Are You Burning to Succeed?

  • Odd hours
  • Extended hours
  • Weekend hours
  • Computer breakdowns
  • Traffic buildups
  • Stock market fluctuations
  • Time pressures
  • Lay-offs

Life in 9-to-5 zone has always been stressful -- but never more so than today, both for those in jobs and out of them. In the fast-changing economies of the world, stress is the common currency.

What's all this stress doing to us? A sampling of the problems, from the trivial to the tragic:

  • Nervous twitches
  • Eyestrain
  • Chronic back, neck and headaches
  • Acute anxiety
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Cynicism
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Loss of productivity
  • Depression
  • Death -- yes, believe it or not, the maximum number of heart attacks happen on Monday mornings.

And then, the scary statistics. A comprehensive recent study threw up some depressing data on stress:

  • 70 to 80 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related illnesses.
  • People who experience high levels of anxiety are four to five times more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Stress contributes to approximately 50 percent of all illnesses.
  • Stress-related injuries on the job have increased from 5 percent to more than 15 percent of all occupational disease during the past 10 years.
  • The cost of job stress in North America is estimated at $200 billion annually; this includes costs of absenteeism, lost productivity and insurance claims.
  • 7 out of 10 people say they feel stressed in a typical workday.
  • Approximately 43 percent of those interviewed say they suffer noticeable physical symptoms of burnout.

In the dynamic town of Ann Arbor, Michigan near Detroit, Dr. Paul Dugliss, Maharishi Ayurveda physician, sees a growing number of stress-weary patients every day. "Their symptoms range from the typical to the unusual: loss of appetite, ulcers, allergies, sleeplessness, digestive disorders, depression. What's remarkable is that a huge number of people suffering from burnout don't even seem to realize it," observes Dr. Dugliss.

Recently, for instance, he treated a young executive who had been suffering chronic sinusitis for months on end. No one seemed to have been able to help her," recalls Dr. Dugliss. Until I sat her down and started to examine the clues scattered all about her personality, from the restless movements of her eyes to the dryness of her skin. I took her pulse, and it gave me strong signals that her Vata needed calming and that her Sadhaka Pitta, which relates to fulfillment and contentment, was running riot. I quizzed her thoroughly on the quality of her diet and sleep, on the fluctuations in her work routine and relationships.

"She finally understood the reason for her recurrent illnesses: job stress. Once nailed, the culprit's guilt was only too clear. Indeed, this 30-year-old had been swamped with demanding projects and impossible deadlines for months on end. Our meeting helped her recognize her chronic sinusitis for what it really was: a distress signal from her tired mind and exhausted body.

Dr. Dugliss combines his practice of allopathic medicine with ayurvedic healing. He gave this patient a prescription that came as a pleasant change from all the strong, side-effect-laden pills she had been taking. I gave her a combination of safe herbal medication based on Maharishi Ayurveda and a new routine of meditation -- and now she's feeling better than ever before.

"What is really beautiful about ayurvedic healing," says Dr. Dugliss, "is that it responds to illness in a thoughtful, sensitive manner. Does ayurveda do two quick tests and ask three quick questions to decide what your problem is and what medicine you need? No. Ayurveda tries to see what it is in your life that is out of balance. It tries to evaluate the cause of the dis-turbance, dis-harmony, dis-ease in your being," says Dr. Dugliss. The balance Dr. Dugliss is talking about is, of course, both physiological and psychological. There are no two ways about it: the mind and the body are inseparably bound. Ayurveda understands this vital and wonderful truth -- and that is why I have so much respect for it.

Dr. Dugliss finds in his patients a welcome awareness of and new curiosity toward ayurveda. Most of them associate the words 'herbal' and 'consciousness' with ayurveda. One thing, however, bothers me a little -- too many people seem to think of ayurveda only in terms of body-types.

And that, avers Dr. Dugliss, is just too simplistic. The find-my-body-type-and-tell-me-what-to-do approach to ayurveda is simply an extension of the why-am-I-ill-and-what-is-my-pill habit that conventional medicine teaches you. I agree that body type analysis is an important part of ayurveda. But it is only one part of a deep and comprehensive system of medicine. I advise my patients that the key to understanding ayurveda is patience -- take the time, invest the energy, and get intimately connected with yourself. Develop the ability to know, love and heal the body, mind and spirit you have been blessed with.

Ayurvedic dietary recommendations can seem a little intimidating to newcomers to ayurveda. Use more herbs and spices, lightly cooked food versus raw, no fasting, no eating on the run -- those are dictums that take some getting used to, no doubt. But that is resolved when you understand that ayurvedic nutrition is not about lists -- it's about your approach to food, lifestyle and life itself. Every word of ayurvedic advice has its basis in sound philosophical and practical logic. What's more, you can bring ayurveda into your life bit by bit -- don't rush yourself, for it won't work. Just like crash diets don't work," explains Dr. Dugliss.

But does the question of diet have to figure at all in a discussion of work-related stress? Shouldn't he be referring burnout patients to therapists who can talk about managing multiple tasks and meeting deadlines? "Interesting question -- but the answer is a happy 'No!'" smiles Dr. Dugliss. There is no type of stress for which ayurveda does not have an answer. The only difference is in the way ayurveda approaches stress. Instead of examining your work-related woes at the stem level, ayurveda starts from the taproot upward. That is why your diet, the amount of sleep you get, the quality of time you spend on yourself -- those are the factors I address first.

As part of his holistic healing program, Dr. Dugliss discusses diet with his patients in detail. He does not, however, give them strict guidelines and fixed menus to follow. My effort is to bring home to them the value of fresh, warm, lovingly cooked food, alive with nature's own intelligence. Whole grains, handpicked fruits and vegetables, hormone-free dairy products, herb-fragrant and spice-infused soups and curries: they do more than build physical health. They carry their harmonious properties right into the microcirculatory channels of the body, seeping into your very being as healers and rejuvenators," finishes the doctor.

But the star in his medicine cabinet, reveals Dr. Dugliss, is Transcendental Meditation®. People start practicing it 20 minutes twice a day, and soon, the knots of tension tied up inside their nerves start to unravel. TM® has been scientifically proven to calm the mind, improve the quality of sleep, reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Combined with a regular, healthy routine and a nature-friendly diet, TM develops consciousness and awareness, so that you are automatically in tune with the needs of the body. The disappearance of stress is a happy by-product of these tremendous benefits.

No wonder, then, that this systematic approach to healing stress shows speedy and successful results. Ayurveda doesn't have a magic bullet -- because it is not in the hunting game. It's in the healing game.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.