Integrative Restoration (iRest) Meditation and Perceived Stress Levels and Negative Moods in School Counselorsntegrative Restoration (iRest) Meditation and Perceived Stress Levels and Negative Moods in School Counselors

Birdsall, B.; Pritchard, M.; Elison-Bowers, P.; Spann, J.
Published:2011

Introduction

Research suggests that many counselors experience stress in the workplace. In fact, Sears and Navin (1983) reported that 14.8% of school counselors viewed counseling as “very stressful,” 50.4% rated it “moderately stressful,” and 30.1% found it “mildly stressful.” In addition, Arvay and Uhlemann (1996) reported that 16% of counselors working with trauma patients felt that they were highly psychologically fatigued. Just over a quarter (26%) reported that they were dissatisfied with their level of productivity at work, and 14% claimed to experience extreme stress levels similar to patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition to fatigue and reduced work productivity (Arvay & Uhlemann, 1996), stress has also been shown to cause negative moods (e.g., Scott, Brandberg & Ohman, 2001). In fact, Scott et al. (2001) reported many negative experiences related to stress such as anxiety, time urgency, and nervousness, as well as feelings of being rushed, inadequacy, and hopelessness. Stress is linked to depression and anxiety symptoms such as anger, fatigue, and confusion (Carlson, Ursuliak, Goodey, Angen, & Speca, 2001), emotional irritability and disorganized thoughts (Speca, Carlson, Goodey, & Angen, 2000).

Given the negative relationship between stress and well being, it is important that counselors, who need to be at their best to help their clients, find a way to reduce their stress levels. Meditation has been shown to be beneficial for lowering perceived stress and its negative consequences for a number of different populations. For example, Coppola and Spector (2009) found a significant decrease in trait anxiety levels in individuals who practiced meditation for 4 weeks. Also, women diagnosed with breast Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS 2011 2 cancer demonstrated a decrease in their stress levels after participating in a mindfulnessbased stress reduction and relaxation program (MBSR). Results also showed an increase in the patient‟s locus of control and mental well-being after the MBSR program was completed (Tacon, Caldera, & Ronaghan, 2004). Similarly Carlson and Garland (2005) reported that following MBSR, participants were able to acquire better sleep patterns and reduce fatigue, mood disturbance, and stress levels. Patients with different forms of cancer and in different stages of their cancer development have been shown to benefit from an MBSR program by decreasing their stress levels (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Carlson, Speca, Patel, & Goodey, 2004; Carlson et al., 2001; Speca et al., 2000).

Because stress is linked to negative moods, reducing stress through meditation should impact negative moods as well. Ramel, Goldin, Carmona, and McQuaid (2004) followed people with mood disorders through an MBSR program and found that their depression and anxiety levels decreased after completion of the program. Similarly, Tacon, McComb, Caldera and Randolph (2003) demonstrated a decrease in anxiety levels among women diagnosed with cardiovascular disease after they completed a similar program. Majumdar, Grossman, Dietz-Waschkowski, Kersig, and Walach (2002) studied a group of people with chronic diseases and found an increase in their quality of life and well-being as their stress levels decreased through an MBSR program. Similarly, Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, and Walach (2004) studied a group of patients with various diagnoses and found they also reported an increase in their quality of life and a decrease in stress by participating in a meditation program.