We've all heard it. "You should take care of yourself", they say. "You can't help others unless you are helping yourself". They're not wrong. However, the notion of self-care for helping professionals too often presented as "Yeah, that's a good idea, you should do that", or as "take a bubble bath or go on a vacation". Like we don't know this already! It's one thing to talk about self-care or do nice things for ourselves on occasion, and it's a completely different matter to integrate it into our daily lives in a way that is real and meaningful, in a way that helps us create a sense of balance in our lives on the whole.
Does the idea of self care for helpers seem selfish? Are you a helping professional who finds it natural to take care of everyone around you while neglecting your own needs? This page contains practical tools and ideas that, if applied, will keep you balanced and healthy in your life and career as a helping professional.
Many of us who work in the helping professions find ourselves looking out for others to such an extent that it comes at our own detriment. We find our self-worth tied to our ability to help people. This type of motivation is not inherently negative. Again, it is a matter of finding the right balance.
Remember, if you are struggling with your own self-care and wellness, sooner or later your clients will notice this. Therefore, it's critical to consider how we can find this balance in order to be the best helpers we can be. Indeed, that’s what this page is all about.
When you practice self care on a regular basis, you find that it is the backbone of our daily and weekly routine, one that empowers you to be your best while helping others. The alternative? In the demanding field of social services, not taking care of oneself means you are on the road to burnout. In addition, by being less than our best for those we serve, we run the risk of doing harm to them as well. Fatigue, cynicism, frustration, and depression can build up, slowly enough that we don’t even notice unless we have a self-care routine that helps us monitor our ongoing well-being. The following is an excellent link for ideas about helping ourselves stay healthy in this article about compassion fatigue.
We know that our clients look to us for guidance and support. It follows that our own self care must take priority so that we can do our best work.
Much of this is a matter of habit and routine. It is vital that helpers practice habitual routines of self-care in their daily lives. This not only promotes our own health and wellness, it helps us feel better about ourselves, because we know that we are practicing something that we talk to our clients about on a regular basis.
Is it time to rearrange some of your beliefs about helping yourself and others? Many helping professionals have been through plenty of adversity themselves, and have engaged in this career as a way to give back or help others. Unless we have been taught about the fundamental value of self-care, this can quickly lead to a lack of balance in our lives.
For many, the notion of taking care of ourselves brings up guilty feelings. If you are a professional who has trouble accepting the importance of self care for helpers, it may be time for you to see a mental health counselor. You owe it to yourself, and to those you serve--most of whom are in a vulnerable situation and need you to be at your best.
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If you find yourself trying to take care of yourself, but are working in an environment in which your supervisor, your team, and/or your circumstances are toxic, it may be next to impossible to implement proper self-care. While you may have to stay in this workplace in the short run, my advice to you is GET OUT as soon as feasible!
A work setting that discourages health, wellness, and balance is one that will tear you down. Sooner or later, you'll pay a hefty price for being in such a setting. My clients who are helpers often come to me in distress over their work, hoping for some formula or method that will help them feel better and more balanced, when in fact what they ultimately decide is that they need to switch jobs to a setting where they can provide services in a healthier environment.
Helping others for a living is hard enough on its own. When the workplace is unsupportive, it becomes a recipe for unhappiness and mental/emotional overwhelm and burnout.
What do you do to remain healthy and balanced when you are triggered by a specific interaction with a client, or by the slow buildup of stress due to witnessing the suffering and trauma of others?
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