Stress Less: Meditate With the Internet

Could $50 really buy you 26 percent less stress per week?

It’s never really been crystal clear whether stress-management programs actually work, and it’s less clear yet to what extent even if they do. These are questions that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been pondering since the 1980s in search of meaningful information to help treat stress, one of the most far reaching chronic ailments.

the perfect pseudoscientific storm

Add in the skepticism that surrounds some of the techniques, like acupuncture, employed by many stress-management programs and claims that stress can cause shrinking brains and may chemically alter the genes of your offspring and you have the perfect pseudoscientific storm.

What we do know is that chronic pressure is real; we’ve all felt it and most of us would love to find a quick and easy way to slash our anxiety. When asked to a rate perceived level of stress on a sliding scale from zero (pile of goo) through to 40 (ball of rage), the average American chalks up somewhere between 12 and 14.

The average bloke tends to be slightly less stressed at 12.1 than the average woman at 13.7– read into that what you will.

But how do we separate what works from what might work from what probably doesn’t work? The Internet, which has conquered and slain what was left of modern-day downtime, doubtless wouldn’t come out on the top of your list in the ‘what does work’ category. But the findings of a new study, published recently in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, have further muddied the waters to say rather than just a source of stress, the Internet could also serve as a solution.

the Internet could also serve as a solution

The study was conducted by the Cleveland Clinic and took 300 participants who rated themselves more stressed than most Americans, averaging at 23.03, and made them engage with an Internet-based stress reduction regime.

The online stress-management program offered the participants “relaxation materials, strategies to cope with life’s stressors, stress assessments at the beginning and end of the program, and daily topics to inspire participants to continue the meditation and relaxation techniques.”

At the end of the eight-week Internet stress detox trial the participants recounted an average reduction of 4.04 points (or 15.5 percent) on the stress scale (compared to a control group who didn’t partake in the online stress-management program). Some study members, who meditated at least five times a week, were reported to have experienced a reduction in tension by as much as 6.12 points (or 26.5 percent).

It remains unclear as to how influential the Internet-based program would be in reducing the stress scores for those of us who don’t rate ourselves as frazzled above the average. If it does work, we have no reason to believe it would work for anyone but individuals who suffer higher than normal levels of stress. The Cleveland Clinic, is selling and marketing their online de-stress program for $50.