[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image media=”86323″ media_width_percent=”100″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]by Emily Burger, MS, NCC, Skills’ Director of Behavioral Support Services
Self-care has become quite the buzzword in today’s culture. We are in the middle of a pandemic while trying to work, take care of our families, and live a reasonably stable life. And let’s face it, none of us are feeling quite like ourselves. However, in our field, self-care can be even more difficult. We not only take care of ourselves and our families, but we give so much to those we support. We are working long hours and handling each day under challenging conditions with extra protocols, extra worries, and extra stress. Most of us are not even sure what self-care actually is!
The concept of self-care at its root is planfully taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It is a targeted and chosen pattern of behaviors or activities that you design for your own health. It is not about your work, your family or anything else, it is unapologetically about you. And if we are honest, self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.
Without self-care, we risk being emotionally exhausted, plagued with compassion fatigue or just plain burnt out. We no longer feel we are making a difference, we are drawn to negativity and eventually we just don’t care about what we do anymore. It can flow into your home and work environments. Think about those days when you look around and wonder if anything you do will make a difference, or you cringe when you even think about returning to work after a few days off. Those can all be symptoms of poor self-care and the beginnings of burn out.
Of course, you are probably thinking, how am I supposed to fit that in with everything else? The reality is that it is not as hard as you think. The first step is to recognize that you need to participate in self-care. When you start to feel the pull in all directions or things feel like they matter less, pay attention to what’s going on physically and mentally.
- Look at where you may be struggling. Is it because you are being pulled for extra hours and missing your gym workout? Is it because you are hitting the drive thru because you just don’t have time to cook? Figure out the area that is really pushing against your health. Then you can think about what is within your power to change. Maybe you can’t change the hours you work but you know if you take five minutes to pack your lunch the night before you will eat healthier, and eating healthier helps your mind and body. That five minutes is worth it to feel better.
- You can also enlist supporters in your self-care journey. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help. If you know that your partner would pack your lunch, then ask. If you know that you do better with phone calls to explain things you need to do at work as opposed to a text message, then ask your supervisor if he or she can do that.
- It does not have to be big changes…even small changes can help. Keeping a scented air freshener in your car that is relaxing or taking three deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed can go a long way. Set that few minutes aside just for you and no one else.
- Once you start to make small changes, evaluate how you are feeling. Is it helping? Do you need to do more? Do you need to do something differently? Make self-care a regular practice so it is part of your routine and becomes incorporated into how you take care of yourself.
Self-care takes time and practice, you can go back and redo these steps as many times as you need to. In the end, it will only lead to a healthier, happier you!
Resources for Self-Care
ActiveMinds.org – This website explores the idea of self-care and provides simple ideas to utilize daily as part of a journey to a healthier you.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]