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Group tries to help health care workers find peace during COVID-19 chaos

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Medical experts say health care workers are experiencing higher rates of burnout, exhaustion and even PTSD as they continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One group is trying to change that.

Tom and Jeanne Ball, directors at the Asheville TM Center, have joined the national Heal The Healers Now project to offer free transcendental meditation training for health care workers. This is happening at a time when those involved in the project said health care workers need it the most.

“We found before the pandemic a year ago, found that half of physicians anyway were reporting significant levels of burnout,” said Dr. Stuart Rothenberg, medical director of the Center for Health and Wellness. “Now, we have 75 to 80% reporting significant burnout,” said Stuart Rothenberg, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Health and Wellness.

Tom Ball said health care workers need a way to do destress.

“Our health care workers that are so overly stressed and overly taxed right now,” Tom Ball said.

He said the transcendental mediation technique is a way for them to find peace during the chaos.

“Practice 15, 20 minutes a day, just sit comfortably with your eyes closed,” Tom Ball said.

Jeanne Ball said she’s teaching a nurse right now.

“She’s told me that she’s been able to take a break at the hospital and just sit down and do this,” Jeanne Ball said.

Michael Stephens, an Asheville area doctor, agreed with the technique’s effectiveness. He learned the technique before the pandemic.

“Working in a COVID environment is very suffocating. Wearing protective gear all the time and having to wear masks and gowns and gloves and shields is very suffocating, both physically hard to breath and emotionally,” Stephens said. “The transcendental meditation just really gives respite.”

Rothenberg said a national survey found that since the pandemic 76% of health care workers feel emotionally exhausted and 50% said they cry frequently at work, with 67% of nurses saying they cry frequently at work.

“We don’t really see the light at the end of tunnel for our health care workers,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity, twice a day, to get out of that cycle.”

The Balls said the free course they are offering is held over four days with 1.5 hours each day.

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