Stress in the higher education sector: causes and yoga-mindfulness interventions

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The Aim of this paper was to critically review the nature and causes of stress among academics in higher education workplaces and to undertake a pilot study of how yoga-mindfulness interventions might help to address these issues. The background to this subject comprises an increase in reported levels of stress and stress-related absenteeism in university employees. Universities have changed considerably from workplaces once thought of as secure and relaxed contexts, to those facing considerable upheaval due to the erosion of resource bases, temporary contractual work, and multifaceted job roles and rising expectations. Whilst the topic of stress in educational workplaces is broad one, this paper focuses on the causes and sources of stress identified by a selection of key research articles. This focus allows for an in-depth initial understanding of why stress is an increasing problem in this sector. The methods employed to undertake the first part of this work involved an extensive literature analysis. Key academic articles were selected using a range of inclusion and exclusion criteria. Studies were reviewed from across the developed world and many employed mixed qualitative and quantitative methodologies as part of their research. Databases used to select the final papers included the Cochrane library, Science Direct, Medline, PsychInfo, BMJ, Swetswise, Google Scholar, EPPI centre and Ebscho host. The methods employed for the second part of this work involved a pilot study survey assessing the perceived benefits of participation in a yoga-mindfulness based programme in a UK university. The findings collated for this review show that majority of stress causes among academic staff stem from the ?external environment? or extrinsic sources; i.e. the ?organisation? itself and how it is managed. The most common key stressors were reductions in resources/financial constraints; workload pressures (including job expectations, time constraints and increased administrative loads); job insecurity/contracts; ?management? styles and policies; and workplace relationships (issues with staff-management interfaces, unmotivated colleagues, and workload disparities). Interestingly, stressors concerned with ?core? functions of academics, those of teaching and student demands did not rank highly in most cases. Intrinsic causes of stress were related to issues of reward and recognition; increased lack of individual control; promotional prospects and maintaining a good work-life balance. Various differences were reported on correlations between the above stressors and variables such as age, gender, length of employment. The pilot study of the YMBI (Yoga-Mindfulness Based Intervention) indicated that there was a strong positive effect on individual?s perceived levels of personal coping abilities during the programme. This indicates a growing need for structural inclusion of targeted prevention as well as individual intervention strategies for stress management among faculty in universities. More work is needed on the relationship between stress in Higher Education and effective mind-body work-based interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Yoga and Physiotherapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017

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  • stress
  • causes
  • higher education
  • universities
  • yoga
  • mindfulness
  • interventions
  • wellbeing


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