Restart, Recharge and Reconnect with Mindfulness, Awareness and Support

We had the opportunity to participate in this sharing session with networking opportunities at The National Counselling and Psychotherapy conference 2022. This conference addressed various issues related to mental health, therapy and well-being for therapists and clients.

Topics about innovations in mental health, mindfulness practices and their impact, art therapy with children with special needs, social media’s effect on children, different treatments, work-life balance and overcoming burnout were discussed.

The conference hoped to highlight how the pandemic has affected mental health and practitioners and how they can restart, recharge and reconnect moving forward. Several key topics were shared and we picked up some relevant ideas.

Trauma-Informed Care & Grief

There are four different aspects of trauma: natural disasters, abuses, regulating emotions influenced by early primary caregivers, parental introjects and intragenerational trauma. Seeing the world and people around us with trauma-informed lenses helps us be more empathetic, providing and utilising the right tools and resources to support ourselves and others.

Grieving fry loss is difficult and can be overwhelming. It is a complex and traumatic experience for an individual, which can cause two different reactions, hyperarousal and hypoarousal. Hyperarousal refers to a situation where we feel overwhelmed by stress, whereas hypoarousal is where we feel numb.One might feel the loss of the future, loss of milestones that can be achieved, loss of identity, responsibility, physical assets/properties and a shattering worldview.

Grief looks different for each individual. However, it is crucial to facilitate healing conversations and a safe space to express their emotions and be validated and supported. Learning to forgive yourselves, finding new perspectives and ways to move forward, being compassionate, and extending self-love to oneself, as not everything is within our control.

Addressing Trauma in the classroom settings

In the classroom setting, take the opportunity to engage and connect with the students. Be aware of the choice of words we use and how we can respond in difficult conversations when they are talking about their pain. For example, asking them what is causing them to feel certain emotions, where it is coming from and what contributes to these thoughts or feelings. Strengthen and assess their social support and keep themselves safe.

Be that individual with a sense of kind presence and compassion, knowing that we are not alone and are interconnected by common humanity. Trauma can take away power, voices, or a sense of control. How we are mindful of not re-traumatising with non-verbal or verbal cues can help one journey through healing with resilience and empowerment—being trauma-informed means responding appropriately and ensuring psychological safety. It is essential to provide support and know that others experience similarly and be able to identify with them through support groups.

Social Media and Cyberbullying

Social media such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and many other digital platforms are a big part of our lives and even adolescents’ lives. These platforms allow ease of communication with others and the building of social networks, especially for those who feel alone, excluded or looking to belong and connect. Teens may create online identities and have different accounts for different purposes.

Due to anonymity, some people engage in cyberbullying, such as spreading defamatory information, harassing, personal attacks and cyberstalking. There are adverse effects associated with the use of social media on one’s mental health. One may feel anxious and depressed and have lower self-esteem. For example, having an unrealistic view of other people’s lives leaves them feeling inadequate, sleep deprived and having strained relationships with their family and friends.

How can teachers help?

Often, victims of bullying are afraid to speak up and suffer in silence. In class, teachers could take the opportunity to discuss topics such as bullying through available resources such as YouTube videos, books, pictures, and reading comprehension passages. It allows conversations to take place naturally, allowing the students to share their points of view and understanding of their view about their online social presence.

Some of the possible questions that we might ask could be:

  1. Do you use social media? How long do you spend in a day?
  2. Who are you communicating with?
  3. What kinds of games do you play? What kind of websites do you often surf?
  4. Have you experienced anything harmful online?

Keeping an open mind while fostering a climate of trust and empathy with the students is vital. Psychoeducation is essential to enhance the possibility of using coping mechanisms to protect oneself or others who are being bullied. There are measures to promote responsible social media usage and learning how to stay safe online. There are online bullying prevention measures that can be explored, including the ability to mute, block, or report instances of cyberbullying, as well as privacy restrictions on who may comment or post. Additionally, you can be the first line of defense against cyberbullying. Consider how you may intervene by providing support, sharing access to counseling services, and increasing awareness of cyberbullying and the consequences of their actions.

Mindfulness practices

Mindfulness is an increasingly popular practice in the modern world. It can be defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness can be used as a powerful tool to improve mental and physical health and well-being, which is why it is so important to learn how to be present and mindful in our everyday lives.

Mindfulness focuses on three As:

  • Awareness
  • Attention
  • Acceptance

Just like a car engine, mindfulness needs fuel to run. That fuel is your attention, awareness, and acceptance. Paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations is key to staying present in the moment. Awareness is being mindful of the effect your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations have on your environment, while acceptance allows us to be open to whatever arises rather than clinging to any specific result.

The mindfulness-oriented therapist encourages clients to focus their attention on the present moment and their immediate thoughts and feelings. They may also use various mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing or body scans, to help people become aware of their physical and mental states. Mindfulness-oriented therapists emphasise the importance of non-judgment and acceptance, helping clients to observe their experiences without judging them or trying to change them. This style of therapy can be effective in treating issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. It is important for the mindfulness-oriented therapist to have their own personal practice, to be non-judgmental, display openness and compassion.

Like a mindfulness-oriented therapist, it is important for everyone to practice mindfulness in their daily lives because it teaches you to be present and aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings. Mindfulness helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and increases your ability to focus and be present at the moment. It is a great tool to help you become more self-aware, manage your emotions, and make better life decisions. It can also help to create more meaningful connections with others and to develop more compassion. Practising mindfulness on a regular basis can help everyone live a more fulfilling and balanced life.

What are some Mindfulness practices you can try?

  • Formalmindfulness practices involve taking a deliberate and purposeful time to pause and observe one’s inner thoughts, emotions, and sensations. This can be done by sitting in stillness and focusing your attention on your breath or other body areas. Other practices may include guided meditations, body scans, mantras, and visualisation.
  • Informalmindfulness practices can be woven into everyday activities. For example, you can practise mindful eating by noticing all of your senses as you enjoy each bite, or practise mindful walking by observing your surroundings as you move through space. You can also use everyday situations such as waiting in line, washing the dishes, or taking a shower as opportunities to practise mindfulness.
  • Finally, establishing a routinemindfulness practice is a great way to cultivate a more mindful lifestyle. This could involve setting aside 10-15 minutes each day for formal practice or checking in with yourself throughout the day for brief moments of awareness. Scheduling time for yourself can help ensure you stay consistent with your mindfulness practice.

Burnout, Empathy Distress Fatigue and Caregivers

Professional caregivers have been experiencing burnout and empathy distress fatigue since the pandemic’s start. Health and mental health care professionals are called upon to cope with and adapt to insurmountable stress while upholding competence. Yet, they receive little support or training in stress management or self-care while being expected to deal with their stress privately.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged excessive stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands.

Who is at the most risk of Burnout?

  • People who work with the public
  • People who work in healthcare
  • People who work in social services
  • People in high-pressure jobs, such as teachers, college professors and medical professionals. Low-wage jobs can also be high-stress for those workers because of their low income and lack of benefits.

Empathy distress fatigue is a condition that occurs when you feel emotionally exhausted from working with people in distress. It is a normal response to being exposed to negative emotions for extended periods. Empathy distress fatigue is a form of burnout that can occur as a result of for extended periods. Empathy distress fatigue is a form of burnout that can occur as a result of caring for others. It’s most common among healthcare professionals, but anyone with a job or hobby requiring them to care for others can suffer from this condition.

The following are risk factors for empathy distress fatigue:

  • Exposure: a daily barrage of traumatic material (vicarious trauma)
  • Emotional state: current life stressors, relationship issues
  • Limited stress management skills: lack of emotional outlets, hobbies and interests to ease and calm the mind
  • Lack of support: lack of help and guidance from people you trust leads to burnout, especially when combined with other stressors
  • Empathy exhaustion: The more substantial the empathy, the more robust the relationship, but the higher the likelihood of empathy distress fatigue, especially when there is difficulty in distinguishing between one’s own experiences and those of others; this is referred to as the inability to recognize or comprehend suffering
  • Overwork: Working long hours is stressful and harmful to health, leading to burnout

Preventing Burnout and Empathy-Distress Fatigue

You can’t help feeling burnout or overwhelmed if you don’t take regular breaks or get enough rest. Take time to relax and unwind and recharge your batteries. Try going for a walk or meditating. If possible, take breaks or leave early at least once a week so you are not working under pressure all the time. The table below addresses how you can prevent burnout and empathy distress fatigue.

Connect with others Care for Emotional Health Practice Self-care Practice Self-validated Caregiving
  • Maintain a solid social support network
  • Seek support from peers, family, and friends
  • Join or establish a peer support or study group
  • Engage in meaningful conversation regularly
  • Participate in social activities
  • Provide volunteer service to others
  • Embrace interpersonal development
  • Understand and regulate negative emotions
  • Develop anxiety and stress management skills
  • Develop a non-reactivity to emotions
  • Maintain a positive mental attitude
  • Mindful living and non-judgment mindset
  • Be realistic and renounce perfectionism
  • Savour the here and now
  • Live a healthy and well-balanced life
  • Commitment to a regular working schedule
  • Make time for fun and recreation
  • Spend time in nature
  • Reserve time for yourself
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Attend to your spiritual and creative self
  • Know that your best is all you can do
  • Assume an internal locus of control
  • Seek reward from within instead of from others
  • Be intentional rather than reactive to others
  • Be mindful of thoughts and actions
  • Practice gratitude
  • Practice Self-Compassion

Burnout or Empathy distress fatigue is a serious condition that can lead to physical and mental health complications. It’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of burnout to prevent it from becoming too severe. If you think you might be suffering from burnout, talk with a professional or approach the HEAL team for guidance.

Well-being at the Workplace

Well-being at work is the opposite of burnout: having a sense of purpose and balance. That might mean fewer hours or more flexibility at work so you can pursue other interests outside of it – like spending time with friends or family members. It may even mean working smarter instead of harder by taking breaks throughout each day that help us get our creative juices flowing again to produce better results than if we were constantly exhausted or overwhelmed by our workloads.

Working in an office can sometimes lead to feeling pressured or stressed by other colleagues who might seem like they’re working harder than you are—even though they may not be doing any more than you are! In some cases, this leads people to feel inferior or inadequate.

It is essential for staff to practise self-care and focus on the 5NS:

  • Notice what is happening to you
  • Name your thoughts and emotions
  • Need – What is your need right now?
  • Next step – What is your next step to assess the need?
  • Non-negotiable – What is the one thing you need to do in your day that is non-negotiable?


Through the DAS HEAL team’s initiatives, we strive to continuously introduce and disseminate this knowledge and tools to promote help-seeking behaviours and offer support and resources available when dealing with burnout and exhaustion.

Fostering a culture of openness and empathetic sharing is crucial when discussing well-being, struggles, and mental health issues. The CalmEd Classroom curriculum, for example, includes mindfulness practices and breathing exercises that can be used with the students and as a relaxation strategy for staff. The Wellness Action Plan is shared with all staff to create a conducive & psychologically safe working environment for staff to share and collaborate on improving wellness and thriving together as a community.

The HEAL team is dedicated to supporting and encouraging well-being, work-life balance, and open lines of communication so that staff members feel comfortable disclosing concerns about their mental health.


Contributed by:
Madinah Begum – Educational Therapist
Siti Nadhirah – Educational Therapist