Many Ramapo students are a part of the nursing or social work programs, among the many other health care and mental health majors. The Krame Center for Mindfulness hosted two industry professionals last Friday to help these students learn how to help themselves while they are helping other people in their volunteer work, internships and eventual professions.
“The main idea is that for those of us in the helping professions, we’re essentially healing people in psychological distress. What the workshop focuses on is that you can’t help people if you’re burnt out, and there’s a huge burnout rate in this field,” said Jim Morley, director of the Krame Center.
Morley and the Krame Center welcomed Dr. Michael Kearney and Dr. Radhule Weininger to share their experiences and advice with students interested in the same fields. Kearney has spent over 30 years working in end-of-life care while Weininger has worked as a psychotherapist for 27 years.
Weininger shared with students the concept of a mindful pause and how to use it to make compassionate choices.
The trigger creates a sensation, then an emotion based on an automatic association and finally an emotional conclusion that forms an urge to act.
“Let’s say there has been a situation that has been triggering, that you could use this as a … way of looking inside of yourself, and coming from a triggered situation, through the mindful pause, to a more wise choice,” said Weininger.
The mindful pause and the compassionate choice processes contain three separate parts.
“First it shows the cascade of being triggered, then it shows a mindful pause … then how can we find a way forward? With self compassion and expanded awareness and leading to wise action,” she said.
She explained how it is helpful to acknowledge the emotions and take a mindful pause rather than immediately react.
"Often what we do in a reactive situation makes things worse. Yet there is another possibility, which is to take a mindful pause. This involves noticing what happens and pressing the metaphorical pause button and choosing not to react or act out but to choose an activity that brings us back into balance. The mindful pause is different individually for each of us,” she said.
A mindful pause can be any number of things. Depending on the amount of time you have, Weininger suggested taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea, working out, sleeping, doing yoga or simply taking a moment to sit down or take a deep breath.
“You might say now that this is an awfully long practice when I'm triggered. So I want to show you a way how you can work this when you have only very little time,” Weininger said.
She then guided students through what she called a “brief mindful pause” by having them close their eyes and think of a time when they were triggered. She then guided them through several steps including noting their body, choosing to pause and exhale gently and recognizing that they are hurting. She then had them return their focus to their breath and offer themselves kindness and compassion.
“I was surprised because when you’re triggered, you don’t want to think about it because usually it’s a little bit scary, and I was surprised that I was able to pull myself out of it by using that [technique],” said Faith Freedman, junior.
“I’m interested in medicine personally,” said senior Rich Apramian, “so it’s interesting to see how I can apply this to medicine and working with patients and see what I can take to this to apply to my field.”
“Having a wider perspective helps,” said Weininger, “and realizing that life is much bigger than this one little experience.”