By Paru Desai, SV2 Partner and Mindfulness Practitioner
Mindfulness is now a very familiar term and most people, whether they practice it or not, are aware of its benefits as an effective tool that allows us to thrive and which supports our health and well-being at work, in school and in relationships. Through a series of articles, we will address various aspects of those benefits but in this first article we start with how mindfulness can help shift how we engage with those we work with and partner with in a more professional capacity and how being present, being aware, and in the moment, can help us be better partners in solving our social challenges.
At the core of mindfulness is presence — being in the present moment, noticing and accepting whatever is happening without judgement and then choosing a course of action or response that is wiser and kinder. Presence allows us to touch into what is going on and allows us to be with each other wherever we are in our lives and in the world. Presence allows us to make space for relation-based approaches which foster meaningful connections, respect, humility and partnership. And from this shift in dynamics, we can contemplate how to co-create a better world.
In the face of so many challenges, one of the biggest is mental health. Two in 5 Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic have a mental health condition and this is likely to increase; children are particularly vulnerable and at risk. However, many face systemic barriers to accessing care—frequently a consequence of the shortage in mental health care professionals. These barriers are often more significant for communities of color, contributing to even greater disparities in mental health care access and outcomes.
At the same time, work-related stress, depression or anxiety results in tremendous economic loss through absenteeism, poor performance, employee turnover, accidents and stress-related workers compensation claims. These impacts are exacerbated for those working in spaces of community trauma, deep social inequities, high poverty and systemic barriers which make working in marginalized communities even harder.
In a recent meet-up session with SV2 Community Partners, we discussed how doing this very difficult work requires self-care and addressing one’s own well-being first. Several Community Partner leaders reflected that the COVID era has been particularly challenging and hard for EDs as they hold everyone’s emotions and fears – themselves and their families, their staff and the clients as well as the communities they serve. In sharing individual practices — going for walks/hikes, playing music, meditating and/or doing yoga, playing with pets, using essential oils — it was also noted that even these relatively simple acts of self-care can be challenging for communities where focusing on yourself is equated to being selfish or self-absorbed. Suzie Hughes, of One Life Counseling Center, shared how she articulates self-care to her staff through the analogy of a phone that needs charging — that is, if a phone is out of battery it will not be able to run any of the apps until it is first charged. Similarly, she tells them, you can’t do your work and help others when you are running low or depleted yourself.
Community Partners also shared simple organizational practices that foster self-care and care of each other. These include practices such as weekly team check-ins and time off together, team building activities aimed at re-charging, taking well-being half days each week, game nights, and wellness social media channels to keep connected all help staff feel grounded and connected to themselves, each other and the work. But it was noted that sometimes even these low hanging practices that have tremendous value were still a drain on already stretched budgets and resources.
In future pieces, we will go deeper into mindful practices, individually and collectively, as well as explore what taking a mindful approach to philanthropy – one that is rooted presence, mutual benefit, and collaboration to drive equity and justice – means.
What does mindfulness mean to you, what are your go to practices, insights, stories, etc.? We’d love to start a community sharing practice. Please share your thoughts here or connect directly with Paru Desai, SV2 Partner