17 March 2021

Creating Mindful Spaces during the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Francisco Frasquilho, Senior Improvement Advisor

3 minute read

One of the first things that can disappear in a crisis, as we found in the early days of the pandemic, is attention towards one’s own wellbeing. The urgency of rapid problem-solving often means an overwhelming and rapid cycle of activity that deprives us of stable place to standtake stock, and re-focus.  

During the exceptional times and challenges of Covid 19, finding a means to support teams to connect with wellbeing becomes an essential part of managing stress. Alongside being Senior Improvement Advisor in the QI department, I have a background in clinical psychology and have used mindfulness in supporting the wellbeing of service users and staff. It was a natural follow on to look at how to create mindful spaces to support staff wellbeing during the pandemic.  

In the context of staff wellbeing, mindfulness has been part of the work of Professor Frank BondDr Paul Flaxman and Frederik Livheim, who looked at using mindfulness approaches as part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training (ACT) to support staff at work (Bond, Flaxman, Livheim 2012)ACT (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson 1999) uses a range of mindful awareness techniques to help people become less hooked or caught up in distressing experiences or thoughts, so people can refocus their actions on what matters to them.

The Challenge of Time and AttentionBuilding in mindful space during the Covid 19 Pandemic 

True to the ACT approachI chose to ‘lean’ into my uncertainty around using what was at that time very new virtual technology, to create and share a virtual wellbeing and mindfulness space. MS teams provided the means to create a virtual meeting space for this through team invites. MS teams functionality means that once you create the invite people can drop into a virtual “chatroom” when they want, even outside of initial meeting time 

Figure 1. MS Teams Virtual Meeting invite, the doorway to the mindfulness chat room and resources

 

Figure 2. Sharing mindfulness audio clips via MS Teams

In these virtual channels I shared audio recordings of mindfulness exercises readily available on the internet (Figure 2). Our list of exercises, tried and tested by the team, ranged from breathing based practise and imagery exercises (www.freemindfulness.org) to grounding exercises from ACT, like “dropping the anchor” (from Dr Russ Harris, https://www.actmindfully.com.au/). Popular amongst those who accessed the channel was an ACT exercise called “Leaves on a stream” narrated by Jenna LeJeune, a combination of mindful observation of thoughts and grounding. Self-directed exercises were added so that staff could practice during the day. We called these “Daily Mindful Moments”. We therefore had a mixture of both group mindfulness practice with a check in afterwards, as well as individually guided ‘drop ins’. The team also agreed to an afternoon online space for people to practice mindfulness to help unhook before leaving work.

 

Key learnings

A repeated theme from those using these sessions was feeling grounded and orientated towards what they wanted to achieve in the workday. Attendance to the group sessions varied, but staff are continuing to use these resources. We also learnt that people could and would access resources when they wanted, while others did prefer to participate in a group. Access to the recording via an open invite can allow more spontaneous mindfulness practice, which keeps true to the desire to develop mindfulness skills as part of everyday experience.

If you want to know more about how the QI department have looked at supporting wellbeing, please have a look at the Handy Guide, developed from years of supporting the Enjoying Work QI priority at ELFT.

 

Website References (all these exercises are freely available on the internet and are linked below for ease of access)

http://www.freemindfulness.org/ Great collection of free resources for mindfulness

https://www.actmindfully.com.au/free-stuff/free-audio/ Part of Dr Russ Harris’s ACT resources

https://contextualscience.org/free_audio part of the Association for Contextual Science website, free ACT resources. The leaves on a stream exercise is part of Dr Jason Luoma’s Portland Psychotherapy Website https://jasonluoma.com/media/Leaves%20on%20the%20stream.mp3

 

References:

Bond, W. F., Flaxman, P. E., & Livheim, F. (2012). The Mindful and Effective Employee: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Training Manual for Improving Well-Being and Performance. New Harbinger/Oakland CA.

Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. Guilford Press.

Copyright © 2021 East London Foundation Trust. All rights reserved.

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