Clearly, you might. You clicked on the link based on the title alone and this is an encouraging sign. In reality you may be doing great. You may have your mediation techniques mastered and your Calm app on your phone may be your best friend. You may prioritize walks outside or talks with friends that do not focus on work. In fact, you may be just checking this blog out to confirm you know what you are doing in terms of self-care and you do it well. If any of the previous statements are true – stop reading! It is much more important for you to use this time doing something you love – something that makes you happy – something that helps you thrive.

However, if you are one of the millions of us who find self-care challenging, both in theory and practical application, this blog is for you.

Helpers sometimes struggle with helping others. It is true that you cannot light yourself on fire to help others feel warm so it is important to put down the matches. Challenges regarding self-care were around long before COVID-19 and will be even more present as the populations of the world seek to find a new equilibrium. New normal? This blog isn’t about that.

So what makes self-care so challenging. There are opinions and everyone has an opinion about opinions. So for what it is worth – here are some opinions for you to consider. Let’s break it down into internal and external factors.

Internal influences – No, this doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Stop that! There are those of us who have a hard time accepting compliments, a kindness, and a self-directed extravagance. While years of professional guidance may help uncover a reason for issues of self-worth, for purposes of this blog, the focus is on overcoming the barriers. Would you recognize these barriers in your colleagues or your family? Sure you would – you are a helper and that’s what we do. You smile and nod your head when people talk about not having time or getting to it when they can. You share encouraging words when people cry or act out in anger because they have reached a boiling point. You recommend self-care.

Remember:

  • You can’t provide the best help to others if you are not at your best.
  • Resist the tendency to opt out.
  • Compartmentalize and then ceremoniously reject the feelings of guilt and judgement.
  • Self-care is individualized. What is therapeutic to one person may feel like punishment to another – choose what is right for you.

External influences – The David Bowie and Queen Song “Under Pressure” may have never been more relevant. One relevant line is – It’s the terror of knowing what the world is all about, watching some good friends screaming “Let me out!” The mind-numbing base throughout the song resembles the pressure all helpers can feel at various times. Whether it is addressing services to youth and families or addressing the needs of your own family – the pressure can be unrelenting. If you are fortunate enough to still be working, you work as hard as you can to make a positive difference. If you are temporarily laid off or have lost your job – you are still working as hard as you can to make a positive difference. And then, someone writes a blog and asks you to take better care of yourself.

Remember:

  • Stress and trauma create real physical distress that can alter your health trajectory.
  • Expressing what is going on inside is a valid way of manifesting change on the outside. Share your stressors with your family, your employer, your pets, your journal. Whatever you feel safe doing – do it.
  • Create or engage in platforms where others are celebrating life. It is ok to avoid the news for a day or two – someone will call you if you are missing something big.
  • Perhaps schedule one staff meeting that is only about sharing thoughts and emotional reactions and allow each person to share to the degree which is comfortable and for goodness sake – please stop forcing people to have their camera on. Forced smiles are rarely relaxing.
  • As tough as things are in our world – it is still a beautiful world filled with hope, life, and compassion. You will absolutely see what you are looking for.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we will be posting a follow-up blog specific to the self-identified needs of young leaders as they strive to embrace self-care as one way to address challenges.

This blog includes a link to some resources for your consideration in all of your spare time. If it is stressful to think of how you will find time to review more resources – then don’t. There is control in self-care. You choose the time, the place, and the method. No judgement.

If the only thing you did today is wake-up and breathe – that’s good enough.

Resources:

The NSPN Professional Development self-care tips and worksheet can be downloaded here: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/images/NSPN/NSPN%20Self%20Care%20Tip%20Sheet.pdf (https://bit.ly/3bd7xoH)

The 45 self-care tips can be downloaded here: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/images/NSPN/45%20Self-Care%20Tips.pdf (https://bit.ly/2yl7dW4)