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Why Relax?

Every human being knows the pain of stress, and you can probably already cite a dozen reasons why effective relaxation strategies are essential to enjoyment and performance. Yet some people appreciate measurable evidence. That’s what we bring together on this page. [You may also fast forward to stress management solutions.]

The bad news: Stress hurts...
              and costs (more than ever)

Executives alone cost American industry more than $10 billion annually through lost workdays, hospitalization, and early death caused by stress. —National Association of Disability Examiners, 1997

In terms of lost hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and workers’ compensation benefits, stress costs American industry about $7,500 (US) per worker per year. —The Stress Solution, Miller & Smith, American Psychological Association, 1997

80% of people feel stress on the job, and nearly 40% say they need help in managing stress. —2000 Gallup poll

43% of adults suffer from adverse health effects due to stress. Stress also causes about 1 million employees to be absent any given workday and is ultimately responsible for 50% of employee burnout and 40% of employee turnover. —Training & Development Magazine, August 2000

In the US, health care is 50% costlier for those who report high levels of stress at work.  Stress is the most common cause of heart disease and depression, which are expected to lead all other ailments in the new millennium. —World Health Organization, June 1999

High levels of stress cause nerve factor growth (NFG), which hinders the ability of disease-fighting cells to ward off infections, suppressing the immune system. —Reported in Psychology Today, January, 1996

Companies should develop plans to manage worker stress and anger to keep productivity and morale up…Most companies are getting the output of about 50 to 70 workers for every 100 people they employ.  Much of the difference is due to increasingly high stress levels. —HR Magazine, October 2001

Stress can actually kill, albeit slowly. A recent [Ohio State University] study found that even mild stress can increase the [risk] of cardiovascular disease by leading to above-normal levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that damages arterial walls. —Purchasing Magazine, October 2001

Those reporting a history of workplace stress over the past 10 years developed colon and rectal cancers at 5.5 times the control group rate. —Joseph Courtney, UCLA School of Public Health, Epidemiology, September, 1994

Under large amounts of stress, your resistance drops, and if you’re seeing a wide variety of people, your body is more challenged by viruses. —Dr. Natalie Hamrick, Carnegie Mellon University, quoted in USA Today, March 12, 2001

Now enjoy the good news...

Meditation decreases oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, and increases the intensity of alpha, theta, and delta brain waves — the opposite of the physiological changes that occur during [stress]. —Herbert Benson, M.D. Harvard Medical School, author of The Relaxation Response

75% of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. —Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Harvard

Recent research has looked at precisely what happens during meditation that allows it to cause these positive physical changes…A group of people who had meditated for four months [were found to produce] less of the stress hormone cortisol.  They were therefore better able to adapt to stress in their lives, no matter what their circumstances were. —Psychology Today, May 2001

Meditation significantly controls high blood pressure at levels comparable to widely used prescription drugs, and without the side effects. —Journal of the American Medical Association

The three-month study of managers and employees who regularly practiced meditation in [Puritan-Bennett Corporation] showed that meditation practitioners displayed more relaxed physiological functioning, greater reduction in anxiety, and reduced tension on the job, when compared to control subjects with similar job positions in the same companies. —Anxiety, Stress & Coping International Journal, 1993

Reducing stress can dramatically reduce heart disease.  In a five-year study of heart disease patients, those who learned to manage stress reduced their risk of having another heart attack by 74%, compared with patients receiving medication only. Reducing mental stress also proved more beneficial than getting exercise. —Dr. James Blumenthal, Duke University, 1997

Companies including Nortel Networks Corp. have recognized the benefits of meditation by building nondenominational meditation rooms for employees.  …When practiced regularly, meditation can help to lower stress and blood pressure and enhance our state of awareness. [Meditation helps] release stress and fatigue, rest the body, and thus allow it to heal naturally by reducing the toxic chemistries of stress. —Lance Secretan, Industry Week, March 2001

For William W. George, retiring chairman and CEO, Medtronic Inc., Minneapolis, meditation fits the bill. He meditates at home for 20 minutes twice a day, typically before and after work. “It helps sort things out, gets me prepared, and relieves a lot of the stress... Quite frankly, many of my most creative thoughts have come out of meditation.” —Tim Steven, Industry Week, November 2000

The lawyers at Renda, Pares & Pfalzgraf... begin their weekly meeting at noon on Mondays by meditating:
“It’s our universal experience here that much more can be accomplished in the practice of law if we are doing it in a thoughtful and quiet manner rather than in a frantic manner,” says David Pfalzgraf, a partner at the firm. —ABC News report by Catherine Valenti, September 15, 2003

©2003-2008, Richard Pinneau

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