Mindfulness for front-line workers

The concept of Mindfulness is becoming mainstream, even leading organizations like Apple and Google have jumped on the bandwagon, encouraging employees to engage in this practice with research, confirming this practice not only improves creativity, focus and production but also reduces fear, anxiety, judgmental attitudes, and BURNOUT.

Burnout is a rampant affliction, especially across various helping professions!

I have had personal experience with the practice of mindfulness in recent years and I have seen profound results. Despite the research on mindfulness, many people aren’t engaging in it because it is viewed as a difficult practice (although it’s easy), because mindfulness can be intimidating and is widely misunderstood. Many claim they can’t practice mindfulness because they can’t stop their wandering mind, and yet that’s the very PURPOSE of mindfulness. I think this intimidation comes from the assumption that mindfulness looks like this…

canva - silhouette of man at daytime

It’s a misconception that mindfulness requires meditation!

While mindfulness can be a form of meditation, practicing mindfulness doesn’t REQUIRE meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), says mindfulness is “paying attention in the present moment non judgmentally.” He also says “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.  It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”

We can engage in mindfulness in any setting, at any time; we can practice mindful eating, mindful walking, and mindful conversation. The problem is that most of us move through life, seemingly on autopilot, unaware of what is actually happening in the MOMENT, reflecting too heavily on the past, and feeling the pain that existed in the past over and over again. It’s not just the past we need to be brought back from, it’s also the future – our habit of planning our next move, our next word.

Essentially, our awareness is rarely in the moment. This obsession with past and future can lead to burnout, or a lack of joy at the very least. But if we can train our brains to spend time in the present moment, stress will be reduced, joy will naturally increase, and our hearts and minds will feel calmer.

Mindfulness as a valuable therapeutic tool is catching on in the world of research, just check out this study: “…the results of this pilot study suggest that meditation may be efficacious in reducing drinking and decreasing severity of relapse triggers in recovering alcoholics…”

In my opinion, front-line workers owe it to those they serve to engage in mindfulness practice. Where appropriate, front-line workers ought to become so skilled at mindfulness that they are able to teach it to those they serve and utilize mindfulness as a therapeutic tool.  This study suggests that “…Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy led to improved immediate outcomes in terms of anxiety which were specific to the bipolar group.”

It stands to reason that if we cultivate healthy front-line workers we will directly improve therapeutic outcomes.

Want to build some skills in mindfulness? 

Mindful Reach is an online educational platform that “connects practices of mindfulness, positive psychology and coaching with sustainable behavioural change…evidence-based protocol through mindful training and active living strategies, {they} strive to provide participants with tools and techniques that will enhance the clarity of thinking, attentional effectiveness and deep-rooted balance in demanding circumstances.” Mindful Reach has a new course offering, a certificate in Mindful Child and Youth Care, with curriculum contributions from yours truly ♥.

I am hopeful that in the coming years there will be more and more acceptance and trends toward this life-changing practice across various populations, especially front-line fields.

md108_youth

References

S, L., Hommel, & Bernhard. (2012, March 30). Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused-Attention and Open-Monitoring Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking. Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116/full

Karwowski, M. (1970, January 01). Culture and Psychometric Studies of Creativity. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/978-1-137-46344-9_8

Booth, R. (2017, October 22). Master of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn: ‘People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to’. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/22/mindfulness-jon-kabat-zinn-depression-trump-grenfell

Mind full of ideas: A meta-analysis of the mindfulness–creativity link. (2015, October 01). Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886915006133#!

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in bipolar disorder: Preliminary evaluation of immediate effects on between-episode functioning. (2007, September 19). Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032707003060?via=ihub

Beloved Ontario Child Advocate

As a burnout prevention and recovery teacher I keep my finger-on-the-pulse of the political happenings within the child welfare sector in Ontario. This is because I know all too well how much our “broken system” can at times be a contributing factor to the stress levels and wellbeing of those who serve within it. If you find yourself heading down the path of burnout please consider reading my book Helping Effortlessly as I know it will help. If you are already burnout and don’t have time to read the Audible version of the book will be out soon, please stay tuned on that.

Sadly, on November 15th, 2018, the government, without fair warning I might add, announced the plan to close the office of the Ontario Child Advocate.

Is this a consequence of Ontario’s cheap beer?

I have spent the better part of my adult life working alongside the system of child welfare and it’s many branches, mostly as a Foster Parent and at times as a Child and Youth Counsellor. This system is built from love and compassion to help children and youth in need of protection.

Regardless of how compassionate, robust, and strong our child welfare system is in Ontario, like all systems, there are gaps, cracks, and at times downright system failures. All systems have gaps, cracks and weak-points, but in Child Welfare, when things fall through the cracks, it can actually put lives at risk – the lives of children and youth who have already experienced profound levels of trauma often due to abuse, neglect, poverty, and/or mental health.

In 2007, Ontario strategically and intelligently built a line of defense against such system gaps by implementing an independent office called Ontario Child Advocate (The Advocate’s Office). At the forefront of this office, the Advocate himself, Irwin Elman brought to the position a wealth of experience and knowledge with an extensive background as an educator, counsellor, youth worker, and program manager. For over 20 years Irwin held the position of manager of the Pape Adolescent Resource Centre (PARC) in Toronto, a program of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, clearly Irwin is qualified.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the Ontario Child Advocate, let me explain. The Advocate’s office is an independent office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario guided by the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This office was brought about by the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act2007.

The Ontario Child Advocate website states the purpose of the office:

  • To provide an independent voice for children and youth, including First Nations children and those with special needs, by partnering with them to bring issues forward;
  • To encourage communication and understanding between children and their families and the people who provide them with services;
  • To educate children, youth and their caregivers regarding the rights of children and youth; and
  • To conduct investigations about matters concerning a child or group of children under the care of a children’s aid society (CAS) or a residential licensee where the CAS is the placing agency and make recommendations.

All of this, gone in a reckless decision to save money.

Take a moment to wrap your head around this. The system’s safety net has been ripped from underneath our province’s most vulnerable children. Children of indigenous backgrounds, children with disabilities, those suffering abuse and neglect, all now without a safety net while in care. How dangerous this could become. When an accident happens because of the inevitable gaps in the system, children and youth will no longer have the passion and care of the Advocate’s Office behind them.

The plan is to have the Ontario Ombudsman assume the duties of the Advocate which is utterly insulting to the experience and expertise of the true Advocate, as it pertains to upholding the voice and protection of vulnerable children. This hasty act is not honouring the integrity and the many years of hard work that have gone into building the Ontario Child Advocate and the safety net that it has provided over the years for many.

If you feel as strongly as I do about this grave mistake, let people know how you feel, educate others on what the Advocate’s office does and the safety if offers children and youth in care.

I urge you to join me in writing to Premier Doug Ford, to encourage him to reconsider this nonsense. You can click here to contact the Premier. Below I have provided a sample letter.

Now, let’s not allow cheap beer to get in the way of our integrity!

Sample letter to Premier Doug Ford:

<Your Address>

<Date>

To: The Honourable Doug Ford Premier of Ontario
Email: premier@ontario.ca

Minister Lisa MacLeod MPP
lisa.macleodco@pc.ola.org

RE: Unacceptable closure of the office of The Ontario Advocate

Dear Premier Ford and Minister MacLeod:

I wish to express my deep concerns about the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to close the Advocate’s office. This places our province’s most vulnerable children and youth in potential danger and is of great concern.

I firmly believe that repealing the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Actis an act of haste and pure dismissal of the need for systemic accountability of Ontario’s child welfare system.

As a resident of Ontario, I expect your government to deliver services in a fair and safe manner. I expect you to keep safe the children who are in need of protection, not only from harm in the community but also with avenues to reach out for help under the care of the system itself.

With this repeal, your government is putting at risk the wellbeing of children and youth of Ontario’s child welfare system.

I expect your response via return mail.

Sincerely,

Resident and Taxpayer, <insert your municipality here> Provincial Voter – <your riding>
c.c. <your MPP>

%d bloggers like this: