Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Mindfulness and resiliency: More than just taking a breath

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In this day and age of distractions, constant flow of emails, social media updates and unlimited interruptions, many of us struggle to focus on what’s in front of us. How do we focus and maintain concentration to keep us from feeling stressed, tired, or burned out? One answer can be mindfulness and the practice of being present.

The USDA Forest Service hosted a 2-day national Mindfulness & Resiliency Summit at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington D.C. The event brought together a diverse group of panelists that spoke on their experiences of how mindfulness has helped them focus on what’s important. Participants were able to interact with world leaders in the development and practice of mindfulness and resiliency exercises.

For the Forest Service to successfully continue sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of our Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations, it is critical that each employee has a work environment where they feel safe, valued and respected. Anchored in our core values, the Forest Service is committed to protecting the mental health and safety of employees by hosting events like this one. In fact, several similar mindfulness sessions, both in-person and web-based, were held throughout this the last year.

This particular summit brought together employees from 30 federal agencies to develop communities of mindfulness practice.

“As we continue to explore tools and resources to empower and support our employees, mindfulness and resiliency is proving to be extremely beneficial at helping employees achieve work-life balance, manage stress, adversity, and conflict,” said Leslie Weldon, chief executive for Work Environment and Performance Office.

Mindfulness practice has the potential to reduce burnout, injuries, workplace errors and even suicide and fatalities. It can also lead to promoting increased productivity, efficiency, communication and resiliency. These kinds of practices can have an impact on employees work environment, helping them deal with conflict, overcome adversity, stress while allowing them to be more focused, creative and productive.

“I believe that it was a healing experience for many in the room or at least will set some on that path,” Mindy Covington, training specialist with U.S. Agency for Global Media, said of the summit.

What is mindfulness? According to Michele Reugebrink, Forest Service Mindfulness & Resiliency program manager and professional coach, mindfulness practice is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” The goal and vision of these mindfulness sessions is to develop a healthy, high performing work environment in the USDA Forest Service while at the same time promoting partnerships and providing leadership to other organizations wishing to do the same. “Mindfulness is not a tool to be brought out when needed, it is a way of being to be cultivated daily regardless of current condition,” said Reugebrink.

Why practice it? Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring a variety of physical, psychological and social benefits. Practicing mindfulness is good for our bodies, minds and brains. Additionally, mindfulness practices can boost our immune system, increase positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and stress, and improve our memory, attention skills and decision-making.

Mindfulness is more than taking a breath; it is staying present through the chaos and it can be a restorative journey to peace and acceptance. To learn more about meditation practices and how it can help you visit the SharePoint site.

LEsli Weldon and Michelle Reugebrink pose for a photo together
Michelle Reugebrink, Forest Service Mindfulness & Resiliency program manager and professional coach, and Leslie Weldon, chief executive for Work Environment and Performance Office at the Mindfulness & Resiliency Summit in Washington D.C., August 6, 2019. Photo courtesy of Winston Reugebrink.
Participants of the Mindfulness & Resiliency Summit practice breathing exercises, Washington D.C., August 6, 2019. Photo courtesy of Winston Reugebrink.
Participants of the Mindfulness & Resiliency Summit practice breathing exercises, Washington D.C., August 6, 2019. Photo courtesy of Winston Reugebrink.