stress-reduction intervention or a control group.
The eight-week group intervention included mindfulness, gentle stretching, yoga, meditation and music conducted in the workplace.
“This type of mindfulness-based intervention in the workplace could decrease stress levels and the risk of burnout”
Psychological and biological markers of stress were measured one week before and one week after the intervention to see if these coping strategies would help reduce stress and burnout among participants.
The results showed that levels of salivary [alpha]-amylase, an index of sympathetic activation of the nervous system – also known as the fight or flight response – were significantly decreased from the first to second assessments in the intervention group. The control group showed no changes.
Psychological components of stress and burnout were measured using well-established self-report questionnaires.
“Our study shows that this type of mindfulness-based intervention in the workplace could decrease stress levels and the risk of burnout,” said author Maryanna Klatt, associate clinical professor at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
“What’s stressful about the work environment is never going to change,” she said. “But what we were interested in changing was the nursing personnel’s reaction to those stresses.
“We measured salivary alpha amylase, which is a biomarker of the sympathetic nervous system activation, and that was reduced by 40% in the intervention group,” she added.
Ms Klatt led the mindfulness-based intervention for 32 participants in the workplace setting.
On average, the study participants had scored the level of stress of their work at 7.15 on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most stressful.
The study findings were published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.