Vedic Meditation Blog | Stress Reduction | Wellness
Jill Wener, MD is a board-certified physician who teaches Vedic Meditation in the Atlanta and Chicago areas. Vedic Meditation is a simple, effortless and practical way to dissolve stress and awaken the fullest potential of the mind and body, helping you live your life the way it was meant to be lived.
We all have expectations placed on us. Some are external, and some are internal. Be the best parent, the best spouse, be skinny, wear the right clothes, have a great job, have work life balance. I feel like I wrote the book on setting high expectations for myself- I went to private school, I went to medical school, I got into my first choice for residency, and then I practiced medicine for 10 years in Chicago.
Even though it looks like I'm wearing a clergy-person's outfit, this is my high school graduation day.
Burnout brought me to meditation. As a result, I was no longer a slave to my stress, to the events of the world around me, and to my reactivity to those events. I felt empowered. Here’s why:
1. Conscious Health Meditation doesn’t impose any limits or control. We learn to embrace everything as it comes up in meditation, and to let go of forcing a certain experience
2. Conscious Health Meditation uses the mind’s inherent tendency to wander as part of the technique. It’s a good thing to have thoughts! No more stapling our faces to the wall! We get to be our natural, fabulous selves, without a struggle.
3. By the end of the 4-part course, Conscious Health Meditation students are self-sufficient. We don’t need apps or guided visualizations. We can take our practices anywhere, and we don’t need a silent padded room with crystals and cushions to do it- I’ve meditated on airplanes, at the hair salon, in my car, at my old office at the hospital, while getting a pedicure (I don’t actually recommend that!), and leaning against a makeshift wall at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
We can take our practices anywhere, and we don’t need a silent padded room with crystals and cushions to do it
4. We get results immediately, by transcending our thoughts and going to a place deep within our minds where our thoughts originate. The source of thoughts. Its already inside us, and its super easy to get to. Like, me the skeptical, atheist, type A, anxious doctor could do it on day 2.
5. Conscious Health Meditation gives us some control over our response to life-threatening events: the all-too-familiar stress reaction. The stress reaction is the fight or flight response, and it is binary- it’s either on or off. And in today’s world, our bodies respond just the same to our kids not making their beds yet again, or to someone cutting us off in traffic, as they do if we get held up at gun point or attacked by a wild animal. The good news? Every time we mediate, our bodies get 2-5 times more rest than sleep. This deep rest gives us extra energy to adapt to what life throws at us, and it makes us less of a slave to the stress reaction. The result: we become less reactive and more in control, which is a powerful feeling.
Meditation doesn't need to feel like you are stapling your face to the wall!
Have you tried meditation before? Have you felt, as one of my students said, that meditation felt like she was trying to staple her face to the wall? The last thing we need is for a wellness practice to feel limiting and intimidating. Meditation should be, and IS, empowering. Let’s rise up and claim it.
Re-claiming control of your life begins with one phone call. Schedule your private meditation consultation today!
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Let’s face it- we love our kids, but parenting is one of life’s greatest challenges! Here are 5 ways that a regular meditation practice can help make our jobs as parents easier:
1. Adaptation Energy. Lots of it. Adaptation energy is our bank account of patience. If we have enough of it, we can face any frustration, irritation, or challenge WITHOUT losing our temper. If we run out? We yell, scream, lose our temper, or make inappropriate hand gestures in traffic. Because we get 2-5 times more rest in meditation than any point in a night’s sleep, Conscious Health Meditation gives us huge reserves of ADAPTATION ENERGY, which keeps us cool as cucumbers even in the most harrowing parenting situations.
Kids trying your last nerve as you think of things to do with them when they are our of school?
2. Schedule changes. Kids off school for the summer? Home for spring break? Trying your last nerve as you think of things to do with them when they are out of school? Meditation will give you an excuse, twice a day (I promise this is do-able!), to unplug, tune out, take time for your own self-care, and allow you to re-charge that adaptation energy!
3. Little kids can meditate too! Did you know that kids age 4-11 can learn Conscious Health Meditation for free, if one of their parents are already Conscious Health meditators? All they have to do in exchange is create a piece of art.
4. Time away from screens. Are you worried about how much time your kids spend on screens? Do they complain of being bored the second you take their phones away? Meditation gives them 2 times per day that they are otherwise occupied. And the meditation practice will help them let go of the need to always be connected.
Are you worried about how much time your kids spend on screens? (pic: inhabitots/pinterest)
5. Peace of mind. If your kid is going off to college, there are bound to be a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about whether or not they are ok, how they will handle themselves. By giving them the gift of an effortless, beneficial meditation practice before they go off on their own for the first time, you can sleep better at night. Why? This stress-reduction tool will help them navigate final exams, improve their intuition, decrease their anxiety, and give them the confidence to explore who they are as individuals. Added bonus: Conscious Health Meditation helps with school behavior, learning disabilities and special education!
Inquire about special student rates and graduation gift ideas at Jill@JillWener.com, or register for an ‘Intro Talk’ here!
How many times have you told yourself, ‘I’d love to be able to _____, but I just don’t have enough time’? How many hours have you spent bemoaning the fact that we don’t have enough time to do ______, instead of just DOING it?!
What we put our attention on grows.
Our motto for the type of meditation I teach is "Do less, accomplish more; Do least, accomplish most; Do nothing, accomplish everything". This is exactly what we want for meditation. Zero effort. Yes, it does sometimes apply to the outside world, but our technique is meant for householders, not monks. That means, we all still have jobs, families, and responsibilities, and we aren't trying to become aimless, goal-less, unemployed, or destitute. But it is a nice way to think about life in terms of 'over-efforting' and not spinning our wheels about being busy. We often over-complicate things.
Sometimes the narrative we tell ourselves about how busy we are actually adds to our stress.
What we put our attention on grows. So, if we put our attention on how busy we are, all we're going to do is feel, and actually 'be' busy. It's one thing if we own a store and want lots of customers (the good kind of busy). But there's another type of busy that implies 'time scarcity' and fears of not having enough time.
Sometimes the narrative we tell ourselves about how busy we are actually adds to our stress. We are getting stressed about being busy, instead of just doing all the things we need to do. How much time do we think about how much work we have to do? Or about how little time we have for fun things? And how many times does that fear/panic leak into our 'off' time, so we end up feeling guilty about taking time off and not even enjoying that? It's just doubling the amount of stress for no reason.
Set aside 2-3 times per day for social media, and LEAVE IT ALONE for the rest of the day
My advice (and trust me, it's advice I can take myself!!): 1. NOTHING is as important or as urgent as we think it is. Let’s stop taking it all so seriously and allow ourselves to pause and enjoy.
2. It's ok to say no to things. The world *will* get by without us, even if that seems impossible!
3. Practically- set aside 2-3 times per day for social media, and LEAVE IT ALONE for the rest of the day. Also- stop hitting the snooze button!
4. When we have a lot of things going on, let’s do our best to remember to take it one thing at a time. This will help to minimize the 'stress about the stress' and keep us performing at our best in each moment.
Try to keep this in mind the next time we are spinning our wheels about time management. Shift the story we tell ourselves about being busy. We ALL have time for family, friends, work, play, and self-care.
Me and my Grandma Lil at my med school graduation sooooo long ago!
I spent 11 years training to be a doctor. 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3 years of residency. I practiced Internal Medicine for 10 years. What is Internal Medicine? We treat the whole person: kidney disease, infection, HIV, mental health, high blood pressure, diabetes, preventative health, chronic pain, and auto-immune disease, to name a few. We treat what we can, and when we need it, we call for help from specialists. We sort through mounds of medical records to find answers to our patients’ medical mysteries. We develop relationships with our patients, who count on us to see the whole picture and not just their heart disease, their eczema, or their irritable bowel syndrome.
Meditating with the Himalayas in the background on my first trip to India.
I spent 5 years training to become a meditation teacher. Each of those years as a meditator, 2 years doing the pre-requisite coursework, and 3 months in the foothills of the Himalayas in India for my teacher training.
I spent my lifetime preparing for Conscious Health Ally, my comprehensive 6-month program for people with stress-related health issues. I am in a unique position, with 1 foot in the world of western medicine, and the other in the world of alternative wellness. I understand the strengths and limitations of each. Each aspect of Conscious Health Ally utilizes my experience in both of these realms, empowering my clients to find a path to the healthy, happy life they deserve.
Conscious Health Ally has 4 main components:
We'll do real, honest, deep work on how to de-identify with the pain and suffering that have affected us for so long.
1. Instruction in Conscious Health Meditation. A regular meditation practice is essential in order to re-wire the way our minds and bodies process stress and pain.
2. 1:1 coaching on the mind-body connection. We’ll do real, honest, deep work on how to de-identify with the pain and suffering that have affected us for so long.
3. Review of medical records. With my clients’ health goals in mind, I review their medical records and help them to maximize communication with their medical team.
4. Referrals to trusted alternative wellness practitioners. The sheer numbers of options out there can be overwhelming. I’ve spent the last several years researching and experiencing different approaches to wellness, and I take the guesswork out of which options will work best for you.
If you or your loved ones have symptoms or disease that are due to stress, made worse by stress, or causing excessive amounts of stress, get started by setting up a complimentary 1-hour initial consultation by emailing me at Jill@JillWener.com.
And, to celebrate the launch of this life-changing program, I am offering 5 spots in this powerful program for the price of my Conscious Health Meditation course- a savings of up to $1800, more than 50% off the usual Conscious Health Ally program fee! I will offer this discount to the first 5 people who commit to participating in Conscious Health Ally. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity by setting up your complimentary initial consultation today!
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My own #metoo stories have luckily been benign, compared to what women everywhere have been bravely sharing. And for me personally, they have not occurred within my spiritual community. But, as I’ve learned over the past several months, it seems as if there’s nowhere that #metoo hasn’t infiltrated. Spirituality, which in theory ‘should’ be evolved past these pervasive power dynamics and the behavior that accompanies them, is actually no different. I’ve learned that the hard way. No place is sacred anymore.
Spirituality, which in theory ‘should’ be evolved past these pervasive power dynamics and the behavior that accompanies them, is actually no different.
When the place where we used to turn for solace, inspiration, and connection to the bigger Self turns out to be just another place where men mistreat women, women are ashamed/scared to say anything, and the rest are too afraid (of losing the status quo, of damaging their careers, of damaging the reputations of people they love deeply) to speak up, where do we turn? Which end is up?
Here’s what I did.
I waited for weeks for ‘truth’ to emerge from all the rumors and allegations. For ‘facts’. For 'resolution'. It never happened. I don’t even know what those words mean anymore.
I had countless phone conversations with people in my community, desperately trying to make sense of a situation that was, blow after blow, turning my life upside down.
I felt paralyzed; it wasn’t my story to tell, and I didn’t know specifics, but what could I do in the meantime to avoid explicitly or implicitly enabling the power structure?
I got angry. I got sad. I got sanctimonious. I summoned up the best of my meditation ninja life skills and fell flat on my face, again and again. I got disappointed. I got hopeful. I got angry again. I got sad again. I got empty inside. I gave up.
I watched a LOT of TV shows on my computer, in a VERY short amount of time.
I watched a lot of TV shows on my computer, in a very short amount of time. All of ‘This Is Us’, ‘The Path’, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Girls’ (season 4, 5, and 6 twice), ‘Enlightened’ and ‘Big Little Lies’. I recommend most of them.
I stopped socializing. I stopped writing. I cut my meditation practice down to the bare minimum. I reverted to bad eating habits. For a short while, I even felt depressed, something I hadn’t felt in years. I cancelled classes.
I kept it all inside. I wondered, how can I dedicate my life to teaching a practice that, after 6 years, allows me to feel this way again? Who can I talk to about this, without spilling my secret that I’m dead inside? What if this practice isn’t all I thought it was, and sell it as? What happens if I show signs of weakness? Of my own humanity? How do I move past this when I am questioning the very belief system that I always count on during tough times?
Then, I started to talk about it. My family. Some friends. Some students. I asked for professional help, from some healers that I know have worked wonders with people I trust. I pondered seeing a therapist again, for the first time in years. A weight started lifting. As it turns out, no one, other than myself, was expecting me to be perfect. No one, other than myself, saw anything less powerful about what I teach. Just the act of asking for help started to liberate me.
I listened to myself and remembered my own journey. The complete transformation that began when I learned to meditate.
I listened. To my student with irritable bowel syndrome, whose symptoms disappeared on day 2 of the course and haven’t returned. To my student with rheumatoid arthritis, who told me that after 2 weeks, she no longer was physically aware of every step she took each day. To my student with multiple sclerosis, whose constant electric shock-like spasms stop while she meditates. To my student who was on 7 different psychiatric medications, and is now down to 2. None of them question the universality of the benefits of meditation.
I listened to myself and remembered my own journey. The complete transformation that began when I learned to meditate. The ‘out of this world’ moments that this skeptical, type-A doctor actually got to experience.
I’ve finally started to gather myself off the (literal and figurative) floor and make some sense of it all. Here’s what I’ve come away with:
We all need multiple tools for growth and self-development.
There’s nothing that can completely ‘fix’ us. We all need multiple tools for growth and self-development. The type of meditation I teach (and practice) happens to be exquisitely powerful and easy to do, and it exponentially adds to the efficacy of other self-improvement modalities. But it is not and should not be touted as the only answer to life’s problems.
No one ‘did’ anything ‘to’ me. Nothing should have the power over us to level us so completely. If it does, it’s helpful to ask why. Why did the actions of a few people, hundreds or thousands of miles away, cause me to spend months of my life in total horror and shame? What part of me can be stronger, so that I maintain equanimity in the face of upheaval? Have emotions, and feel them deeply? Yes. Work like hell to process and fight through them? Yes. Take action? If that feels like the right thing to do, absolutely. But ultimately, I’m responsible for my reactions to the events of my life, and I have some work to do!
When we know it in the core of our being, the truth stands on its own.
Look inside for answers. Flawed humans can do, and teach, beautiful things. Things we can all use, and learn from. We don’t need to discard those truths, the same way we shouldn’t allow those flawed humans to remain blameless. What is the ‘truth’? What can we ‘believe’? No one gets to tell us that. We don’t need to follow something blindly, without internal validation of that teaching. When we know it in the core of our being, the truth stands on its own.
I’m eternally grateful for the #metoo movement for bringing up a lot of ugly stuff for us to confront. It is, and I am, a work in progress. And it is my joy and privilege to teach people tools to engender their own progress. Power dynamics go way beyond sexual harassment and assault. They influence money, beliefs, politics, fear, autonomy and control over day-to-day decisions. Speak up. Our actions matter. Our money matters. Our personal rhetoric matters. We can’t let fear keep us from doing what we feel is right.
Once we start looking at the world from the Vedic perspective, we start to really trust that the universe has our back. This was actually my favorite, albeit unexpected, benefit of my Vedic meditation practice. We start to see life’s events unfold in such a beautiful, quirky, knowing way, with such synchronicity, that we become able to see past what initially seem to be setbacks, and we just know that it’s gonna be ok. Actually, it’s gonna be great. Meeting got cancelled? Sweet, now I have time to work on my blog post. Bad breakup? Perfect timing; otherwise I wouldn’t be available for this new lovely person I just met.
We just know that it’s gonna be ok. Actually, it’s gonna be great.
Seeing the world this way is convenient. And fun. And it’s a start to being able to see past frustrations, and to seeing the connection that underlies everything. What happens, though, is that even this perspective is limiting. We don’t always know the exact reason why something happened. What happens when we can’t find an immediate explanation, or even a plausible one, for what appears to be a negative event? What then? Does it all fall apart?
A common thing we hear from Vedic meditation teachers is that everything is happening for all reasons. Not just for a reason. But for all reasons. We won’t always know the 5-minutes-from-now, the 5-hours-from-now, or even the 5-days- or months-from-now’s answer to life’s riddles. It’s not always going to make immediate sense. It may not ever make sense. But the real truth lies in that all things are connected. Synchronicity is happening ALL the time; we are just too busy, or too stuck in our world view, to see it.
When we meditate, life starts to feel like 1 continuous serendipitous event.
The more we allow ourselves to have the direct experience of unity, which happens during meditation when we de-excite our minds and transcend our thoughts, the more we bring that unity and connection into our waking state. Life starts to feel like 1 continuous serendipitous event.
We don’t actually need to have faith that the universe has our back. We know it does, because we’ve directly experienced it. We stop feeling the need to have an answer for every time our expectations aren’t met. More importantly, we actually just stop having expectations.
Life is carrying you in the direction of evolution no matter what is happening.
If we keep the small ‘self’, or ego, out of it, we see that life is carrying us in the direction of evolution no matter what is happening. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Even the tragic. It’s all evolving. Exactly what we are supposed to face, in that moment, in that place, so that we are able to evolve to whatever is supposed to come next. It doesn’t come with a translation, or a set of directions. And just when we think we know best what is supposed to come next, or that we have things ‘under control’, something will come along to shake things up again. A gentle (or not so gentle) nudge to surrender. A reminder that we will get there, we already are getting there. Exactly how we should be. For all reasons.
Pain vs suffering. What’s the difference? Pain is inevitable. Pain can even be helpful. Our nerves provide sensations, so that we may avoid injury. Suffering occurs when we give our pain a personality, a cause and effect, a narrative. If pain is the physical sensation we feel, suffering is the story we tell ourselves about that pain (and what the pain says about us).
I had a really bad skin reaction last fall. It was ridiculously itchy, and it kept getting worse every time I looked at it. No doctors knew what to do, other than offer to inject me with steroids, which I knew wasn’t really going to help. But I was obsessed with this rash. How much worse will it get? What will happen to it? What will happen to me? Then I spoke to a group of college students about meditation. Halfway through the talk, I noticed something: my rash wasn’t itching. At all.
We are beautiful, perfect, fulfilled beings. At our core.
Here’s the truth: the more attention we pay to our pain, or any other sensation or emotion, the worse it will feel (aka suffering).
Here’s more truth: if our pain is stress-related, that’s a good thing. We can work on stress. We are capable of separating our SELF from our PAIN, so if our illness is stress-related, the pain can improve. There’s hope.
Even more truth: we are not our pain. We are beautiful, perfect, fulfilled beings. At our core.
So, how do we know we are suffering, rather than experiencing pain? Has a doctor, or anyone else, ever suggested that our symptoms are stress-related… and we feel threatened by that? Or personally insulted? Do we feel a bit disappointed when our symptoms have resolved by the time we get to the doctor’s office? When our symptoms start coming on, does our mind start creating stories? “Here we go again… I’m going to be stuck in bed all day again… my whole week is going to be ruined again… I’ll never have a normal life…”
How do we pull ourselves out of the suffering rabbit hole? First, find a meditation practice that works. Meditation rewires how the brain processes pain. I prefer Vedic meditation- it’s easy, works for type-A/ stressed/ skeptical minds, and the benefits start immediately and grow exponentially.
Meditation rewires how the brain processes pain.
Not ready for meditation yet? Try this: the next time any symptoms or body sensations start to flare up, actively notice where the mind goes. What stories does it tell? What conclusions does it draw? Then, ask if those stories are true.
Another option: in a calm, quiet place, close the eyes and lightly place attention on the pain. Describe it in as much detail as possible. Note its color, size, shape, location, texture, thickness, movement, and quality. Be as objective as possible, and try to avoid associating any emotions with it. Keep with it for a few minutes. We may just find that the pain has improved.
The holidays are coming! Whether you’re excited or you’re dreading all the parties and family time, here are 6 tips to help you manage stress and get the most out of holiday time:
Manage your expectations. If you expect apples to fall from an orange tree, you are going to be disappointed.
1. Manage your expectations. If you expect apples to fall from an orange tree, you are going to be disappointed. If you expect your family to be anything other than, well, your family over the holidays, you will get needlessly upset over something you can’t change. Treat everything that happens as if you EXPECTED it to happen. That way, there are no surprises.
2. Remember that holidays often bring out the worst in people. People are stressed about money, family, the cold weather, you name it! Wanna know a secret? It’s not about you! It never is. People are too caught up in their own world to think about anyone else. Do your best to avoid taking everything so personally. Cut everyone some slack. Even at the Target parking lot!
3. Booze doesn’t make our problems go away. If you are planning to drink your way through a difficult family get-together, or a work party, consider alternating every drink with water. You will make better decisions AND you will feel better in the morning. Win-win. Plus, alcohol actually worsens insomnia, rather than making it better. So, you’ll be better rested too (see number 6). Win-win-WIN!
A little gratitude goes a long way.
4. A little gratitude goes a long way. There are lots of reasons for this, but practicing gratitude actually changes the way your brain functions. At night before bed, tear off a sheet of paper and write 5 things you are grateful for, and then put it in a jar. (Keep it simple. I’m often grateful for avocados and my friends). And/or, if your family is game, bring a gratitude jar to the dinner table, and everyone contributes (privately or out loud). It will shift the entire mood of the meal. (In a good way.)
5. DON’T TALK POLITICS. Just don’t.
6. Rest is the basis of activity. If you don’t sleep, you don’t perform as well. And you are more likely to snap at your family. Make sure you take care of yourself this holiday season. Get sleep, exercise, and don’t forget the self-care. Treat yourself to a massage. Try a yoga class. Or try meditation. Or at the very least, take 5 minutes to yourself, once or twice a day, without your phone or social media.
Looking for a way to manage your stress this holiday season? Come to an Intro to Vedic Meditation Class and learn more about how Vedic meditation can help you stay more connected and less reactive. Upcoming class dates are November 8th, 12th and 29th, and December 2nd, 6th, and 18th. Register here!
I’ve always been one of those people who beats themselves up about every little cringe-worthy thing I have said, or done. I’d cringe for years. One example that comes to mind is that, at the age of 12, I told a friend’s dad he looked like the actor John Clease (I had been watching a VHS recording of ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ nonstop). I could tell he wasn’t at all pleased by the comparison, and I felt foolish and ashamed of my comment for decades.
Old friends, reconnected. I taught her to meditate this week!
I reconnected with that friend very recently, and two weeks ago I went to her birthday party at her dad’s house. Now, please keep in mind, since I’ve been meditating, my tendency towards self-loathing and anxiety is waaaaaaay better, and I hadn’t thought about the John Clease Incident in years. But, no joke, I was actually nervous to see him! So, first off, he looks nothing like John Clease. Second, when I asked him if he remembered what I said, all those years ago, he had no idea what I was talking about. Didn’t even ring a bell. Also, I noticed that he has a sharp sense of humor, so it is possible it never even bothered him to begin with, and 12-year-old me misinterpreted his reaction all those years ago (and spent decades needlessly cringing)!
What a waste of perfectly good time and energy. Why is it so hard for human beings to be kind to ourselves? Why do we insist on creating misery out of well-intended actions, even if they were mistakes? What can we learn from the John Clease Incident of 1989?
Let's rejoice in our beautiful imperfections.
First off, let’s consider that our interpretation of any given situation is just that- our interpretation. We have no idea how it affected anyone else. Second, we’re torturing ourselves. We can never change the past. We can’t un-do something just by thinking (um… obsessing) about it.
So, what can we do? Never make assumptions about how someone else is feeling. Give ourselves a break. Laugh at ourselves a little bit. Forgive ourselves, the same way we would easily forgive someone else for something much more egregious. Think of 1 or 2 ‘alternate endings’ to the situation that don’t include us being a complete idiot (maybe he loves John Clease and was flattered, or maybe he thought it was funny that a 12-year-old was watching ‘A Fish Called Wanda’).
I love stories like this because they are so humbling, and such a clear and profound rebuttal to our tendency to obsess about things over which we have no control. Let’s rejoice in our beautiful imperfections, and welcome these rare opportunities to shed light on a way of thinking that, unlike John Clease (because he’s awesome), is no longer relevant.
Last month I spoke at a conference about burnout in medicine. The idea is, if the doctors are less burned out, they will be better doctors, and then the patients will be more satisfied with the care they receive. And everyone will be happier. Win-win-win.
We want a quick fix, and we want it yesterday. We want it to be easy, cheap, and one-size-fits-all.
I had coffee with my former boss, who is a visionary leader, before I gave my talk. He asked me what I thought we should do about burnout. I suggested a Vedic meditation program for a group of physicians at the hospital, and he replied along the lines of, “yes, but then they have to become meditators. How else can we fix burnout?” Another person asked me the exact same question after my talk was over. It’s a totally valid question, and it is also very in-line with our cultural standards. We want a quick fix, and we want it yesterday. We want it to be easy, cheap, and one-size-fits-all. Preferably in pill form.
But, unfortunately, it’s not the reality we face. I don’t have a magic answer that I’m hiding from everyone in the medical community! I got through my severe burnout by meditating. I paid an expert teacher, and I put in the time. Twenty minutes, twice a day. I sat (comfortably, with my back supported), even when I didn’t feel like it. I made it a priority and held myself accountable, because I knew I had to do something to improve my quality of life, my reactivity, and my work-life balance. It has paid for itself, financially, time-wise, and happiness-wise, time and again. Within 3 weeks I stopped having road rage. Within a few months I had gained back my compassion and empathy, I was able to embrace change, and I no longer snapped whenever something minor didn’t go my way. And that was just the start of the benefits I received from my Vedic meditation practice.
Stress is the biggest epidemic our world has seen, with far-reaching consequences.
Most hospital systems recognize that burnout is a huge issue amongst medical professionals. I won’t bore you with statistics, but it’s bad. And getting worse. The good news: lots of hospital systems have created wellness programs. A 1-hour guided meditation, every 3 months, or a meditation room in the hospital, is a start. It helps to introduce people to meditation. It helps to change the culture around meditation and wellness. It helps people feel that their bosses care about them. (Maybe… see the next paragraph!) But it’s not going to end burnout. Stress is the biggest epidemic our world has seen, with far-reaching consequences. The brains of healthcare professionals (and all humans) have been hardwired to react in a certain way to stressful situations (and to life in general). We’ve reacted this way for decades. It takes a long-term practice to re-wire those changes. And simply put, we won’t see those changes with a ½ day retreat, 4 hours a year of meditation, or more happy hours.
The other elephant in the room here is that the onus is not just on the healthcare providers to rid themselves of their burnout. Wellness programs should not be an excuse for administrators and hospital systems to continue making unrealistic demands on healthcare providers. It is the deeply-rooted, widespread dysfunction of the entire medical system that is leading to the stress and burnout of the providers, patients, and administrators. So, yes, systemic change is mandatory in order to make real progress.
It’s time we start showing our front-line healthcare providers that we actually care about them as people, not just as vehicles to improve our patient satisfaction scores.
But, it’s much harder to change a whole system than it is to change one person’s wellness habits. It could take years, if not decades, if it changes at all. And if one person is happier, they influence other people to make change. And it doesn’t do us any good to cross our arms in front of our chests, stomp our feet, and wait for the medical system to change so that we can be less burned out. We, as adults, and as members of humanity, owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to take as much accountability for ourselves as we can.
Of course, the holy grail is a wellness program that is cheap, generalizable, able to be widely disseminated, time-efficient, and easy. And on-line. But it’s not realistic. Hospitals, administrators, healthcare systems, and individual healthcare professionals need to realize that it takes time, money, and commitment for a wellness program to really work. You get what you pay for. How many thousands of dollars do hospitals spend each year on each employee’s health insurance? What’s another $1000 if it improves efficiency, work satisfaction, health care utilization, and mental health? It’s time we start showing our front-line healthcare providers that we actually care about them as people, not just as vehicles to improve our patient satisfaction scores. It’s time to commit to real change, even if it comes 1 provider, or 5 providers at a time.