Why is Self Care Vital?

 In General

Who’s kidding who? Any social services job is not easy.

Any job that involves dealing with people on a daily basis is not easy. That would include every job from the unacknowledged street sweeper to the corporate CEO.

If you’re dealing with humans on a daily basis, you have your hands full.

We’re a tricky bunch.

We have different labels for different roles.
These may include corporate employee, teacher, healthcare worker, social worker, parent, friend.

If you are in some form of relationship with another person, feeling a sense of responsibility, compassion, empathy, or concern for them; on some level you are a care-giver.

Many people identify with other labels, but have not considered this one.
Have you ever wondered why caregivers need care?

Combining my education and over 20 years work experience in social services, integrated with all that I have learned and experienced from Asian traditions over the years; I offer my services with utmost empathy, integrity and compassion to anyone and everyone who needs tools to support themselves in their daily life.

In the health care industries we often interact and deal with people at their worst.

Generally people don’t need medication and care when they are functioning at their optimum or in their best moods.

Health care workers are usually in the direct line of fire when things get too much to bear and people explode from mental and emotional strain, or they have an emotional meltdown.

Support staff in the case of nurses, laboratory and pharmacy staff very often bear the brunt.

On many occasion I have had a patient unpack every nano-gram of fury and blame onto me.

I’ve had people demanding medication with no legal prescription because they have made the choice to abuse a substance resulting in addiction, and then unleashing violent communication on the very person trying to protect them from themselves.

So while in these cases I was disappointed by the interactions, I also recognize pain and instability behind the behaviour which may have transformed into a consistent bad habit.

It’s really REALLY not easy.

But then there are days and interactions when people share their deepest fears or truest emotions. They let you in, and allow you to experience them at their most vulnerable; taking you into their deepest Trust.

Though it may be difficult to hear and feel; these moments are to be valued more than any other drama, pretence or mask.

So who cares for the care worker?

Similar things can be said in education. How does a teacher cope with the stress of being responsible for little people, while working within a system they may or may not agree with?

It’s difficult and draining. I know; I did it for years.

In this environment for me the most difficult thing was identifying a child with additional needs, regardless of the form or label that may be attached to this.

Children are very simple. Most of their communication is non-verbal. This takes time to watch and process, which is very difficult with an entire group of children having individual needs.

For some reason the children with additional needs, or outliers, those not within the spectrum of what may be considered normal or average, are the ones who I work closely with. They melt my heart.

Generally speaking, in Asia all children are main-streamed. There is minimal or no access to special needs environments.

I’ve spent many years in countries I have no or minimal verbal language with which to communicate, so my default communication is always body language. I trust this implicitly.

Much can be understood by observation, which is exactly how children learn and communicate, if we take the time to watch them with no expectations.

The problem is that in a general classroom setting there is no time for investing in close observation and subtlety.

The expectation is to sit down, listen, memorise and recall. If this isn’t happening all hell breaks loose, voices raise and the children are to blame for being uncontrollable. Many parents are requested to get their children controllable by being medicated as young as 3 years old.

While I’ve come across this many many times in the West, I have yet to meet a medicated child in Asia.

Again, I ask the same question. Who cares for the carer?

Who does social work for social workers?

Who cares for the care worker? Who does social work for social workers? Click To Tweet

Has cognitive dissonance started creeping in? Inner conflict with a love/hate relationship for what you do?

How do we prevent burnout?

And more likely….what do we do when we’re already burned out with no other option than to keep showing up, day after day?

I’ve seen this play out again and again.

Different environments same outcome. Dealing with very high levels of stress,loss and often PTSD within social services employees is very common. Why? Because we’re human.

The bigger problem is that people either don’t realise this, or they will not admit it to themselves or others, which means they go untreated. We go numb.

People take on so much emotion from others, trying their best to nurture and support people, that they invariably become ill themselves.

I have witnessed this in many colleagues and experienced this myself with total adrenal burnout which took me 2 years to recover from and a breast lump I knew I had for over a year before I finally had surgery. I just didn’t feel that I could take time off work for myself. It seemed selfish. So I ignored it all the while having a colleague who was fighting breast cancer. Sadly after devoting her entire life to her job as a wonderful pharmacist, caring for other people, she didn’t survive.

This totally pulled the rug out from under me and has taken a few years to come to terms with.

Even though I put on a brave face, I was honestly terrified to get the results for the lump, (which was thankfully benign).

Though this experience was Extremely painful I have learned much from it. Making time to care for yourself is not selfish. It is absolutely vital. Secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are of valid concern. Nourishing yourself first is the ethical thing to do.

At the time I completed counselling training as a Hospice volunteer which was invaluable in my personal journey, as well as my professional one.

Is any of this sounding familiar to you?

The punch line to all of this is that a meditation and mindfulness practise was my saving grace for three years, in what felt like a time of insanity.

It provided a solid foundation for me to add to. I was fortunate enough to have a group of mature friends experienced in meditation. We met once a week to support each other, to share perspective and to meditate together. We met every week for three years as well as a monthly weekend retreat. This level of support was invaluable, not only for me but also for the people who I could then support better. I am, and will be forever grateful for these people.

Are you beginning to wonder whether you may be showing these signs?

Ultimately impermanence and change is the only thing we can be sure of. All we have is the present moment.

Ultimately impermanence and change is the only thing we can be sure of. Click To Tweet

What will you do with this great Life of yours?

While caring for others is important we need a balance and a solid foundation of self-care to keep moving forward and to keep seeing each situation for what it truly is. It is appropriate to cultivate and enhance your well-being. To be the best version of yourself Self Care is Vital.

Have the Life of your Time ❤

 

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Showing 21 comments
  • rebecca
    Reply

    This reminds me of the story my social worker told me when I was in rehab about how most people get into the field because of their own history with mental illness. I see more tv shows like Life in Pieces or In Treatment showing their therapists meeting with a therapist. As the program teaches, you can’t help others if you aren’t helping yourself.

    • saliyalife
      Reply

      It is often a tricky balance of maintaining yourself while also caring for others 🙂

  • Danjuma
    Reply

    this part of your post inspires and gives hope to the deep question that is hidden in this wonderful article…

    *(The punch line to all of this is that a meditation and mindfulness practise was my saving grace for three years, in what felt like a time of insanity.)*

    thank you very much for this, i will bookmark this right away..

  • Mary
    Reply

    I’m just beginning to learn self care. Removing myself from toxic environments, taking time for myself, etc. Great post!

  • Alyse
    Reply

    I found myself really relating to your article. Up until last fall, I was working as a RN, and in nursing school they really tried to stress the fact that we need to take care of ourselves. They related it to the oxygen mask on a plane metaphor: you need to put your mask on first before you can help others around you.

    • saliyalife
      Reply

      Absolutely. This analogy is perfect. We often forget though, once we’re in the environment. 🙂

  • Kristyn Schultz
    Reply

    This really speaks to me! My mother is a social worker and my father recently retired from working as a guard in a federal prison. He was formerly an undercover narcotics agent when I was a child. They both have been in and out of therapy my entire life. My dad was treated much better by his employers, though, than my mom. She is always working mandated overtime with no pay. They comp her time off but then she’s never allowed to take it. Social workers are also severely under paid for the amount of work that they do! Meditation is a really great tool and I always say it should be given as incentive for an extra 20-30 minute break in the social work field!

    • saliyalife
      Reply

      I totally agree on both your points. Social workers are indeed under paid, and yes, meditation should be given as an incentive. Employers need to be cultivating an environment of health and wellness. Even more so in these environments. Please send regards to your parents. Feel free to signup for our newsletter to stay in touch

  • Amanda | Maple Alps
    Reply

    It’s so important to take care of ourselves. If we aren’t cared for, we can’t care for others.

    • saliyalife
      Reply

      Thank you for reading 🙂 Yes, you’re right. This balance is needed. Feel free to signup for our newsletter to stay in touch

  • Hil
    Reply

    It’s hard to practice self-care when you don’t have backup to get a break. It is super important though and burnout is a very real thing.

  • Inez
    Reply

    This is something that I am really trying to focus on. I can’t believe how easy it has been to let self care go after having s baby. I am starting by focusing on my health, eating better and exercising. Eventually I’d like to get my hair done, too. ?

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