Self care, which is different than self love. (if it’s not, you doing it wrong and you should be in private.) Self care is a very important part of our practice. We can get into some pretty heavy stuff and the vicarious trauma can take it’s toll. But there is another trap I have seen people fall into, a never ending cycle of self care that never quite brings a person back to a place of strength.
I’m thinking that some people understand the idea of self care, but don’t really know how to do it in a way the is helpful. The activity that is you choose to re energize your self is not as important as how and why you are doing it. Self care, at least in my opinion, is not about reward. It’s not about sitting in a bubble bath drinking wine and having some “me time”. Going to the gym to work out and then having a chocolate sundae doesn’t help much, going to the gym and then eating a healthy meal does. When you workout you tear down muscle and it is the healing of the muscle that creates new muscle and greater strength. To put another way, when someone is recovery from surgery or an illness the recommendation is usually not to lay around. You have to keep moving to rebuild what the illness took away. You have to do it in a slow and deliberate way so you don’t get hurt, but you still have to do it.
We spend our time working in difficult, sometimes heartbreaking situations. We are often over worked and under resourced. If our days are spend breaking down our resilience, then we go home and soak in the tub to escape the day it is unlikely we are giving ourselves what we really need. All this will do is let the muscles we tore down atrophy. If we really want to grow our resilience, to recover from our day, we need to move slow and deliberate and engage in activities that will feed us in a healthy way and let us recover stronger then we were.
How about I get to point. If you want to do more than just survive in this field you’re going to need to learn how to learn how to restore your resilience. Everyone is different and you will have find the things that fit your life and interests, but I’ll share what I do and more important, how and why I do it. It will give you a place to start.This is a blog post, there is no really way to make this sound like it wasn’t easy. None of these things happened over night they all took a lot of work and time to get set up and working. The job related ones were hard won lessons.
- I have set things up so that I live close to wear I work. This way because I have to take my car I at least don’t have to deal with a crappy commute. Not everyone can do this but at least take a look at what you can do. A change that shaves a half hour off the commute is 2.5 hours a week that is now yours.
- I understand my role. Not as easy as it sounds but in my current job and my past job I know what I am supposed to be doing. I’ve read the mission statements, I’ve look at the ways my job fits into that mission. I understand the values identified by the ACSW and how to bring those into my job. This is more than a job description, I know why I am there.
- I know that at some point the shit is going to hit the fan, I’m ready for it. When I am over my head, behind in paperwork, or too busy to even pee, I stop for a second, breath and take time to focus. I tap into my resources and
co urkers, co-workers.
- I volunteer for additional training and committees. Again, training, connections and a way to contribute to my organization in other ways.
Building a foundation at work sets me up to keep it together.
Outside of work:
- I volunteer my time. Episodic and long term. It let’s me build connects, learn skills but most important it allows me to have a positive effect on my community in ways that are different from my job.
- I go to school. Yes, school contributes to my skill base, makes me better at my job and it challenges in a very different way than my work does.
- I go to yoga. Yoga requires that I focus my energy, pay attention to my body and to be mindful. Yoga is a very deliberate activity I need to be in that moment.
- I have hobbies. I blog, podcast, I’m learning how to draw. I get into things that interest me. Some are close to social work, some are really far away.
- I have friends. Wait, this is not any where near as simple as it sounds. I have variety of friend and acquaintances and I spend time to nurture them and grow them. I have some close friends that I meet every week for breakfast, we’ve known each other for years and have invest a lot in each other. I have past co workers and acquaintances that I schedule group bar nights with or random lunches. I make sure I put it in my calendar to call or email people and set up time to get together.
- I lay on the couch. Okay it’s a bit like the bubble bath thing, but I don’t do this because I am “destroyed”. I do it because there is a move on or a magazine or blog I want to read.
Taking care of yourself, or “self care” is something that you need to learn, something you need to practice. It is a skill. So start working on it, make a plan, explore some ideas and write down what works.
(just a note, I tend to not proof read so there may be some errors)