Sound Healing for Stress Burnout in Addiction Treatment
By Robert Wright, Jr., Ph.D., COFT
Let’s face it.
By itself, wrestling with addiction and recovery can be challenging. But, when you add stress burnout issues to the addiction recovery equation – if you’re not careful – you can set yourself up for potential disasters including repeated relapses or worse outcomes. Certainly, simultaneously dealing with addiction and burnout (dual diagnosis) complicates recovery for both problems; so it’s critical to put your own needs first by engaging in consistent self care.
Sound Healing helps you reduce and minimize the chronic stressors in your life that can lead to burnout. It’s preventative in nature and serves as a healing balm. Since ancient times in most cultures, Sound Healing has been used as a natural form of medicine. Recent studies demonstrate that sound has the power to lower your stress, calm your nerves, boost your immune system, and create harmony between people.
Whether you currently are coping with addiction or are in recovery, burnout – in any of its many forms – can seriously knock you off track if you do not address its potentially debilitating effects. So, it’s important to become more aware of the significant roles chronic stress and burnout play in your life as you work to deal with, heal and recover from addiction.
We’ll help you do that here. Then, we invite your comments and questions about burnout at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate queries personally and promptly.
Why is burnout so harmful?
Stress burnout is a serious condition where you feel as if you’ve “hit a wall” that stops you in your tracks—figuratively and literally! Burnout is actually a chronic stress danger zone where your body is warning you that you may be close to physical collapse. It’s generally not a good idea to ignore these debilitating warning signals since doing so increases your risk for physical breakdown as well as relapse.
Symptoms of Burnout
- Auto immune dysfunction
- Avoidable series of major and minor accidents
- Avoidable series of major and minor mistakes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty with short and long term memory
- Easily distracted
- Extreme exhaustion
- Falling asleep while driving
- Falling asleep while operating heavy equipment
- Mind fog
- Panic disorder
- Repeated colds
- Sleep deprivation
So, if you want to improve your chances for maintaining recovery and avoiding triggering relapse, then whenever symptoms of burnout appear in your life, you’ll want to take immediate action to course correct.
First, the Benefits
Sound Healing is an easy way to bring down your habitual stress levels and prevent burnout. You may find that adding a Sound Healing regimen into your daily schedule not only lowers your stress quotient and increases your chances for a successful recovery, but it also improves the quality of your life in unexpected ways.
For instance, previously you may have been short tempered with family, friends and co-workers. Once you start a Sound Healing regimen, you may have fewer arguments with others (and yourself!), feel less time compressed, with boosts to your energy levels and performance. “Unexpected benefits” of Sound Healing may include:
- Less self doubt.
- The ability to have more patience and compassion for others.
- Fewer feelings of road rage while stuck in major traffic jams.
- Having close friends or family members tell you directly that, “You’ve changed for the better!”
Importantly, even though Sound Healing helps reduce burnout in addiction recovery, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout, you should always check with your healthcare provider or practitioner first.
What is Sound Healing?
Most likely you may already be familiar with Complementary and Alternative treatments for chronic stressors and burnout such as Acupuncture, Biofeedback, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Hypnosis, Meditation, MBSR, Open Focus, Neurofeedback or Yoga. But you may not know that Sound Healing has helped countless individuals successfully lessen or relieve their chronic stress and prevent or overcome burnout.
Sound Healing is simply the use of pleasing sound vibrations that work to sooth the body, mind and spirit. From a neuropsychological perspective, it helps calm your mind, generating a pronounced form of mental and emotional relaxation. At the highest levels, it generates what is known as the Relaxation Response whereby your parasympathetic nervous system (HPA axis) is boosted, releasing a beneficial cascade of neurochemicals such as GABA, oxytocin, cyclic nitric oxide, serotonin and endogenous morphine.
Thus, Sound Healing helps lower your allostatic load—your stress, anxiety and pain sensations—so you may experience greater levels of mental clarity, less worry, and diminished levels of emotional and physical pain. The release of these neurotransmitters and hormones can also result in whole brain synchrony, where all parts of your brain begin to work in harmonious unity.
Because your body has a sophisticated stress feedback mechanism, Sound Healing simultaneously quiets your sympathetic nervous system (SMA axis) which lowers or normalizes your levels of cortisol, adrenaline and nor adrenaline. From a psychophysiological perspective, both of these processes result in softened muscle tone, increased blood flows, a slower pulse rate and slower and deeper levels of diaphragmatic breathing.
In fact, Sound Healing even changes your brain wave patterns: as you experience deeper levels of relaxation and calm, your brainwaves may change from Beta (normal waking consciousness) to Alpha (relaxed consciousness) to Theta (meditative state). At the highest levels of relaxation, it is possible to generate Delta brainwaves (sleep state) yet be fully awake! Delta is also a state where lucid dreams are generated—you are fully aware and can control your own dream content. This is a very desirable state since in Delta, growth factor hormone is released whereby your body is in a complete state of rest, rejuvenation and healing, so cell repair can take place.
The Efficacy of Sound Healing
There are many positive results of using Sound Healing to prevent burnout as you seek to prevent relapse and maintain recovery. The basic idea is this:
Sound Healing is easy to do…and it works!
Usually, any Sound Healing method you turn to involves learning to do less. It’s the opposite of what you may have been taught—that everything is hard; that you cannot make progress unless you take a difficult path.
Not so with Sound Healing, in fact, the less effort you employ, the more spectacular your results. At first, you may find it hard to believe that simply becoming still and listening, that you can relieve so many symptoms of chronic stress and burnout especially as you wrestle with addiction. Here is a short list of the benefits you may experience once you incorporate Sound Healing into your daily routine:
- Shifts your awareness to the present moment of now.
- Calms your nervous system.
- Results in an elevated Relaxation Response.
- Increases your mental clarity.
- Dissolves muscle tension.
- Reduces anxiety.
- Reduces emotional pain.
- Reduces physical pain.
- Spikes beneficial neuroendocrine release.
- Entrains whole brain synchrony.
- Improves sleep quality.
- Increases potential to enter flow states.
- Reduces amygdale and adrenal gland reactivity.
- Reduces impact of chronic stresses.
- Reduces impact of burnout.
Sound Healing and Teens
As parents, we can often unconsciously overlook chronic stress or PTSD symptoms our children may be experiencing. In our minds, we may be thinking “Oh well, he or she just may be going through a phase…..I remember being difficult to live with at that age,” but the reality may be that a child or teen may dealing with SERIOUS chronic stressors daily yet has never discussed that with you.
Perhaps your child is being physically bullied in school or on the way home. Or, perhaps she is being unmercifully bullied or “trashed” on social media platforms. There have been numerous cases reported in the media where bullying has led to teen suicide.
Although you may think “it’s not possible for my kid to be burned out…she’s too young for that,” you may be surprised to learn what the results of a 2014 American Psychological Association survey concluded about teen stress that:
- Teens had surprisingly high rates for feeling overwhelmed (31%).
- Teens report feeling depressed or sad (30%).
- Teens also report fatigue or feeling tired (36%).
- Many adolescents tend to skip a meal due to being stressed out (23%).
The APA report highlights three eye opening facts about how some teens misconstrue their own chronic stress and potentials for burnout. First, even when stressed out, 54% report that “stress has little or no impact on their physical health.” Second, 52% believed that “stress has little or no impact on their mental health.” Third, only 16% of teens in the survey reported that their stress had declined during the past year.
These grim statistics show that parents would be wise to assess their child’s behavior for chronic stressors. Incorporating Sound Healing strategies into your family routines would be a smart way to get “buy in” from your teen, and who knows, just maybe, the lessening of habitual stressors, may just open the doorway to frequent loving conversations. You can learn more about teen stress in this excellent article by Dr. Jeff Nalin, entitled “Understanding How Stress Contributes to Addiction in Teens.”
Highest Burnout Rate Jobs
A recent Future Workplace study by Kronos, Inc. concluded that 95% of human resource managers admitted that employee burnout was so serious an issue that it was sabotaging workforce retention efforts. As this study makes clear, burnout hurts employee engagement and retention.
- Doctors: 54.4 % reported burnout symptoms (2014 AMA and Mayo Clinic survey)
- Nurses: 40% reported burnout symptoms (2002 JAMA Journal)
- Social workers: compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress
- Teachers: highest rate of burnout for public service jobs (2011 The Journal)
- School principal: 75% reported burnout symptoms (2006 Principal)
- Lawyers: high levels of burnout reported (2012 ABA Journal)
- Police officers: high levels of burnout reported (2009 Officer)
- Public accountants: burnout is commonplace (2018 LedgerLink)
- Fast food employees: burnout combined with depression (2010 Dr. Deb)
- Retail employees: burnout results in high employee turnover rates (2018 Monster)
Types of Sound Healing
There are many forms of Sound Healing. Most likely, you are already familiar with some of them such as chanting, singing, and listening to music or nature sounds. Below I share some of my favorite ways to employ and enjoy the power of Sound Healing to reduce the stress of every day life. Since the road to recovery can be a steep climb, you must find ways to lower your habitual stress quotient in order to improve your chances for success. Whether you are close to burnout or have already “hit the burnout wall,” consider using one or more of these Sound Healing methods to improve your odds for achieving and maintaining recovery:
Recent studies demonstrate that humming spikes your nitric oxide levels by 1500%! This is an easy way to improve your healthy well being, so consider humming throughout the day to enjoy the benefits of this instant form of relaxation! The best part here is that it’s free and you can do it almost anywhere. Though this may sound too good to be true, several studies found that 3 out of 4 participants got significant relief of their sinusitis including those who were candidates for surgery.
If you place your forefinger on the boney part of your nose and start humming, you’ll be able to feel the vibrations. When you hum for 15-30 minutes, you’ll start to notice that your facial muscles are more relaxed (fewer wrinkles, perhaps?) and that your jaw, neck and shoulder muscles will have softened. Interestingly enough, this form of Sound Healing works even when you hum your favorite tune. Many of us suffer greatly with allergies. So, this is a very easy and free way to reduce your chronic stress especially if you are approaching burnout.
Anecdotal reports indicate that humming can also eliminate or lessen headaches. So consider giving it a try. I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you start to feel better especially if you have a “stuffy nose.” Getting instant relief is the goal so that you can stay on track with your recovery. You may also find that as you hum, it also boosts your mood. As you start to feel better, you can share your good news with others. This is a sure way to feel even better! The key is to consistently hum whenever you feel the need. Of course, when you hum regularly, others may ask “Why are you always humming?” Then you can let them in on your little secret.
Although drumming has played an integral part in the rituals and religions of most human cultures, only recently has scientific research caught up to what shamans and religious elders have known for millennia: that drumming is good for you because it promotes healthy well being and encourages a sense of community and group harmony! A critical key to understanding why drumming is so beneficial is that it spikes your cyclic nitric oxide as well as other helpful neurotransmitters and hormones such as catecholamines.
The bottom line is that whether you drum alone, with others in a group, or simply listen to a drumming music CD or MP3, you’ll find that your chronic stressors are positively impacted. When you are wrestling with addiction, finding fun ways to relieve stress and avoid burnout makes it more likely that you’ll be able to consistently keep up this new stress reducing activity habit. Below is a short list of the benefits of drumming.
Benefits of Drumming:
- centers and grounds you—increases your confidence
- facilitates new learning and mental health recovery
- promotes cooperation with others—mistakes are ok
- reduces judgmental assessments—of yourself and others
- reduces chronic pain, stress, anxiety, and grief
- produces “flow” states—in the zone of excellence
- lowers blood pressure
- boosts immune system
- reduces PTSD symptoms
- reduces “acting out” behaviors in children and teens
- promotes neural connections between the left and right brain hemispheres
- results in greater mental clarity—eliminates mind fog
- spikes endogenous morphine, GABA, nitric oxide, oxytocin and serotonin
- lowers cortisol, adrenaline and nor adrenaline
- promotes interpersonal synchrony, compassion, empathy, and helpfulness
Throughout human history, music has been used to create a healing balm and create a sense of community within cultural groups. You may already know the ole saying “music can soothe the savage beast.” Well, it’s literally true: recent studies conclusively demonstrate that music has the capacity to re-balance and realign your nervous system, speed up removal of toxins from the body, reduce stress, anxiety and physical pain, and create harmony between and among people.
Certain types of music (60 beats per minute or slower) has the ability to entrain your brain in a way that synchronizes your brainwaves. When you experience whole brain synchrony, this means that the various regions of your brain are working together in unison. Naturally, this lowers your levels of stress, anxiety, physical and emotional pain, allowing you “space to slow down” so that you have time to make better decisions. And making better choices when you are in recovery, is what it’s all about!
Music has the power to instantly change your state of mind and the emotions you feel. If you think of the sounds of a marching band, then mentally shift to soft night time lullaby singing of a mother or father to their infant child, you’ll instantly be able to FEEL exactly what such a shift is like. When that happens, from LOUD to SOFT music, your autonomic nervous system begins to automatically move your body towards a state of homeostasis. This is especially good news for anyone experiencing burnout since the simple act of listening to certain calming music will begin to lessen your symptoms so that you start to feel better.
Although there are many artists who produce amazing Sound Healing music, one of my favorites is Steven Halpern. Over the years his music has proven to be a healing balm for me and many others. My first exposure to his music was in the 1980s when I began floating in isolation tanks. His signature work, Spectrum Suite, will carry you away into states of deep relaxation and beyond. The best part is that you can listen to Steven’s music while engaged in other activities such as washing the dishes or typing on your laptop.
Used as “background music,” you may find that your productivity skyrockets while your feeling state is one of increased locus of control since any sense of being stressed out or anxious, may have simply melted away. Consider giving Steven Halpern’s music a whirl by poking around his website. You may experience “surprise” when you find yourself saying “why did it have to take me so long to find this guy?!”
Since ancient times, chants have been used by various cultures and religious traditions to help heal and focus the mind. This form of Sound Healing can shift your attention in a way that automatically centers and grounds you. Below are examples of sacred sounds I have used over the years to center and ground myself. In the context of addiction, you may find that chanting helps reduce cravings and improves your odds for achieving and maintaining recovery. So, consider adding this form of Sound Healing to your daily routine so that your chronic stress and burnout symptoms go down.
- OM: sacred chant or mantra used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. It is often used as a meditation to center attention into the present moment.
- AUM: considered the most sacred sound in Hinduism—infinite energy of divinity. In Buddhism, the OM sound may be used instead of AUM.
- LUM: a sacred sound that helps transform and uplift your consciousness.
- RUM: a sacred sound that helps transform and uplift your consciousness.
Since ancient times, tuning forks have been used to heal and soothe mind, body, and soul. Images of tuning forks hieroglyphs for healing appear in ancient Egyptian scrolls, temples and tombs. There are also pictograms of tuning forks used in healing ceremonies in ancient Greek and Rome.
A more recent environmentally friendly version of the Sound Healing tuning fork was invented by John Beaulieu, N.D., Ph.D., founder of BioSonics, Incorporated. Based upon research conducted in the Neuroscience Lab at SUNY Old Westbury, the scientists there found that his auditory Otto tuning fork series immediately spiked nitric oxide in cell samples.
Recent studies conclusively demonstrate that when cyclic nitric oxide is spiked in the body, a series of very positive events occur. Nitric oxide has anti-bacterial properties, is a vasodilator, and hungrily attacks free radicals in your system. This is good news for you since as you use this form of Sound Healing, your own cells will thank you as you begin to spike your own nitric oxide levels naturally.
Doing so helps you improve your healthy well being at the cellular and micro cellular levels. In practical terms, you will begin to dissolve your underlying chronic stress that underlies burnout. This is particularly important as you work to achieve and maintain recovery. The best part is that using the Otto tuning forks is simple so you may notice that you start to feel better right away!
Kinetic Sculpture Gongs
Since the Bronze age, gongs have provided humanity with powerful vibrations that have the potential to alert (loud or harsh sounds) or to calm and heal (softer pleasing sounds). Conceptual artist Aaron Taylor Kuffner has created a new and unique type of Sound Healing gong known as a Gamelatron. Kuffner’s creations were inspired by the traditional Indonesian Gamelan— percussion-based ensemble music—created in partnership with master Balinese craftsman. This form of Sound Healing simultaneously immerses you in a pleasurable sound bath while you gaze at the beautifully handcrafted instruments.
The Gamelatron is the world’s first fully robotic gamelan orchestra; presented as sound producing kinetic sculpture at site-specific installations. The Gamelatron provides an immersive sonic experience: it is a five-part kinetic sculpture that combines traditional Indonesian instruments with modern robotics. You can experience Kuffner’s work entitled “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” at the Smithsonian Institute Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC through January 2019.
Aaron also makes stand alone works of art. The Body Phone is one such piece of Sound Healing art. Once seated inside the Body Phone, it’s hard to describe in words exactly what you are experiencing since this instrument has the capacity to generate mystical and transformative experiences. or at least put you in a deep trance. At the highest levels of relaxation, you may enter a deep trance or even be able to experience Samadhi. I had the high honor of personally experiencing the Body Phones in April. The experience left me breathless. As a way to relieve stress, it is so pleasurable, that I’m itching to get another go round!
If your burnout symptoms are intense, most likely the Body Phone experience will make you feel “as if” you’re on a magic stress relieving carpet ride. Make no mistake about it: this form of Sound Healing literally penetrates every pore of your being. Because it’s so enjoyable, you may not realize how well it is operating outside of conscious awareness to boost and restore your autonomic nervous system to a state of homeostasis.
Here is another photo of the Body Phone
Stress Relieving Power of Sound Healing
The best way to grasp the stress relieving power of Sound Healing is to experience it. After all, when you are wrestling with the debilitating effects of chronic stressors, you can sometimes feel that you’ll do almost anything to get relief, especially when you “hit or are approaching the burnout wall.” When you add addiction to the equation, lessening your stress is a smart strategy as well as one that increases your odds for a successful long-term recovery.
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to learn more about how you can experience the benefits of preventing or overcoming stress burnout, you can connect with me by email at Dr.Bob[at]StressFreeNow[DOT]com. Feel free to contact me with your questions or to schedule a consultation. www.StressFreeNow.info
About the Author:
Dr. Bob, the Stress Relief Doctor, is an Executive Stress Management Wellness Coach who helps high achieving individuals and groups get ahead of the stress curve by giving them the tools they need to address and dissolve their habitual stress, anxiety, grief and chronic pain. He is the co-host of the popular StressFreeNow podcast series. To work with Dr. Bob view his Wellness Coaching page here.
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