Welcome to this offering of mindfulness practice.

It is our pleasure to share with you this six-week programme designed to offer a taste of the practice of mindfulness, as well as some inspirational material and academic articles to support you during these COVID times.

With COVID-19 and its repercussions encompassing the globe, this has been an unsettling time of unpredictability and uncertainty. For many it has also been a time of fear, anxiety and stress. For those such as yourselves who work in the field of healthcare, it has been particularly trying, as you place your and your family’s own well-being at risk in the service of others.

The long hours you work under demanding conditions can be challenging even during ‘normal’ times. Now during COVID-19, there is an even greater chance of those who work in healthcare experiencing emotional exhaustion, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, stress and burnout. So more than ever, it becomes especially important for you as healthcare professionals to take good care of yourselves, so that you can stand strong and resilient in the face of all these challenges.

A very supportive approach that can easily be integrated into your daily life to help with these challenges is Mindfulness. In the 40+ years since Jon Kabat-Zinn (PhD) established the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, research has indicated that the gentle and compassionate practice of mindfulness can mitigate emotional and psychological distress, as well as the key indicators of chronic stress, such as physical pain and hypertension. At the same it has been shown to increase mental and physical stamina, improve the quality of relationships, and boost the immune system to help fight disease.

See our Mindfulness Practices at the bottom of the page


What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose
in the present moment and non-judgementally”
(Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD)

Mindfulness may be described as an integrated mind-body approach that develops our capacity for present moment awareness. Regular practice enables us to shift the way in which we experience and respond to stressful and challenging circumstances. When practicing mindfulness, we consciously bring our attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise in each moment. We learn to become aware of our habitual “auto-pilot” reactions to both our inner and outer experiences, and we develop the skill of taking a pause, noticing these reactions, and then making choices that are wiser, more considered and more supportive. And we do this not with a hard-edged determination to improve ourselves, but with a gentle, open-hearted recognition of our human tendencies - especially in times of difficulty and stress – and a willingness to go towards them with interest, curiosity and kindness.

What is Mindfulness Practice?

Mindfulness in its essence is about
bringing extraordinary attention to ordinary things.

The practice of mindfulness is really very simple. The first element includes daily practice – referred to as formal practice – which can be done wherever you are, although it is generally helpful to find a place where you can be still and quiet. The recorded practices in the six week programme offered below will not demand much of your time, but if you are able to keep up with regular formal practice you may well start to notice some shifts in the quality of your day.

The second element involves what are referred to as informal practices. This is where you bring what you have practiced in the recordings into real life situations, for instance, pausing in the midst of a challenging situation to take a mindful breath and give yourself the time and space to tune in to your present moment experience of the event.

A third element of this programme are the readings and poems which will support your regular daily formal and informal practice.

We can see our mindfulness practice as a way to strengthen our “mental muscle” in the same way that we would physically train to keep our bodies fit. And the more regular our practice, the more we can build our brain’s capacity to respond with equanimity and wisdom to the stress and suffering of both ourselves and of others.


Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

“When we give ourselves compassion
we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.”
(Kristin Neff, PhD)

As healthcare professionals, the practice of compassion towards your patients is part and parcel of your work. Yet research indicates that in order to have the resources to be optimally compassionate towards those we help, it is essential to sustain our resilience by practicing compassion towards ourselves. Self-compassion may be cultivated through the mindful practice of non-judgement towards ourselves and through offering a kind and understanding acceptance to any distress or discomfort we may experience. This gentle yet powerful means of self-care is not only a valuable gift to ourselves in terms of coping with the pressures of work and life; our inner resources which have been deepened and replenished by our practice translate as a gift to all those for whom we care and whose lives we touch.



Giving Yourself Permission to Take Care of Yourself

As health workers, we enter the profession because we want to help others. Yet sometimes, we find it difficult to take the time to care for ourselves.


Those of us engaged in healthcare quickly discover that the needs massively outweigh the available resources and we can easily end up on a treadmill working harder and harder with limited resources. This can rapidly lead to stress, burnout, and maladaptive coping mechanisms, including addiction.

Because we feel our primary allegiance is to our patients, we continue to serve them at great cost to ourselves. But ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup,’ so unless we give ourselves permission to actively engage in self-care, we will no longer have the resources to give to others.

Empathy is a word we often hear mentioned in health care. It is best described as ‘feeling with’ or ‘walking in another person’s shoes.’ The beginning of self-care lies in developing our capacity for self-empathy. The mindfulness practices included in this programme will greatly facilitate your ability to get in touch with your body and mind and to ‘feel with’ yourself.

Compassion is another word we often hear. One definition of compassion is ‘feeling with and acting on behalf of.’ It is important to develop the capacity for self-empathy, but even more important to act wisely in the care of ourselves and others. As we allow ourselves to experience greater self-compassion, we are able to nurture ourselves and discover those things that bring us life and wholeness. And we are better able to care for our patients!


Outline of six weeks

We invite you to explore the practices offered below, taking it one week at a time. Over the six weeks, we will share how mindfulness can deepen presence, perspective-taking, and most importantly, self-care and self-compassion. We hope that this will support you in managing the fear, stress, frustration, doubt, trauma and other difficult emotions that these times present, and at the same time help to connect you to the deep wisdom and resources within.

the practices of the first two weeks cultivate presence, dropping the attention from the worrying, scattered mind to the body; noticing the physical sensations of breathing, feet on the earth, stretching, washing hands and standing.

The second two weeks offer practices which develop wisdom and give perspective. In these stressful times it is easy for the mind to be distracted, pulled into worry, planning, remembering. Being able to notice the tendencies of the mind to distract and to manage them more skillfully is valuable. In the mountain meditation, the image of a mountain is used as a reminder that despite the constantly changing light of the day and night, variable weather and seasonal cycles, the mountain remains essentially the same; steady and stable.

The stop meditation is an invitation to stop and appraise the situation, and then choose how to proceed in a wise and compassionate manner. External circumstances are often not controllable, but there is always a choice how to respond to them.

The final two weeks have practices which intentionally cultivate kindness and compassion towards ourselves and other. It is easy to be caught up in the problem-solving mind, and forget to acknowledge that this is a difficult moment. The practices offered are reminders of the strength and importance of compassion, how to be with patients, families and ourselves with a strong back and open heart. Even a moment of self care or compassion in these times can be nourishing, remembering to be kind to ourselves in the midst of the chaos.

So, give yourself permission to engage with this programme. Self-care is not selfish! We appreciate you taking time for yourself in this way!

MSCHCP Offering Intro poem Daniel Mead