Coincidentally, I was delighted to read in the July issue of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) News a column written by CEO Angelo McClain who also emphasized the importance of taking an inventory of our personal and professional wellness to reduce the likelihood of burnout and compassion fatigue.
McClain reminds us to "refuel, recharge, and replenish." He writes, "focusing on social worker wellness is a win-win-win situation, because social workers with lower levels of stress are more productive in their work with clients and more committed to the organization."
Similarly, The Boston Globe reported this summer in "Mindfulness enters corporate mainstream" that "as employers look for ways to ease the anxieties of overworked employees, workplace mindfulness is spreading from Silicon Valley campuses to old-school corporate America, with Fortune 500 companies like Target, Nike, and General Mills joining tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Intel in offering meditation and yoga classes." Pausing for self-reflection and introspection is clearly an important value for enhancing our sense of well-being.
More than 16 years ago, JF&CS also recognized the need to promote employee wellness. At that time, I was privileged to begin offering a healing circle for JF&CS staff to create space for self-reflection and contemplation using mindfulness meditation, soothing music, contemplative readings, and prayers for healing. The healing circle became an opportunity for self-care to support us as we care for others. And it is not only for social workers! As I wrote in The Healing Circle: A New Model for Nurturing Spirituality in Jewish Family Service Agencies, "Having participants from all departments within the agency helps foster a sense of connection across departments and disciplines and can have a positive impact on relationships within the agency. The healing circle reinforces the role that all staff, regardless of their job description, play in fulfilling the agency's mission." JF&CS has other healthy offerings including yoga classes and a Wellness Room!
More than 2,000 years ago, Hillel the Elder echoed a similar sentiment when he posed three famous questions. "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Questions two and three stress the importance of reaching out to others, beginning right now - in the present moment. But first we must begin with question one, with ourselves, with our own self-care.
Every day in the month of Elul offers us this opportunity to take a spiritual inventory in preparation for the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on September 13. May the coming year bring you many blessings of healing and joy as we reach inward to take care of ourselves, and reach out to truly help others.
Marjorie U. Sokoll, MEd, JF&CS Director of Spirituality and Aging, is the founder and director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections, which helps people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to foster hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition. "It is not good for people to be alone." (Genesis 2:18). Marjie also provides spiritual support for the JF&CS Parkinson's Family Support Program, is a founding partner at the Kalsman Institute for Judaism and Health, and holds a certificate of thanatology from the National Center for Death Education.