Tis the Season to be…Mindful!

The older we get the more difficult it becomes to rekindle the childlike excitement of the season. Our “to do” lists become longer with cards to write, presents to buy, relatives to entertain…not to mention projects at work waiting to be finished before year-end. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed with the stress and frenzy of the holidays and forget to breathe and enjoy the moment.

However, numerous research studies have indicated that practicing mindfulness (the state of “active, open attention on the present”) is strongly correlated with greater well-being, reduced stress, and improved physical and mental health. Which is why the concept is gaining growing popularity in the United States. Large companies like Intel, Aetna, and Google are encouraging their employees to learn and practice the latest mindfulness techniques. As a result, they’re seeing substantial benefits, including fewer employee sick days and increased job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

Mindfulness has recently become a topic of interest for the early childhood field as well. I was just at the Zero to Three annual conference in San Diego and participated in several conversations and workshops related to stress reduction and the recognition that employee retention is directly tied to self-care for front line staff. Home visitors working with at-risk families are especially prone to secondary trauma, stress, and burnout.

But thanks to a three-year initiative launched this fall by the Community First Foundation, home visitors from seven program sites in the Denver metro area will be learning more about the beneficial practice of mindfulness! Parent Possible is the lead agency for this exciting initiative, which will include self-care and mindfulness training for home visiting staff through the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center. In addition, home visitors will be receiving individual and group consultation from local mental health experts. The idea is that through developing resilience in home visitors to protect them from the negative effects of secondary trauma, they’ll be able to provide even better support to parents and families.

We’re just getting started with this project – but can’t wait to see the positive benefits these services have on home visitor’s (professional and personal) lives! We’re looking forward to sharing more about this innovative project with you throughout 2018 and beyond!

Happy Holidays!! As you’re standing in those long lines at the mall – remember to breathe and enjoy the moment. Christmas (and 2017) will be over in the blink of an eye and if you don’t look for the magic in the season – you’ll miss it!

Marion Batayte, Deputy Director