Are your colleagues suffering or close to burnout as a result of the compassion and support they provide to the clients they serve? Restorative Yoga is said to have a positive impact on the many challenges of modern day life. And the practice can be particularly useful to those working in high-stress health care and community service environments. The following Define Me success story makes a case for bringing Restorative Yoga and Mindfulness practices into the workplace.
York Support Services Network (YSSN), is a community services organization providing assessment and support services to individuals living with a developmental disability and/or mental illness. Sue Van Elswyk, a YSSN Supervisor, reached out to me last winter. Her team’s primary responsibility is in assessing individual cases; any further intervention and support is assigned elsewhere. She was familiar with my overall approach to well-being and knew of my experience teaching restorative yoga. Sue asked if I might be able to come to a series of team meetings to guide her and her staff through 1 hour sessions, with the key objectives of:
- facilitating relaxation
- restoring overall mind-body balance
- offering simple and effective self-care strategies
Risks of Being in the Caring Profession:
There are lots of work demands that Sue and her team manage on a day-to-day basis and, as is typical in many a caring professional’s work ethic, lunches are often skipped and sick days are not taken when needed. Along with keeping up with administrative tasks, there is high risk of experiencing Secondary Trauma, Compassion Fatigue and/or Burnout just from continually listening to heartbreaking stories and situations. It can leave one feeling powerless in their ability to enable positive change or make a difference in their client’s experience.
For this YSSN team, any compassion fatigue training they attended only made them feel worse. While they were able to put a name to their predicament and had tools for self-assessment, concrete strategies for managing and recovering from the burnout were amiss.
Enter Workplace Restorative (Caring Professions Edition):
After introducing just a few sessions in YSSN’s staff meetings, the benefit these case workers experienced was clear in their feedback:
- “My staff all reported back that they really enjoyed the last session and are using some grounding strategies already.”
- “I love the sessions, I find it a positive and supportive (environment) and Michelle’s method of guiding instruction is relaxing and easy to follow. She provides a variety of positions which seems there is something to benefit everyone.”
- “Please let Michelle know that I really enjoy her restorative yoga. The sessions have helped me to reintroduce yoga and mindfulness into my daily life. It is helping me on my continuing journey towards health and making my health a priority.”
- “The sessions have helped us to take time for ourselves and to help us become more aware of our breath, help us manage stress. Her instructions are gentle and she always makes sure to give modifications to each student as needed. Many staff have incorporated some of the poses into their daily lives to help manage stress. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us!”
Overall, participants said the restorative practice felt healing, rather than labeling. There was a sense of acceptance (a cornerstone in cultivating self-compassion), permission, and a reclaiming of the power to self-direct their own recovery and repair. As a result, there has been a shift happening at YSSN. Staff are now taking lunches more often, finding opportunities to connect with one another, taking sick days when needed and exploring self-care in different ways that has translated into their work and home lives.
Effective stress-management and work-life balance can become a reality for your staff too! Contact Michelle to discuss design and implementation of a customized wellness program for your office.
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