November 22 2021
"What a joy to witness all of Karuna's accomplishments, which would have been impossible without all of our donors! The pandemic is still affecting people living in India and Nepal, but they...
In January 2021, Karuna initiated its very first project in France in collaboration with the association Mindfulness Solidaire. Resilience is a program targeting caregivers, which aims to provide them with tools to strengthen their resilience and enable them to cope with the heavy emotional burden of their work. The pilot project was carried out with the social workers of the SamuSocial de Paris, who were the first beneficiaries of this program.
The year 2020 was the year of a clear realization: we do not take enough care of our caregivers. The pandemic has raised general awareness of this problem, which is not new: those involved in caring for others are all the more vulnerable to burnout. However, there are tools to deal with situations of intense pressure.
The Resilience Program is based on the observation that social workers are increasingly showing symptoms of empathic distress, defined by scientists as chronic stress that can lead to withdrawal and insensitivity or to burn-out and thus the cessation of professional activity.
Matthieu Ricard thus writes: “To remedy this empathic distress, for lack of anything better, it is generally recommended to distance oneself from others to protect oneself emotionally. But we understand that distancing oneself from others in this way is not an ideal solution: it risks leading to a certain coldness. Tania Singer’s experiments show, in broad terms, that while empathic distress leads to burnout, altruistic love and compassion, on the contrary, regenerate our ability to care for our fellow man with serenity, benevolence and courage.” (Carnets d’un moine errant)
Resilience offers a course of workshops over 8 weeks to :
Build a calm and soothing relationship with beneficiaries
Increasing daily well-being in professional practice
Develop creativity in interactions with others
Within this framework, two mindfulness instructors from the association Mindfulness Solidaire organize workshops in groups of 10 people. These sessions are based on tools such as talking circles and meditative practices. The participants develop their quality of presence, their management of difficult emotions, their active listening, their benevolence and their mental calm.
Sylvie, a mindfulness instructor, states: “Participants become aware of the need to take care of themselves in order to be present and available to others, of the importance of listening to their emotions and their inner state.”
These workshops allow them to refocus on their emotions. Gradually, they rediscover the interest in taking care of themselves: “It is very rare to be able to benefit from time and space to step back from our daily lives, encouraging introspection, the development of self-awareness and awareness of others, and exchange in an extremely benevolent setting,” testifies a participant.
Contemplative sciences show us that the practice of various secular meditations can have positive effects on the brain and human psychology such as developing our presence to others, better stress management as well as a better understanding of how our mind and the mind of others work. Finally, it would seem that regular and long-term practice of mindfulness would allow for more altruistic behavior.
Resilience is based on these studies as an advisory board composed of experts in the contemplative sciences was created at its conception, with the goal to frame the program. In this board can ar gathered : Tania Singer, scientific director of the social neuroscience laboratory of the Max Planck Society in Berlin; Matthieu Ricard, an active member of the Mind and Life Institute; Ilios Kotsou, researcher at the “mindfulness, well-being at work and economic peace” chair at Grenoble Ecole de Management; Alexis Desouches, founder of the Mindfulness Solidaire association and mindfulness coach; and Patricia Christin, MBSR trainer.
Matthieu Ricard, Ilios Kotsou and Alexis Desouches, with Mindfulness Solidaire workers (SamuSocial de Paris – Septembre 2020)
Furthermore, the implementation of the Resilience program relies on an association that is an expert in mindfulness tools. Indeed, the association Mindfulness Solidaire – which developed the engineering of the training alongside Karuna-Shechen and which organizes and facilitates the workshops – is specialized in emotional intelligence programs based on mindfulness for people who do not usually have access to these practices. It is aimed at people in social difficulty such as migrants, in professional reintegration such as ex-prisoners or who suffer from addiction, and now, through Resilience, at social workers.
Dozens of people have already benefited from this program, and the feedback is clear: Resilience really meets a need! If the employees of the SamuSocial de Paris are the first to participate, they are not the last. Résilience will soon be proposed to other structures so that new caregivers can benefit from it.
“If you are an empathetic person and your work brings you into emotional resonance with the suffering of others day after day, the cumulative impact of negative emotions eventually leads to emotional exhaustion, burnout. This is the case, for example, for those who are in daily contact with the homeless, migrants, or a loved one in difficulty” – Matthieu Ricard, Carnets d’un moine errant.
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