“Trauma and stress have no color or age,” says Clarissa Romero, a woman who should know. She has already experienced many of the stressful situations life can dish out–moving from Puerto Rico to New Jersey at age eight, negotiating cultural and language differences, then later losing her father to cancer, getting divorced, losing her job and selling her home, all within a year.
“Thanks to the incredible support of my loved ones, and using my professional training in mental health to guide me, I began researching contemplative practices, even subjects like quantum physics and neuroscience, to help me manage my emotions and stress levels, and get past the deep depression I was experiencing,” she said.
Her grief, sorrow and loss fueled a passion and desire for knowledge and understanding that has led to self-awareness and healing. But she also found fulfillment helping others confront their own challenges by starting her business, Mindful Consultants, based on what she has learned about and from the concept of living in the here and now, a concept called mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is like a superpower accessible by you, immediately, that can literally and completely transform your brain and your life; that is why my slogan is ‘healthy mind = successful life’,” Romero explained.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and a pioneer in the study of mindfulness, defines the thousands-year old concept as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment.” In practice, mindfulness techniques, including meditation, can be applied to a wide range of life experiences that can help individuals focus their attention to integrate mind and body in a way that has been directly linked to increased happiness, improved well-being and health.
Romero, a Cranbury resident, is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage.
“Sometimes Latina women lack the confidence to believe in themselves, that they have the power to make changes in their lives,” she said. “It took a lot for me to work on what was blocking me from believing in myself and discovering my entrepreneurial spirit.”
That spirit carried her through a chance meeting with Dale Caldwell, the Head of Schools at the Village Charter School in Trenton. They had a shared interest in urban traumatic stress disorder, an ailment affecting many inner-city kids caused by violence, hunger, homelessness and abuse.
“I shared that I had been practicing mindfulness meditation and that I had just watched a video discussing how mindfulness practices provide the perfect tool and life skills to help the children in developing self-regulatory skills and socio-emotional competence,” Romero said. “Healthy stress is essential and needed in order to help children grow and develop. When healthy stress is displaced by toxic stress or negative influences, however, it can impair attention, emotion, mood regulation, sleep and learning readiness.”
With the support of Caldwell, Romero was soon setting up a pilot program at the Trenton school. Through his connections as the founder of the New York & Newark Open Tennis Championship and as a former United States Tennis Association Board Member, Caldwell encouraged Romero to provide mindfulness programs at Caldwell’s tennis events.
“I would share the great work we were doing at the school with family, friends and colleagues, and they soon asked me if I could teach them and work with them to manage their levels of stress and be able to live a more mindful life, so formalizing my consulting business happened organically,” she points out.
Mindful Consultants is a boutique wellness firm that designs customized mindful services and curricula for schools, non-profit agencies and small businesses. The services focus on education programs, conscious business practices and leadership coaching and include everything from one-on-one private sessions to test-taking stress management techniques.