Mindfulness workshops help some Navajo Nation members move past COVID-19

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Monday, June 5, 2023 - 8:07am
Updated: Monday, June 5, 2023 - 11:09am

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Patricia Nez Henderson
Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President
Patricia Nez Henderson

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a mental health toll on almost everyone. For Native American communities, COVID was especially devastating. Life after COVID isn’t easy, and now some are turning to mindfulness practices to address compassion fatigue and burnout. 

In April of 2020, the Navajo Nation’s coronavirus infection rate was highest in the country. The pandemic decimated communities.

“With COVID, everything shut down,” said Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson with the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health. “Our access to everything shut down on Navajo Nation including our access to traditional healers, which were usually the first responders.”

Recently, she started working with public health consultant Wayne Tormala to bring mindfulness workshops to the Navajo Nation.

“During COVID, certainly, with the isolation, and like Patricia was saying not even being able to go to a traditional healer, that turns the tide in terms of looking at, all of a sudden, I feel I might feel empty, and might feel out of balance. And my life has been disrupted. And I'm not sure what to do about that,” Tormala said.

That's where mindfulness can help. Tormala’s workshops have been well-received, says Nez Henderson. 

“For those that have participated, they've really enjoyed just that one hour of time just to focus on self,” she said.

Now the question is, when and how to bring more workshops to these tribal communities.

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