Care for the Carers

Ten years ago this month, Mindfulness Centre Founder and Director Dr. Tamara Russell met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the States of Consciousness – Traditional Knowledge meets Neuroscience Symposium in Brazil.

The topic of this presentation was the importance of care for the carers, and the challenges faced by those who care for others, when it comes to caring for themselves.

Tamara shared a neurocognitive framework to help understand the challenges of working with this group of individuals, in the contexts they face. This approach recognizes the unique psychology of carers, as well as the environmental influences (and often barriers) that impact on their ability to access and implement self-care. Ten years ago, the need to support carers (professional and unpaid) was already dire. Now, it is urgent.

The start of the journey …

It was partly as a result of this meeting that the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence was founded. The meeting and response from His Holiness catalysed the heart-felt inspiration for the work done by MCoE over the last ten years. While we support and share mindfulness in creative ways with all sorts of people, much of this work has focused on carers in various settings.

We have supported healthcare workers from all disciplines and levels in the NHS as well as internationally. We have worked with educators, academics, peer supporters, trainees and students. All of us can help and serve in wise and kind ways when we are taking better care of ourselves. But can be extremely hard to find the time when the needs of others are so great (and you are totally stressed and exhausted).

“His Holiness was particularly attentive to comments relating to the use of mindfulness training to help staff who work in emotionally challenging environments, an area I am particularly passionate about.”  Dr. Tamara Russell speaking to King’s College London Communications Team

Applied Translational Neuroscience

The Transitional Pause is an applied mindfulness tool that offers mico-moments of mindfulness training for those who don’t have the time or energy to develop mindfulness skills in the more “traditional” ways (e.g. courses, retreats, taking time to meditate before work etc). It is just one of the many tools derived from the Body in Mind Training program (and outlined in the book Mindfulness in Motion).

We believe it’s possible to train mindfulness in a Bruce Lee style – in every movement and every moment. It’s a different way to approach mindfulness and distinct from what is offered in both the contemplative and secular mindfulness training. However, in our experience, mindful movement, applied to everyday life can be more accessible for those with busy lives, busy minds and intense emotions.

Click the links to read more about the BMT approach for staff and in the clinical setting.

“I invited my Line Manager to take a transitional pause at the start of the meeting. I felt calm, ready and relaxed and the outcome was so much better than I had expected.”  Julie Atwell (a teacher using the TP in the school setting working with children with special needs)

Repeat, repeat, repeat….

We believe that if we build in “little and often” inside the working environment (and ideally alongside those we are caring for), we can slowly but surely re-tune the brain networks responsible for reflection, focus and intention setting. We train in the settings where we need to use these tools.

The TP can be used any time you make a transition (to and from work, between meetings, before or after seeing patients). It can be done as a short individual or group exercise, or built into team or client meetings. With practice it can be done in three breaths, or even just three steps. One GP reported using the practice as she walked from her consulting room to the waiting room to get her clients. She wove physical movement with the transitional pause method. We provide the principles, you adapt to your setting and needs. It trains FOCUS, PRESENCE and INTENTION SETTING. The latter allows the flexible engagement of either technical or relational skills (depending on need).

The Three Part Transitional Pause

“The Transitional Pause is something I will believe will be key in my future medical practice… This practice will allow me to realise when my mind may not be in the best place for patient care and let me know when I have to look after myself first in order to be helpful to others” A 3rd Year King’s College Medical student who undertook the mindfulness and resilience SSC course designed by Dr. Derek Chase and Tamara Russell. Read the evaluation here.

Want to know more?

The Transitional Pause and Take-Pause VR are our solutions for busy carers. Sometimes we just need a moment to soothe as quickly as possible. Take-Pause (a Virtual Reality option) reduces anxiety by 24% in just 5 minutes with it’s immersive and engaging breathing practice. Take-Pause has been evaluated in a controlled trial in the intensive care setting at Maimonides Medical Centre (New York).

The Transitional Pause training (workshops and longer training) has been shared with GPs, psychiatrists, medical students, addictions counsellors in a prison, as well as with many in the general working population (legal, financial, sports and creative contexts). This is a vital self-initiated tool that helps to create space and time in a frantic day whilst improving focus, presence and intention setting. Contact for more information.

You can find Tamara at Pulse Live London in September and Management in Practice in Newcastle in November (2021).