The term self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and long term health and well-being. Being in the helping profession, it is essential for us to take care of ourselves, not only to be able to care for our clients effectively, but most importantly to maintain our own well-being and life satisfaction. Being in a fast-paced and emotionally charged environment, it is easy to overlook our own needs.
How do we do this?
- Start by creating a self-care plan, which will be unique to each of us.
- Reflect on what brings you pleasure whether it be socializing with friends, reading, playing a sport, gardening, etc.
- Engage in activities that are not job related is important to our well-being. Take time to do things outside of work that are meaningful to us will replenish our energy.
- Exercise a healthy balance in each area of life (i.e. family, relationships, spiritual/religious practices, exercise, enjoyable activities, school, work, down-time, and most of all YOU time). Of course most times there is not complete balance in our lives, but it takes mindfulness and effort on our part to make sure we are getting our needs met in all areas.
- Schedule pleasurable activities into your day, and put on calendar if necessary.
Another important component to self-care is seeking supervision; letting your supervisor know when you are beginning to feel burnt-out with a client or aspect of your job. It’s okay to ask for help and can actually prevent further burn out. If you don’t feel comfortable with your supervisor enough to approach them, look for other resources such as more seasoned co-workers, self-help books, groups, counseling through EAP or another therapist. The point is, sometimes we can’t do it all on our own, and need objective ideas and advice.
Finally, we need to recognize if we are experiencing secondary trauma or compassion fatigue, which most likely if you are in this field you have at some point or another. We provide care for many clients who have endured traumas, we have heard stories that may be difficult to comprehend, and most likely we have been the target of a client’s distress whether verbally or physically. We absorb many emotional toxic elements in this line of work, just as some careers absorb environmental toxins. Symptoms of secondary trauma and compassion fatigue can take many forms to include triggering flashbacks of our own experiences, nightmares, depression, anxiety, insomnia, appetite increase or decrease, etc. These symptoms should not be ignored as they are red flags that something needs to change and you may need help in doing so.
Self-care is non-negotiable. As stated by Boivin “In order to live a healthy and rewarding life, self-care is a necessity.”
“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” – Christopher Germer
What is your favorite self-care activity or practice?