6 Useful Tips to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

People these days are often so busy with work and their responsibilities that sometimes they forget to take care of their mental and physical health. 

However, if you keep this up, you risk your chances of burning out and developing certain illnesses that may be hard to treat later on. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your mind and body stay in top condition, especially during these troubling times when the world is currently under a global health crisis. 

Apart from avoiding the development of serious ailments and conditions, one of the benefits of keeping yourself strong and healthy includes saving yourself the trouble of paying for expensive hospital and doctors’ fees. 

With this in mind, you can do more activities while prolonging your life expectancy in the process. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that you stay healthy. 

De-Stress

Stress can come from an abundance of factors that you face in your everyday life. If you do not find ways to remove stress from your body, it can contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Luckily, there are many ways you can try to de-stress, such as listening to relaxing music, lighting a scented candle, meditating every night, or even treating yourself to a massage. 

Exercise regularly

Breaking a sweat regularly keeps your body in good shape and allows you keep your muscles from going stiff. At the same time, you can maintain a healthy weight range and boost your strength, which can affect your overall appearance as you age. 

Watch your diet 

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that your body stays healthy and gains the necessary nutrients to function properly. Eating a variety of foods that are right in minerals and vitamins can be beneficial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing genetic illnesses such as diabetes. 

Take a break

Overworking yourself will do you no good and only put your health at risk. Always remember to take a few short breaks during the day to refresh your mind and stretch out your body. By doing so, you also allow yourself to perform better and reduce the amount of time you need to recover at the end of your shift. 

Get checked 

Apart from maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly, make it a habit to regularly get yourself checked out by your doctor. While you may feel fine, this is a good way to know if your body has developed any early signs of complications that can be prevented quickly. In most cases, going for a check-up annually or bi-annually is recommended. 

Talk to a counselor

Keeping yourself mentally healthy is another way to look out for yourself and prevent problems from escalating. When certain situations seem to be too difficult for you to handle, seek out a professional counselor to talk to about your concerns and gain guidance on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety. 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The majority of people today find that regularly keeping up with an exercise routine and a balanced diet is too tedious. In most cases, people succumb to the convenience of modern-day creations such as instant-cooked foods filled with unhealthy preservatives while spending most of the day sitting down on the couch glued to the television or our phones. 

If you do not change your lifestyle into a healthier one, you risk major consequences later on in life that you may regret. Never wait until a doctor tells you that you need to exercise more and keep a good diet. Start taking care of your health today. 

How to Deal with Case-Overload as a Social Worker and Carer

If you are a social worker, you probably know better than anyone just how much pressure has been put on professionals since the Covid-19 crisis began. It appears that more than 70% of children’s social workers are struggling with caseloads since the pandemic outbreak according to recent data.

Only 4% said their workload was ‘comfortably manageable’, whilst 24% said it was ‘mostly manageable’.
These statistics make it clear that to the vast majority, the work given to social workers is unmanageable and unrealistic. On top of this, workers are met with additional hardships such as minimal PPE (personal protective equipment) and a lack of clarity from governments about guidelines for safe practice during the outbreak.

Has the Rise in Social Workers Made it Easier?

Believe it or not, according to government data, September 2019 saw the highest record of children’s social workers in the UK. The number of agency workers also grew by 10% over this period. You would think with this surge in employment, there would be an ease on the caseloads given to professionals. However, recent feedback says otherwise.

With more and more investment going into the social work field, influential figures are beginning to realize the vital role they play in supporting both young people and families throughout the pandemic.

So, why then does it continue to be such a stressful area with both high turnovers and increasing amounts of staff going off sick due to burnout?

Common Threats to Social Workers

After finishing the arduous and complex training to become a fully qualified social worker, many are unprepared for the level of exhaustion and work expected of them. This is ironic, as the last thing you want is to make helping others such a priority that your own mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing takes the hit.

This leads to what many call burnout, which unfortunately is a commonly used phrase for those in social work.

What is burnout exactly? It’s the process of struggling to operate, becoming more closed from input, increasingly resigned, irritable, and acquiring a tendency to become angry easily. Sadly, when a social worker reaches this stage, they may have to take extensive time off, or even worse are forced to resign or get fired.

On top of this, the high expectations required alongside poor supervision or mentorship given to social workers makes it difficult to withhold the demanding role and the emotional exhaustion it brings.

Moreover, self-care is a substantial element to burnout prevention and should be taken seriously by all those working in areas that can be emotionally and mentally draining.

Ways to Prioritize Self-care as a Social Worker

To avoid overload and burnout completely, researchers have found that it is particularly helpful to prevent things such as compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary traumatic stress.

By taking self-care seriously, professionals can assess their own needs and ensure they are being met without feeling guilty. From finding supportive mentors, a positive peer group, pursuing personal goals and hobbies to relaxation, there’s plenty social workers can do to increase their wellbeing. Here are some ideas:

Prioritize your comfort in and out of work

Try to eat lunch at your desk as little as possible, invest in a comfortable chair, fill your office or desk with your favorite plants that refresh your spirits. If it helps to play relaxing music that puts your mind at ease while you type up reports, then that is what you need to do.

Get into healthy routines

Conditioning your mind and body to carry out habitual activities that ground and center you are a crucial part of self-care. Before reaching the office for example, can you find one hour to go to the gym? Are you a church-goer who finds peace from worship? If so maybe you can schedule a time to visit after your day is finished. It depends on what self-care strategies work for you personally. Finding these and sticking to them will help prevent burnout.

Seek support

Within the workplace, there should be access to mentorship or advice you can seek out. Also, ensure you surround yourself with a peer group that you feel comfortable opening up to. Learn to check in with each other and personally debrief after an intense case to process what happened and figure out your next steps.

As we can see, social work is never easy, and unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before things become balanced for the majority of professionals. However, taking personal ownership over your self-care is fundamental if you want to avoid burnout and continue serving your community as a successful social worker.

How Health & Fitness Businesses Are Flexing Their Muscles For Customers Right Now

We’re all public health nerds now, and many of us have stepped up our games when it comes to washing our hands and sanitizing surfaces at home. With all the added stressors that come along with global pandemics, it can be easy to let health and fitness goals slip.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has even issued guidance encouraging people to stay on top of their physical wellness during the crisis.

Whether you’re running and walking your favorite local trails or jumping into virtual fitness classes and yoga sessions, there’s a lot you can do to take advantage of that extra time you like to have at home these days.

How Health & Fitness Companies Have Stepped Up During The Crisis

The good news about those health and fitness goals: You’re not alone.

Many health and fitness companies have pivoted and are now offering free or low-cost digital services to customers. It’s now easier than ever before to get your virtual workout on.

Here are a few of the health and fitness providers dishing out new offerings during the pandemic:

Down Dog

This very well-rounded digital fitness company has made all of its apps completely free for new users until June 1st. You don’t even need a credit card to sign-up.

If yoga is your scene, check out Down Dog and Yoga for Beginners.

If you’re in the market for a more intense workout, check out free offerings from Barre and HIIT to 7 Minute Workout.

The folks at Down Dog are even going a step further to give students and teachers (K-12 and college) free access until July 1st. Just register your school’s domain here.

Last but certainly not least, Down Dog has given free access to all healthcare professionals until July 1st as well. Healthcare workers just need to go here to register using their work domain.

Peloton

If hitting the local bike trails isn’t an option, Peloton offers a virtual option. The very popular app is now offering free 90-day subscriptions to its at-home workout app.  

Unfortunately, a fancy new bike is not included.

Balance

There’s never been a better time to find your zen. If meditation is your thing, check out the Balance app. They’re offering a 1-year free subscription right now. Sometimes finding a quiet spot and stepping away from the news is just what the doctor ordered.

The Big Brands: Under Armour, Nike, Lululemon, and REI

The bigger athletic brands are arguably a bit more resilient. They’ve got the capital to weather this storm.

How they choose to manage through the crisis speaks volumes, though. Protecting the health of customers and workers becomes paramount. Here’s how they’ve responded:

  • Under Armour has temporarily closed stores while continuing to pay employees.
  • Nike has closed stores and continues to pay workers’ full wages during closure. The company is also offering remote work for non-store employees.
  • Lululemon has closed all of its North American and European stores and their employees will continue to be paid.
  • REI has closed its stores and will continue to pay all of its employees. The REI blog also offers a wide array of DIY and #stayathome tips for families and outdoor enthusiasts to make the most of isolation.

10 Gyms And Fitness Studios With Free Offerings

While many studios and gyms that deliver on-site fitness classes and personal training have been particularly hard hit, they’re also working to keep people engaged and connected to their physical health goals.

From free classes and workouts to streaming sessions on major social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, these brands are tossing out free digital fitness deals:

  1. YMCA: 95 free virtual workouts
  2. Planet Fitness: Free, streamed Facebook classes
  3. Blink Fitness: Facebook Live sessions weekdays at 8 a.m. ET
  4. Orangetheory: New 30-minute workout video each day
  5. 305 Fitness: Cardio dance live streams twice daily on YouTube
  6. Gold’s Gym: Variety of free digital workouts
  7. Retro Fitness: Free daily Facebook Live stream classes weekdays at 6 p.m.
  8. Life Time: Free workout classes to stream for free with more added daily
  9. Barry’s Bootcamp: 20-minute bodyweight workouts live on Instagram for free
  10. CorePower Yoga: Free access to yoga and meditation classes

That’s certainly enough to keep even the fittest among us busy for a while.

Why Health & Fitness Companies Are Changing How They Operate

Along with the WHO, the American College of Sports Medicine knows a thing or two about public health.

They recommend keeping up and even bolstering physical fitness regimens to ensure that one’s immune system is performing at peak strength. Of course, a virus is a virus and this doesn’t make one immune to it. 

But at the very least staying fit and active will keep your spirits up and help you fight off the impact of stress during the crisis. The health and fitness companies listed above can help with that in many ways.

Take advantage of those offers out there and stay healthy!

Making Your Mental Health a Priority in 2020

As we begin a new decade, 2020 is testing the mental health of humanity. After the world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant to start the new year,  we are now in the midst of a global corona virus pandemic with looming public health and economic consequences so severe experts are unable to quantify its impact. With social distancing, stay at home orders, and a host of economic challenges, humanity’s resolve is being stretched past our normal limits. Maybe you made a list of resolutions or life changes you wanted to make in 2020. But, one the is for sure, collectively we must be more diligent in protecting our mental health and develop coping mechanisms to help us endure these turbulent times. 

Based on surveying individuals, it was estimated that, in 2018, 19.1 percent of Americans 18 years old and up had a mental illness in the last year. Maybe you have a mental illness, maybe you don’t. Either way, your mental health is important. So what are some practical things you can work on?

Get sufficient sleep.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveys that a person might have an elevated likelihood of poor mental health, some physical health problems, and dying prematurely if the person regularly doesn’t sleep for sufficient time. They indicate that it is advised for individuals ages 18 to 60 to sleep at least 7 hours a night.

If you’re not making enough time for sleep, now is the time to start. As hard as it may be, tell yourself you’ll finish that television show or those household chores tomorrow.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are things you can try. Commit yourself to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends). Don’t drink too much caffeine, especially later in the day. Stop using devices that produce blue light (like your smartphone, laptop, and television) at least an hour before bed. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises.

Exercise.

One of the many reasons to exercise is that it might improve your mental health. Try to find something that you’ll enjoy, so you’ll actually stick with exercising. You might decide to start regularly playing a sport with friends, going to a fitness class, or enthusiastically dancing to some of your favorite music. 

If you have any health conditions that might be made worse by exercising, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider first. Together you can develop a plan that is right for you.

Plan ways to reduce stress.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conveys that being stressed long-term could be detrimental: it might play a part in mental and physical illnesses, for instance anxiety, heart disease, and depression. Some things that stress us out are beyond our control. A family member might fall ill or a car might suddenly break down. However, some stressful situations can be avoided with better planning. 

If you find it stressful to do all of your household cleaning on Saturday, make time to do a little bit at a time during the week. If you are stressed as soon as you start reading those class syllabi, sit down with a planner and figure out when you will allot time to work on each thing you need to do (maybe you can start working on that final paper a little earlier so you then have time to focus on studying for exams). Yes, it takes some upfront time investment to plan, and it takes commitment to stick to the plan. However, it might help you feel less stressed (and maybe you’ll do better on those exams too!).

Another important thing to plan? Time to do things that you enjoy. Maybe its hiking or crafting or reading. Determine when you are going to do these things, whether it’s planning to do a specific activity or simply planning to do something enjoyable. Make sure it’s a plan that’s reasonable for your life, and then stick to it.

What about those things that are out of your control, or times when you’re working on what is in your control but still stressed? Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness, might be helpful for you. Research how to do these things, and practice them when you are not feeling stressed.

Take care of your physical health.

Mental health and physical health are connected. Physical health conditions can affect a person’s mental health. For instance, hypothyroidism might make a person feel depressed, and hyperthyroidism might make a person feel anxious. Low vitamin D levels could contribute to feeling depressed.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a healthcare provider for a physical, schedule one now. Even if you feel good physically and mentally, a healthcare provider might detect a health concern before it starts causing issues, and some conditions are easily treatable.

Assess your substance use.

For persons who don’t consume alcohol, beginning is not advised by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. If a person is going to drink and is old enough to do so legally, for men they advise two drinks or less a day and for women they advise one drink or less a day.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provides limits for “low-risk” drinking. Low-risk drinking is drinking 7 or fewer drinks in a week as well as drinking 3 or fewer in a day for women. For men, it’s drinking 14 or fewer drinks in a week as well as 4 or fewer in a day. It is recommended that men older than 65 do not exceed 7 drinks a week and 3 a day. For some individuals, it is recommended to not drink at all.

If you are drinking more than these limits, it’s time to reduce how much you drink or quit drinking entirely. However, NIAAA conveys that you shouldn’t try to quit drinking on your own if you might have a dependence on alcohol, as withdrawal could be deadly. Talk with a healthcare provider if you think you might be dependent.

If you are using any illegal substances or misusing any medications, talk with a healthcare provider. It’s important to stop using/misusing these, but stopping without supervision may be dangerous, depending on the substance and other factors.

Seek help.

If you think you might have a mental illness, reach out for help. You can talk with your primary care provider or schedule an appointment with a mental healthcare provider, such as a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner.

A healthcare provider can talk to you about your symptoms and work with you to develop a plan. Therapy and/or medication might be beneficial for you. 

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

SWHELPER Announces Its Second Annual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit

On March 19th thru March 22nd, SWHELPER will be hosting the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit which is an all online digital conference. You can attend the conference from any place in the world with an internet connection. The conference themes will focus on advocacy, trauma-informed care, self-care and healing, and solutions.

Are you feeling unmotivated or uninspired? Maybe you need some professional nourishment to broaden your perspective or add tools to your toolbox for future career growth. The Global Social Welfare Digital Summit aims to extend learning to a global classroom by allowing you to connect with helping professionals around the world. Additionally, you may be eligible for up 10 continuing education credits (CEUs).

Early Bird Tickets went on sale January 1st at 50% off the regular price. The Four Day Education Pass regularly $55 is available at $25. For government employees, the four day pass is $49 and $69 for private and nonprofit. All passes come with 1 year access to view all the sessions on your schedule.

Click here and Use coupon code 4DAYSWH to get an additional 10% off of early bird pricing. Early Bird pricing ends February 8th, 2019. You can also view the session agenda before purchasing your ticket.

Some of the presentations include:

  • Twitter – Jerrel Peterson, MSW: From Micro to Macro Leveraging Research, Data, and Ethics for Social Impact
  • Facebook – Avani Parehk: Tech and Movement Building…How to Hold Space in the Digital Age
  • USC – Melissa Singh: Trauma Informed Interview Coaching for Global Environments
  • Columbia University – Matthea Marquart: Helping the Helpers Online Self-Care Technique

Some of our sponsors include the International of Association for Schools of Social Work, International Council for Social Work, Network for Social Work Managers, and the National Organization for Human Services.

For more information visit, https://www.globalsocialwelfaresummit.com.

Colin Kaepernick and How Self Care Must Go Pro

For years, permanently injured players have been left to figure out how they will financially support their families and how they will carry on with their lives after committing years to football. Currently, the NFL is settling numerous lawsuits from former players who claim that their disabilities resulted from injuries on the field. But that’s not the only controversy stirring in the NFL.

In Fall of 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. At the time, many believed the media would quickly move on to another more trendy story. Afterall, he wasn’t chanting or picketing. He was simply kneeling. But as weeks passed, white anger slowly unveiled itself, and patriotism took the main stage. Critics saw Kaepernick’s quiet gesture as a radical protest. Yet, he still knelt game after game.

Kaepernick proved his physical ability early in his professional career by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. At that time the public didn’t know that Kaepernick had a metal rod placed in his left leg prior to his rookie year. Still, he attended and did well in practices. But in 2015, he injured his left shoulder and would later report injuries to his thumb and knee.

Working with such disabilities would prove challenging to most people, particularly for professional athletes who are required to demonstrate physical grit day after day. When Kaepernick’s scoring record took a hit, questions arose as to whether he was worth his contract. But Kaepernick saw himself as more than just damaged goods. He had something else to offer: a perspective on the value of black lives in America.

By kneeling, Kaepernick demonstrated ownership of his body, a black body that has been endangered for a time that is too long to measure. That is a radical act of self-care. The concept of self-care, for a long time, was viewed as a luxury accessible to an elite few. And, self-care is publicly declaring that your life matters beyond what your performance on the football field.

In a recent interview, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said he thinks that Kaepernick was released because he’s not a great player, not because he didn’t stand for the anthem. He added that from the perspective of a team owner, Kaepernick isn’t worth the distraction if he can’t play well. However, star quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton came out in support of Kaepernick. Both stated he should be starting in the NFL, but he isn’t due to his protest of the national anthem.

I’d argue that even when athletes play well, there is a general discomfort with them expressing resistance to racism. They usually are told to stick to the game, proving once again that a working, non-resistant black body is most favorable (and profitable) in this society.

The NFL has a longstanding history of utilizing bodies for financial gain, in particular, black bodies. It is a marketplace for bodies. Bodies that can be negotiated and sold and traded in the name of increasing revenue. I hear sports fans say often that certain teams don’t win because the owners ‘don’t want to spend the money’. However, Kaepernick was recently released from his contract, something for which he seemed prepared.

According to the New York Times, NFL players are becoming permanently disabled after suffering head traumas. Those injuries have caused concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now, some players’ wives have created at least one space, in the form of a private Facebook group, where they share their experiences and gain strength from each other as they become caregivers and advocates for men who once were larger than life. I believe that this generation of athletes will begin to demand more than money for play. They will demand the right to safety and self-care, and they will begin to plan for their legacies and quality of life off the field.

Athletes are human and imperfect. For many, they are heroes which must be a compliment, but it must also be a lot of pressure. This next generation of athletes will need to employ a high degree of self-care if they want to have a productive career and higher quality life after retirement.

Athletes inspire us because of their consistency and their unmatched desire to win. I’ve never met an athlete who thought second place was good enough. They want to be the best. Their drive is a metaphor for how many of us want to live our best lives.

Self-Care Is Easy To Fit In A Busy Schedule

Zumba Class

Every day when you wake up, you have to face the world again. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can seem never-ending from getting your kids ready for school, getting off to work, meeting deadlines or staying late, picking up your children from school, PTA’s, and extra curricular activities. Not to mention playing Superman or Superwoman at work in an effort to guide your client as they battle day-to-day difficulties.

When you finally get home tired with aching muscles, dinner still needs to be made, kids still need help with their homework, or maybe you have noisy roommates who have friends over, perfect timing Jack and Jill. Your days are like a busy highway, and you need some time where your highway has less congestion even if it is just for a few hours.

Self-care seems impossible at times with so many work and family responsibilities in our every day lives. It seems more and more people are balancing family, career, school and/or another part-time job which leaves very limited to no time to take care of themselves. Without self-care, the outcome will only result in burnout and total exhaustion. This can be avoided, but why is it so hard to fit self-care into our schedule?

According to a Huffington Post article, “Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and longer term health and well-being.”  It’s important to understand that self-care is not always taking a vacation to a tropical island or taking a week cruise. Self-care can be simple everyday activities which can help you maintain a healthy work life balance, and here are few self-care ideas you may have never thought about:

Sleep

During the night-time our bodies need sleep, and while we are sleeping our bodies recover from being tired.  When we are tired, our body does not function as well as it should, and our mood appears different from our normal usual self. Lack of sleep can cause us to feel overworked, moody, sluggish, angry, stressed and forgetful. I recommend going to bed early three nights a week for at least 8 hours of sleep, and you will begin to feel better. Of course, there is the second option called power napping.

Exercise

I am quite sure many of you did not think of exercise as a form of self-care rather mostly to enhance appearance. However, many people go for walks, jogs, meditation and the big one known as the gym in order to help alleviate stress. You are not obligated to exercise every day, but at least three days minimum a week, although five days sounds better.  Don’t forget, you can always take a Zumba, dance or soul cycle class or two. Exercise can be your outlet to release stress.

Art

Another great way to spend quality self-care is to paint a room in your house or apartment or attend a wine and painting events. Remember, there is always the museum where the prices are right, also known as free entry.

Dinner and drinks

Book your reservation or simply grab dinner with a group of friends, or significant other at home. Play trivia night, do taco Tuesday’s at home, have a wine night with the girls, sports night with the boys or even have a mixed crowd for an evening of cooking and wine. Dinner and drinks are so easy to arrange, and it is a great way to spend time with friends or a companion with laughter and socializing.

Book a flight or cruise

OK, now you are to take a flight to the destination you have been dreaming about all year, take a cruise on the Atlantic or do both if you can afford it.  Take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and your city, and enjoy the warm weather and sandy beaches of Jamaica, the history of Cuba, skiing in Switzerland, and the delicious foods Italy has to offer.  You can go anywhere in the world that your heart desires, or maybe take a drive.

But, start giving yourself some care.

Need to Have Some Fun: How to Throw a Perfect Game of Thrones Party

Even though Winter is coming, the hit television series Game of Thrones still provides an awesome party theme. We all work hard and need to get away from the pressures of our everyday work load. Whether it’s a birthday or friendly get-together, here’s how to throw the perfect Game of Thrones party.

Place Every Partygoer in a House

  • No Game of Thrones party is complete without some of the most well-known houses in attendance. Assign a house to every party attendant. Think carefully and try to match people to the houses that best suit them. However, be careful because some people might not take too kindly to being assigned certain houses such as Lannister or Florent.

Create Some Awesome Invitations

  • Once assigning everyone a house, it’s time to create the invitations. Find a suitable medieval font online, type and print your invitations, then use some black tea bags (soaked in warm water) to give them an aged look. Finally, fold your invitations in order to seal them. Unfortunately, not everyone has hot wax and a signet ring available to complete the final step,  but don’t worry because stickers or printed paper with a house seal on them will work just as well.

The Perfect Feast

  • Normal party food is a huge no-no when it comes to throwing a Game of Thrones party. Instead, you should try your hardest to provide food that would be eaten in medieval times. This doesn’t mean you should look for some disgusting medieval dishes because the food still needs to be tasty. Games of Thrones party staples include hot pies and sausages; however, if you’re stuck for ideas, there are plenty of Game of Thrones recipe guides available both online and in book form for your reference.

Create A Game of Thrones Playlist

  • Instead of creating a playlist filled with the latest big hits and party tunes, you should create a Game of Thrones playlist. Obviously, the playlist must include the official Game of Thrones theme song, but it should also include various pieces of medieval-style music.

Decorate Your House

  • You can have so much fun decorating your house for a Game of Thrones theme party. Hang banners from the walls or use them as placemats or coasters. Printing out the official maps or making your own bunting are other good ideas.

Play Some Suitable Games

  • There are plenty of games that you can play when throwing a Game of Thrones party. A Game of Thrones quiz is a great idea – maybe Game of Thrones bingo? You could also purchase official Games of Thrones playing cards and board games.

Enjoy The Party

Follow all of this advice, and you can be assured that your Game of Thrones party will turn out perfectly. Enjoy the party!

Let’s Talk About Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma

Helping professionals do an excellent job of breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness. However, when we look in the mirror, we are not quite as good at applying those same stigma-fighting and self-compassion principles. There is a tendency for helpers to place the needs of others above their own needs.

We will fight incredibly hard to help others enjoy peace, health, and their human rights, but in order to do so we often compromise our own peace, health, and human rights. We spend our working days carefully listening to the needs of others, deaf to the screams of our own hearts and bodies. Ashamed of the humanness that has prevented us from living up to the SuperHero image of helping professionals, we are wary of sharing our own stories.

Unwilling to share our vulnerable selves, the stories we do release for public consumption are often so heavily edited the end result resembles little more than a “once upon a time” fairytale. Let’s not contribute to the all-too-common fairytales about what it’s like to work as a helping professional. Instead, let’s talk about how it really feels to face the darkest corners of human life (and death).

Let’s talk about burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Vicarious Trauma.

If we don’t, they will become the bogeymen that consume us. My own story of Vicarious Trauma began suddenly in 2006 when I was working as a Child Protection Officer. My ears and eyes were filled with the sounds and images of broken babies. My hands were filled with paperwork and my head was too full, too busy, to do anything except meet the deadlines that came thick and fast from all directions. The bogeyman that bit into me refused to let go and evolved into a full-blown eating disorder.

From 2008 to 2011, I was hospitalised twice and worked hard to heal my body. From 2012 to 2016, I worked hard to find the words I’d buried, match them with feelings, piece it all together and also work up the courage to share my precious story with strangers.

Without a doubt, the research and writing I undertook during those four years were the most agonising and significant steps I took toward recovery. I began by researching anorexia. Up until my mid twenties, I’d enjoyed healthy eating patterns and body image. How was it possible for such a person to suddenly stop eating? I started with the book “Eating Disorders in Adult Women” (edited by Julian Fuchs, 2008) and moved on to the wealth of research from Steven Levenkron.

There were many references to eating disorders stemming from Trauma, but I rejected the theory that my eating disorder was the result of this. Trauma was, I told myself, something that happened to survivors of war or whose lives had been threatened under the most horrific of circumstances. I refused to minimise the awfulness of their experience by including myself within their number.

Perhaps what happened to me was “just burnout”. I pulled out Christina Maslach and referred to her extensive research on the topic. Her descriptions of burnout were familiar but didn’t quite fit my symptoms. Again, there were plenty of references to Trauma. Fine. I piled my bedside table with all the classics on Trauma – Judith Herman, Peter Levine, Babette Rothschild – never believing I’d find myself living within their pages. I did. I knew about Trauma, of course. I’d learned the basics at university and had applied the theories when working with clients who’d experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood abuse.

Reading these books was a completely different experience and everything I thought I knew about Trauma was turned on its head. I read the theories as if I were reading them for the first time. Now, I didn’t just understand the words, I felt them and knew them to be true. Since releasing “Selfless: a social worker’s own story of trauma and recovery” I’ve been privileged to hear many people tell me about their own experiences of burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Trauma.

It’s been wonderful to be part of this burgeoning web of storytelling and it has strengthened me more than I ever thought possible. It’s my dearest wish that my book will start a conversation about how to improve the support we provide to our frontline helping professionals. There is so much more that can be done. Let’s show how much value we place on the essential services they provide.

Signs That Show Your Workout Is Not Enough

If you’re not getting any result after spending a lot of time in the gym, you need to check your fitness routine thoroughly and try to find out the reason that is mainly responsible for the delay. Let us discuss some important signs that show why your workout is not enough:

Despite The Hard Work Out You Don’t Sweat

After doing a set of exercises, you need to take a rest and let your sweat out of your body. Your body should break a sweat after a set of squats or some yoga poses, if not then there’s something went wrong during the exercise.

You Are Still Inflexible After Your Workouts

Maybe you are doing the workouts in a regular manner, but one thing you need to keep in your mind that the workouts relate with your body but not your mind. It’s all about how fast you’re able to move your body while doing the exercise because that only brings you the flexibility in your body. Try to move your body as fast as your mind goes so that your body and mind can run parallel and you feel flexible after some days of workouts. You can take proteins to increase your stamina level.

You Are Not Losing Any Weight

If you’re unable to burn your fat or not losing weight after the workouts, you need to check your diet routine and if necessary, make some changes in it. If your body composition is not getting changed after the workouts, it means you’re not doing it in the way it should be. Add some weights or do the workouts in a high intensity rather than the previous so that you can able to build your muscles and burn fat. Rowing machine workout gives you a full-body workout and maximizes your calorie burn. 

You Feel Like Doing Some More Workouts At The End

After the regular session of exercise, if you feel like doing some more workouts at the end, we suggest just go for it as it will help you to determine your saturation period. Add some free weights just like 2 to 4 pounds and try beyond your comfort level as it will help you to burn more calories and brings you the results faster. Don’t let yourself down if you’re unable to do more workouts, just keep trying all the time and one day you will find yourself comfortable doing some more pushups or squats.

Your Body Doesn’t Feel Sore The Next Day

It is quite natural to feel a little sore after 24 hours from your last workout session. If it is not happening to you then probable chances are that your workout was not up to that mark to stimulate those muscles. Some microscopic damage occurs to our muscles when we do some hard work or regular workouts. The muscles then try to repair and adapt themselves and grow stronger that will lead you to undergo a little discomfort.

You Are Not Getting Better At The Exercises Even After Regular Workouts

You might be doing something wrong during your regular exercise like adopting a bad posture or holding your body in a single position for a long time that will create a bad impact on the output. Trust yourself not your ego and keep trying to do more workouts with continuous body movement and lifting of knees properly. There is no doubt that you will get better results if you’re exercising in a proper manner on a daily basis. Try to maintain good postures or follow your gym instructor for the better output.

The best you can do is stick to a regular fitness routine of workout and after a month or fortnightly, check the progress you have made. Men usually gain about say 2 pounds after a month due to the high testosterone levels, while women gain slowly say about a pound a month. So that’s not to say if you don’t see results after a month you should give up. It should be a slow progression if you’re doing it the right way, but a progression nonetheless.

5 Practical Ways to Take Better Care of Our Mental Health

Though most of us recognize the benefits of investing time and effort on physical health and fitness, this is hardly the case when it comes to mental health. Admittedly, I too failed to acknowledge its importance but it all changed years ago when I found myself working for a non-profit organization which focuses on providing mental health support.

Through this experience, I learned firsthand that maintaining a good state of mental health is as crucial if not more – as maintaining our physical health.

When it comes to mental health illnesses, prevention is certainly better than cure as they can be difficult and very costly to treat. More importantly, having good mental health not only prevents us from developing mental health issues, it also enhances our ability to create and live out our best lives. It has been scientifically proven that those who are emotionally healthy tend to be more resilient, confident and able to handle life’s challenges with a more positive attitude.

Luckily, taking care of and improving our mental health is hardly rocket science. When given attention on a regular basis, it can actually be quite easy! Here, I’ll highlight five simple tips that I’ve personally found to be helpful in improving overall psychological health and well-being:

1. Set Aside Some ‘Me’ Time

With so much on our plate, we often find ourselves ended up putting our own needs on the back burner. In order to have a healthier state of mind, we need to end this habit and pay more attention to our needs. If this is something that you struggle with, know that self-care is not selfish. Remember that when you tend to your own needs first, you are more likely to be able to offer your best self to others as a result.

Start by making a commitment to do something you enjoy a few times a week. Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk in the park, drawing yourself a bubble bath, reading, or playing with your pet, dedicating some time to indulge in something that gives you joy is a must in maintaining a good state of emotional health and well-being.

2. Practice Meditation

As unbelievable as it sounds, setting aside at least 10 minutes to meditate each day can do wonders for your mental state. Think of daily meditation as an exercise for our brain that offers an abundance of benefits including improved focus, reduced levels of stress, and anxiety as well as mental health maintenance.

In fact, a study done by Harvard Researchersat Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that by meditating only for 8 weeks, participants were able to significantly changed the brain’s gray matter, a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information and providing nutrients and energy to neurons. Dr. Britta Holzel, who was part of the team that conducted the study, explained: “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation; we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”

3. Express Gratitude

Acknowledging our appreciation for the things that we already have enabled us to focus on the good that already exists in our lives and this creates feelings of joy. Appreciation is potent to fight off anxiety and worry because when we feel joy, we feel more excitement and optimism for life.

We can express our gratitude by reading our list of “Thank You’s” out loud before starting out our day every morning, writing it in a gratitude journal and/or simply by quietly expressing gratitude for things and people we are thankful for as we go about our day.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

Countless research found that we are able to best perform and are most energized when we get adequate sleep on a daily basis. Though the exact amount of sleep one needs differfrom one person to another, adults generally need about 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function optimally and be in a prime state of mind to make important decisions.

If you currently only get about half of the recommended amount of sleep, it’s helpful to start by adding 30 minutes to your normal sleep hours and gradually increase it. Soon enough, you’ll be getting plenty of sleep and be more ready to tackle whatever obstacles life throws at you.

5. Share Your Story

Going through tough times? Keeping it bottled up can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. So, it’s best to let it out and share your story.

Though many of us find it difficult to share our hardships with others, keep in mind that everyone faces challenges and they may just be able to relate to your experience as well as offer a shoulder to lean on. More importantly, sharing our innermost thoughts to someone we trust and care about, acknowledges that we trust them enough to be vulnerable and often times, ends up bringing the relationship closer.

That said, if you are not ready to divulge your feelings and emotions to loved ones, I recommend for you to seek out a licensed mental health professional (a counselor/therapist/psychologist) and make an appointment. Alternatively, you can also call a mental health support hotline available in your area that will give you some support as well as the comforting reassurance that you’re not alone.

 

Self Care is a Requirement

Ensuring the self care of social work staff is an organisational requirement. No matter which way you look at it, social work organisations are required to look out for the safety and wellbeing of their staff. It is a basic occupational health and safety requirement, and it is also one many organisations are failing.

Every day we meet with social workers who are burning out. Caseloads are too high and ever more complex, staff are working longer hours some even without pay and to top it off we are having to defend our jobs everywhere. Many staff feel that they can’t take holidays and many managers would prefer if they didn’t. Taking a mental health day is getting harder and of course there is a form to fill out. In short, our sector is feeling the increasing strain brought about by the neoliberalist agenda.

So what’s the solution? Revolution! As a sector we need to stop blindly following in the ways which have got us in this position. We need to find the difference. Start by making sure the organisation you work for have clear policies about staff care. If they don’t lobby for them. Put self care in your work plan. Bring it up in supervision sessions. Take your allocated holidays and advocate for more, one great organisation we know gives staff a week for reflection. Bring self care up at staff meetings.

According to the article Transforming Compassion Fatigue into Compassion Satisfaction: Top 12 Self-Care Tips for Helpers:

Dr Charles Figley, world renowned trauma expert and pioneer researcher in the field of helper burnout has called compassion fatigue a “disorder that affects those who do their work well” (1995) It is characterized by deep emotional and physical exhaustion, symptoms resembling depression and PTSD and by a shift in the helper’s sense of hope and optimism about the future and the value of their work.

The level of compassion fatigue a helper experiences can ebb and flow from one day to the next, and even very healthy helpers with optimal life/work balance and self care strategies can experience a higher than normal level of compassion fatigue when they are overloaded, are working with a lot of traumatic content, or find their case load suddenly heavy with clients who are all chronically in crisis.

Compassion fatigue can strike the most caring and dedicated nurses, social workers, physicians and personal support workers alike. These changes can affect both their personal and professional lives with symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, intrusive imagery, loss of hope, exhaustion and irritability. It can also lead to profound shifts in the way helpers view the world and their loved ones. Additionally, helpers may become dispirited and increasingly cynical at work, they may make clinical errors, violate client boundaries, lose a respectful stance towards their clients and contribute to a toxic work environment. Read Full Article

If you are a manager, it is your responsibility to make sure your staff are looked after. We all know that the better staff are treated the more they perform. If you are a frontline worker you must look after yourself. If you don’t you are doing a disservice to your clients and ultimately the profession of social work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rBocCyqsb0

Self-Compassion And Self-Care: Being As Kind To Yourself As You Are To Other People

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Modern life is stressful – so stressful! Between work, study, maintaining relationships, family obligations, childcare, paying bills, cooking meals, organising a household, taking care of pets, exercising, volunteering, socialising…it’s not surprising how little time we can spend thinking of nice things to do for ourselves!

Self-care can mean a huge range of things to different people.  I’ve talked before about how to make self-care work for you, basically by doing the things you like and find restorative (and not just ticking off a huge list of things that are “supposed” to be good for you, but that you may not actually get much out of).  

As a person who has a habit of setting super high standards and being really hard on myself, this year I’ve been trying to focus more on my “psychological” self-care.  That means doing things like going easy on myself, not overworking, not overcommitting, keeping my boundaries, taking regular “nothing time” and forgiving myself if I don’t get it right all the time too.

I saw a great TEDx talk recently by Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher on authenticity, self-concept, and self-compassion and a practicing Buddhist to boot.

Neff talks about how hard we can find it to be compassionate to ourselves, even when we might be very good at extending compassion to others.  She notes how many people tend to use the “stick” rather than the “carrot” to try and motivate themselves to achieve more.  That is, they beat themselves up for not getting things done, rather than providing an incentive to reward themselves when they do.  Curiously, her research shows that, in fact, those who are more kind and forgiving towards themselves when they do fail tend to feel more motivated and get more done in the long run.

So what does it mean to be self-compassionate?  And why on earth is it so hard to do?  Neff says on her website, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Of course, this doesn’t mean slacking off all the time, never doing things you intend to, and then being okay with it! Neff is clear that self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgence.  Rather it is about doing things because you care about yourself and want to make changes in your life that allow you to be healthy and happy and not just because someone else tells you to.

It sounds so simple, but how easy it is really?  I think it’s so much harder to consistently treat yourself in a way that is kind and forgiving, especially if you have a lifetime of practice at beating yourself up about things instead.  It seems much easier to just tick a few things off your “self-care plan” and consider it done unless you don’t get it done, then you get to feel bad about that too.

I think self-compassion is both an attitude towards yourself as well as a skill that you can learn. I’ve certainly found I’ve got better at it with practice and patience.  A lot of self-compassion websites suggest cultivating self-compassion through mindful meditation exercises, and Neff has some great examples on her website if you’re interested to give them a go.  I’ve found some of them useful when I’m really struggling to be kind to myself.

For me though, “pulling myself up” on my self-criticism works really well too.  For example, whenever I notice that I’m self-criticising or thinking about something I should have done better or managed differently, I ask myself, “Would I ever say something that harsh to a friend or a client?”  If the answer is “no”, then I imagine a little script that I would say to someone else. The result is something a little kinder and more understanding with a commitment to learn and try something different next time – and forgiveness if I don’t get it right even then.

I’ve noticed that doing this repeatedly does make me feel a little better about my perceived failings and mistakes which I’m also sure are not as big a deal to other people as they are to me. The trick of course is first to notice those thoughts in order to begin a process to address them.

So what do you think?  Are you into the idea of self-compassion as part of your self-care?

Triggered By Trump? The Transferable Skills You Have From Toxic Relationships

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Nearly three weeks after the elections in the United States, people here and elsewhere continue to experience shock, dismay, distress, anger, and fear in response to the expected inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

For those who perceive Trump as a narcissist or psychopath, the angst is both personal and collective. The difference between slowly discovering a family member is a psychopath and choosing to marry one with a known record is an important one; both involve suffering, but the latter includes an element of choice. In the case of the election, the majority of Americans face an involuntary, long-term relationship with a man they perceive as egomaniacal, untrustworthy, dangerous, volatile, and punitive — and misogynist, racist, xenophobic, anti-LGBTQ, and toxic to the environment.

You already know this.

Here, I offer some perspective and strategies that might be helpful to you as you orient yourself to the latest reality. We can use the insights and tools of sociology and psychotherapy to make sense of this experience, and to navigate our ways through it.

First, let’s recognize that our current situation is a result of our previous behavior.

In the past, many of us in the US have chosen to think and act in the ways endorsed by both the individual-centered dominant culture of the US and by capitalism, which encourages people to compete more than cooperate, to dispose rather than conserve, and to hoard rather than to share. Why is this important? It’s important because we will need to shift our perspectives in the direction of the collective well-being in the emerging environment.  The old way of thinking has created the crisis we currently face. We need not only to address the crisis, but the conditions that have created it.

When one of us has a sociopath in the family, it might be a personal trouble. When billions of us are concerned about the impact of one regime on the entire planet, it’s a social problem and needs to be addressed on a collective level. In order to understand what went wrong here —and to prevent things from becoming even worse, we need to shift our perspective.

The incredible potential of this historical moment is for us to use our fear and distress to transform both how we understand the world and how we operate in it.  We will need to acknowledge how we have been lulled into the complacency of material comfort or seduced into competition for mindless excess, or how we have allowed others to be exploited for our benefit as we focused on our own individual welfare, or how we have allowed the critical thinking and engagement practices of functioning democracies to deteriorate as we slept.

The question is, how do we make that shift? In this waking-up moment of shock and grief and fear and disbelief, where do we go from here? If we are forced into a non-consensual relationship with a toxic person, what can we do —- besides freak out? How do we address what many of us see as a crisis, while coming to consciousness about the conditions that created it?

Although each of us will find ourselves improvising to address the needs of the moment using our particular skills and resources, anyone who has survived relationships with narcissists or psychopaths or other toxic people has some transferable skills that I’d like to name here. Those skills and perspectives that have allowed you, as an individual, to survive a toxic relationship on a small scale will be handy as we collectively orient ourselves in this emerging environment.

If you’ve never had a toxic relationship, it may be even more important for you to take a look at these skills. Survivors already have a sense of what lies ahead.

1. Resist denial. In toxic relationships, we often refuse to see what’s happening. We minimize the realities of toxic behavior and its impact on us.  Denial allows us to feel more comfortable about situations and ourselves, but it also costs us time, empowers perpetrators, and creates the foundation for greater abuse —and greater regret. What is “oh, that’s just boy talk” at the level of a marriage can become “we didn’t think they really  were putting people in camps” on the level of a nation. Resist denial.

2. Keep yourself centered.  In toxic relationships, victims often become so exhausted and distressed that they have difficulty thinking clearly, making good decisions, remaining rational or creative or hopeful and acting from places of resilience. In a stressful political climate, as in a stressful interpersonal relationship, you can help yourself and everyone else by keeping yourself centered, grounded, and healthy. This will allow you to practice #1, looking reality squarely in the face. The more grounded we are, the more able we are both to see and to name what is real. You’ve heard the prescription before, but I offer it again, with reassurance that it is not an indulgence but a necessity for you to sleep, eat well, go outside, lie in the grass, exercise, sing, dance, make love, or otherwise connect with the long life force of this gorgeous planet. In recharging, we create the possibility of continuing the work, and continue to deepen our reasons for doing it.

3. Practice responsivity vs. reactivity.  In toxic relationships, we often become reactive rather than responsive. By facing reality and staying grounded, however, we can respond to distressing developments wisely, creatively, and proactively. It is reactive to scream at someone who voted for Trump; it is responsive to continue to advocate for a raise in the minimum wage, or to learn about the history of women’s reproductive health practices, or to donate to a cause that will need to be fortified, or to think about how to directly support families that may be torn apart through regressive immigration practices. Identify the prospective political or social developments that concern you right now, and right now consider three actions that you could take that would address the needs connected to them. Trust that small actions make a difference, that you are significant, and that acting locally makes an impact.

4. Strengthen your connections.  In toxic relationships, we often become isolated from supportive others.  Toxic partners (and others) engineer this because it benefits them. In a toxic political environment, seek connection with others who can affirm your reality, collaborate with you on solutions, and assist you in remaining balanced.  In connection and community we can find solace and support as well as connection, joy, fun, relief, and empowerment. By strengthening your connections, you also come to understand more about how we can act in solidarity with each other across lines of difference, and how you will feel better through supporting others.

5. Use the past to predict the future. In toxic relationships, survivors often make the mistake of expecting change in a benign direction when an exploitive or abusive person makes promises or minimizes past threats. On average, victims of intimate partner violence break up and make up with their tormenters seven times before finally exiting the relationship. We want to see the good in others, want things not to be as bad as they appear, want people to be able to change (see #1).

If we allow ourselves to resist denial and stay centered, we can take in the truth of the past and use it to predict the future. This allows us to be more proactive and responsive, to coordinate and collaborate well with others, and to minimize shock and lost time when previously unthinkable events happen. The husband who expected his wife to drain the bank account because she had done so before can take evasive action; the nation expecting bankruptcy from a leader who has mismanaged resources multiple times in the past must act on the assumption that the behavior will continue, now on a national scale. When we use previous behavior to anticipate and prepare for future behavior, we have more capacity to respond adroitly.

The truth that our individual biographies are shaped by history is nothing new, but in this moment more of us — especially those of us with white, US privilege— are more acutely aware of that truth. In this emerging collective awareness of our interconnectedness and the interface between politics and personal life, there is the potential for a difficult but liberating transformation.  Donald Trump’s election is a flashpoint. He has not created this moment, but he is its greatest symptom. A deeper, broader array of toxic relationships have created him, and as we work to minimize the damage that a Trump presidency may do, we will need also to exit the exploitive relationships we have too long ignored in our individualistic and capitalistic culture of excess.

This is work worth doing. The time is now.

10 Tips to Redefining Your Self-Care

When I talk to clients or participants at trainings I facilitate, friends and others about self-care, there is a resounding and recurring notion that implementing a self-care plan requires a lot of time and money. This isn’t a surprise to me. For years, I also carried this belief. I thought that having extra time and money were key components to maintaining a self-care practice. After all, without time how will you get to do the things you want to do, and without money, how will you finance your self-care activities?

There is also a misconception about what self-care is.  What usually comes up as a definition of self-care is spa days, time at the hair salon on regular basis, gym time and vacation. While all these activities are examples of self-care activities, the reality is that for many people these activities can be outside of their reach. Limiting our self-care definition to just a few select activities can hinder our ability to recharge ourselves.

Despite these beliefs, there is growing general agreement that self-care is essential for our overall well-being. Self-care is an effective way to manage stress and a key factor in keeping healthy physically and mentally. The definition of self-care that I have adopted is that of a practice that allows us to strengthen our bodies, minds, and souls.

The great news is that there are many ways to fulfill this endeavor. There is no one-way of doing it and there isn’t such a thing as one size fits all. Self-care can be practiced as it best fits people’s lifestyles, time and resources. And there are many free things that you can do. So let’s forget those standardized self-care checklists and create your own list based on what works for you.

To help incorporate self-care into our daily lives, I propose that rather than doing self-care as a one-time only extravaganza when we feel burned out, we sprinkle self-care throughout our day or week.

Here are a few ideas how:

Mindfulness Meditation. We can take what I call mini vacations through mindfulness meditation, a practice has been proven effective to reducing stress and preventing and managing mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. There are many types of mindfulness exercises. One such exercise is deep breathing. We can dedicate as little as 5 minutes a day to deep breathing (or as many times as you need it throughout the day). During our breathing exercises, we focus on our breath, inhaling slowly in and out through our nose.

Visualizations. With the deep breathing, we can add visualization, imagining a place that brings us tranquility and peace as we deep breath in and out or a past happy memory. We can do a variation to our breathing exercises reciting positive affirmations about ourselves or reflecting on things that are going right in our lives. But this is just one possible exercise. Mindfulness is much broader than that. As best put by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in a particular way to what is arising and the present moment. I encourage you to look more into mindfulness.

Time management. Self-care involves self-awareness on the tasks that you can handle and those that may be too much. Practice saying no to extra commitments when your plate is already full or asking for help. Having too demands on us can lead to stress and overwhelming feelings.

Doing things that bring you joy. Do an inventory of things you truly enjoy— starting with little things to big. What is feasible to sprinkle into your day? For some people, it may be drinking your favorite cup of tea, lighting up a candle, listening to your favorite music on the way to work or while at home, going on a bike ride, spending quality time with family and friends, watching their favorite TV show, doing your favorite hobby, etc. Whatever it may be, make it a consistent part of your practice.

Creative Release Outlets. We have seen the explosion of “adult coloring books” marketed as stress reduction tools, and there is evidence to back this up. The trick of coloring is that it is an activity that requires focusing in one task and as we color or paint, it allows us to express ourselves and set free of our worries, even if it is just for a few moments. This can be a fun activity to do alone or with kids. If coloring isn’t your thing, try journaling.  You can experience a sense of release by writing when you are feeling stressed, frustrated, tired, etc., or you may simply enjoy chronicling your positive experiences and looking back to it when you need inspiration or extra boost.

Connecting with nature and exercise. Nature has healing and self-soothing power. A walk in our local park or outside can be the break someone needs and it is not only good for overall physical health but for it improves our mental well-being.

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy both psychically and mentally. One of the things I commonly see is that we may get excited about an exercise routine but that excitement may dwindle or barriers begin to creep in. Instead of thinking of exercise as one more thing to do, think about it as something you need to do for your survival, just like you need to eat, breathe and sleep. To this, adding a self-care buddy that you can enjoy your activity with may make the journey much easier and more fulfilling. Exercise does not have to break your bank. Take to your local park and walk the recommended 30 minutes a day, either during your lunch break, before or after work or get off the metro or bus a few stops before your destination and walk the rest.

Connecting with others. Connecting with others has been found to be a key factor in maintaining our mental health. While we may interact with people throughout the day either through work, school or at home, what I am talking about is having meaningful connections and relationships of people you enjoy spending quality time with. The kind of people who bring you joy, lift you up, listen to you and support you and vice versa.

While technology and social media have great benefits, too much of it can hinder our ability to be present and it can prevent us from enjoying what’s around us. Unplugging occasionally from technology and social media is vital in our quest to taking care of our minds.

Take small breaks during the day. Beyond your lunch break, take small breaks as needed during the day. Make it an intentional practice to move around in your office, school or home. Instead of sending that email to your colleague, walk over to deliver your message in person if feasible.

Self-care buddy. This is my personal favorite: designating someone to hold you accountable on your self-care journey. At work, appoint colleagues who can remind you to have lunch and/or someone you can go on a walk with when stressed. At home, appoint loved ones who can support you in staying healthy and remind you of your commitment to yourself.

Use smartphone apps to support your practice. Some of my favorite are Calm and Bloom. Calm has different visualization images like beaches, mountains, rainforests with natural sounds that match the images. You have to try it to see the impact. You will literally be transported to those places.  Bloom is an app where you can include daily reminders including inspirational notes that you can load with images (your own pictures or from stock) and music. In this app, you can include reminders such as remembering to take a break, remembering to take a deep breath. You can schedule those messages to pop up throughout the day. It is kind of fun to get the messages when you least expect them but when you need them the most.

These are just a few ideas of endless activities you can do to keep up with your self-care. What may work for one person, may not work for another. The key to self-care is doing activities that can nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. The tools are within our reach to practice consistently, as a necessity, as a way of survival just like breathing and eating.

Honouring Humanity in Human Services: It Starts with You!

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We know that organizations have an obligation to care for their human employees. Now, let’s talk about the personal responsibility involved in honouring our humanity as helping professionals. How much maintenance do we need as human beings?

How many of you know someone who consistently works through lunch breaks, brings paperwork home at night, or refuses to engage in social interaction in the office because there is too much to do? I can tell you, not only do I know these people; I have been this person many times in my life. The person who feels most in control when there is a list of tasks that can be checked off at the end of the day.

Task vs. Process.

I thought that if I completed my list of things to do, I would have a sense of satisfaction when I left work. And, in some ways, I did feel satisfied as we often do when we accomplish our goals. Satisfied, yes. Fulfilled, not so much.

Personal Maintenance. Is it just about Surviving?

I realized that I had been treating myself like a machine without the same level of respect I would give to my car. I expected myself to do, do, do and to keep going no matter what.

For a period of time, I was highly committed to a rigorous work out and nutritional plan, journaling, and meditating. This was my holistic Personal Maintenance plan.

I realized many of the expected rewards from these activities, but I also became aware after awhile, that my main motivation for engaging in these healthy activities was rooted in my desire to keep up with my many obligations at the time.

I had a fear that I was not good enough and if I could only perfect myself, I would find peace and joy – a faulty belief system that initially played out in an obsessive hula hooping experiment in my basement when I was just a girl. This becomes a journey without a destination. We will never get “there.” So, it helped me survive – even thrive for a while… but it wasn’t sustainable.

Care For Yourself Because You are Worth it!

Self-care is not a means to an end. It is not about increased productivity, but rather an expression of self-love. Let me tell you something. You do not need to fix yourself. There is nothing about you that needs improvement. Use your Personal Maintenance plan as a way to grow into and express your inherent divine perfection.

The Power of Human Connection

When you become willing to embrace all parts of yourself – including the parts you might be tempted to hide, you will start to recognize what you really desire in your life. You will start to realize how you want to contribute in your career from a place of personal excitement. You will start to see themes across your personal and professional life – you will notice the connections. And as you align within yourself, you will start to feel free!

My career in human services and adult education has provided so many opportunities for this kind of deep exploration. I can’t think of another vocation where celebrating humanity could be more important. Human beings working with other human beings to provide services to human beings. If you cannot honour your own humanity, how can you ever honour humanity in others?

You can graduate at the top of your class, land a leadership position in your agency, quote extensively from academic journals, and be a rolodex for your local community resources – all of this is admirable and useful. But, I can guarantee that the people who come to you for service will reap the most benefits when you meet them from that genuine and sincere place inside your heart – when you show them your humanity.

Who are you at the core of your humanity? How do you care for your humanity, and how do you express this in your work and interactions with others?

Critique of Self-Care Initiatives in the Helping Professions

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Generally speaking, helping organizations view humans from two polarized lenses.  Some organizations believe that their employees are good people and will always do their best despite any barriers that exist. Other organizations operate as if people are to be significantly controlled. These organizations believe without external control, people will give less than one hundred per cent and will somehow take advantage of benefits or in any way they can.

If you consume literature from publications like Forbes, Macleans (Canada), Time, or even through social media, you undoubtedly have read about efforts of progressive companies to foster production and actually take care of their employees in a holistic manner. We now know about the benefit to production, whatever the product may be, when organizations implement wellness strategies at work and give employees menus of wellness options to choose from which briefly take them away from production to have infusions of wellness.  In fact, this opinion is no longer just an opinion.  The evidence is clear. Organizations and societies who take care of their employees fair better on every indicator of production.

In the helping professions, our organizations are often well intended when they engage us in wellness conversations and efforts, but they often miss the mark. Helping organizations often bring in “experts” to talk to us at staff meetings. This act within itself is view as progressive and helpful. Again, while well intended, helping “experts” and their products miss the mark of what is needed to increase the wellness of helping professionals.  Why is this?

Strategies and self-care models offered to increase our wellness do not fit the nature of our work.  These models are based on static and linear models of work and production. For example, ten minutes of stretching likely benefits a professional helper who works a strict schedule and sees clients in an office for treatment blocks.  One can certainly take ten minute breaks and will reap the stress reducing benefits from those breaks.  Strictly office based helpers can often also find time to exercise at lunch, socialize in the lunch room, and so on, and therefore reap the resiliency benefits of these strategies.

The problem here is that the majority of helping professionals do not work in office based environments and see clients for therapy or for some other time specific service.  The majority of us work in child welfare, children’s or adult mental health, or crisis intervention environments.  Our “schedules” change several times a day as we meet the needs of our clients and respond to our communities’ crises.  A day in the life of a helping professional in these areas of practice looks more like a dog’s breakfast.  We don’t get set break times (they are there but we can’t and don’t take them because we are too busy), we don’t eat at set times and we almost always eat in our cars while travelling from situation to situation.

We forget to pee and poop.  No really we do.  We experience the sensation to pee, but it is often an hour or two or three before we actually remember or have the time to go. To be sure, it is just not possible to interrupt a suicide assessment, crisis phone call, apprehension with the police, or the like, to pee.  Not only do we care so deeply about our clients welfare that we wouldn’t interrupt our process with them to pee, but we also get used to ignoring our bodily indicators and in fact over time we actually divorce ourselves from a great deal of our biology.

This divorce from our biology often happens with ease because we are pumped full of stress hormones which naturally serve to put everything except the crisis at hand on hold.

While I don’t mean to belabour this point, it would be negligent not to note that if you follow the logic about the physiological and biological separations we perform in order to meet the needs of our client populations, you will understand that implementing any menu option from the typical self-care menu is literally impossible.  You can’t meditate on the witness stand, during an apprehension, or a suicide assessment.  You can’t break for a jog when you spend your lunch in your care driving and eating.

Following along with the logic of this work reality means that our self-care has to happen on our own time.  After work whenever that may be.  But if you’ve apprehended on this particular day, you are likely still at the office long after closing time.  You are settling the children at the foster home and then heading back to the office to prepare your court papers.  Your family, if you have one, doesn’t get to see mom or dad tonight because work responsibilities made that impossible.  The family may not get to see you tomorrow either because you may have to leave early for work in order to pick up your court papers and be able to serve them to your client family before court.

There eventually comes a day though when you things “slow down”.   A slowdown of course refers to the day when you get to try and fit in all of thing appointments and other tasks that you have had to put off due to the crises you have been responding to.  On these days you still eat in your care, don’t get breaks, but… you likely pee more regularly.

There seems to be a general understanding amongst us that if you are in this line of work for more than ten years you are a “lifer”.  I mean no disrespect to those that get out after a few years and in fact many of use envy you and are proud of you.  We still consider you one of us if you’ve been on the front line for even a few years before you leave because you “get it” and you are therefore one of us.

The life cycle of a lifer is as varied as is a day in our line of work.  Sadly though, many of us lifers don’t fare so well in our own personal lives.  There are many reasons for this but for me based on my dedication to understanding the harmful effects of trauma, it boils down to the cosmic roll of the dice of our stress hormones, traumatic exposure both direct and indirect, and to the overall impact of our divorce from our biology and often our bodies.  Many helping professionals  get sick from our work.  We all know colleagues who have chronic illnesses that really boil down to the harmful effects of stress.  The academic literature is now abundant in this area so you don’t need me to tell you about it.

The cost of our caring is too often too great.  I know we wouldn’t have it any other way but it is also not fair and just.  Given the strength of the literature in the area of trauma, burnout and compassion fatigue in the helping professions and the clear health consequences of chronic stress, I believe we can do much better in helping ourselves lead lives full of more wellness.  This requires a change in the structures of our work, it requires a change in organizational culture, and it requires a commitment of each one of us to be brave enough to talk about the cost of caring.

Next, we need to change organizations that view employees as ultimately malignant.  People don’t choose to be sick and they don’t want to be sick.   To be clear, psychological and emotional illness is a real risk in our work.  And, psychological and emotional illness can lead to a myriad of legitimate physical ailments ranging from the common cold due to compromised immune systems to auto immune illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome.

Organizations who view employees with suspicion are using faulty logic.  Not too long ago in my province we had a Premier who successfully waged a ware on welfare recipients by convincing the population that people on welfare are cheaters and have lazy characters. This of course is not true. People don’t choose to or want to be on Welfare.  Similarly, it is not flaws in our characters that make us ill.  We are not weak, and we do not need discipline to help us be more productive during times of illness.

What we need is wellness initiatives that fit with the nature of our work. These initiatives need to be dynamic and individualized.  I believe that we need individual wellness plans which are akin to Individualized Education Plans for children in our school systems with learning needs. We need modifications at times and accommodations that reflect the true nature of the stress in our jobs.

We cannot be expected to own our wellness when by its very nature our work often leaves us exhausted and without adequate time to rejuvenate. The ownership needs to be jointly held by us and our organizations, communities, and professional organizations.  We need nap pods, we need exercise equipment on site, and we need kindness which includes life affirming strategies aimed at reducing the host of risk factors are work puts us at risk of.

We also need parity with other helping professions and service providers such as first responders – Police, Fire, and Ambulance. I’m not sure how this has happened but we have lost a lot of ground in this regard.  In many provinces and jurisdictions, Police officers now make six figures and have the benefit of early retirement at full pension.  Most urban Police stations and fire halls have onsite gyms.  I do not begrudge this, in fact I applaud it.  But, we are also first responders and we are by and large not a healthy population by any indication.

Most importantly, we have to be clear about these truths. It is surely hard to admit that our work makes many of us ill in one way or another and by the very nature of our illnesses we want to avoid talking about them and truly addressing them.  We need to adopt real risk reducing strategies such as those employed by our Police partners. Can you imagine a Police officer attending a client home alone?  Working in partners is one of the most basic risk reducers available to us but we don’t have that option much of the time.

The evidence is not just anecdotal and therefore should not be dismissed. What needs to happen now is for us to bravely open up global conversations and create global movements to address our wellness.

Perhaps ironically, we are in fact a vulnerable population who are charged with serving, protecting and healing other vulnerable populations created by our society.  Society and systems create vulnerable populations, individuals do not create vulnerability in themselves.

Leaders who are responsible for the wealth of research pertaining to the cost of caring in our areas of work need to collect and collate information regarding the positive effects of workplace culture in addition to wellness options where organizations own the efforts and reap the benefits of those efforts. And, we need to strongly advocate for the end of career benefits that our Police, Fire, and Ambulance colleagues experience.

I believe we need an organization for social workers and helping professionals, a think tank of sorts,  whose purpose is to improve our lives at work and at home.  I’m sorry to have to say this but our professional organizations have missed the mark here.  More often than not, they exist to monitor and discipline us while protecting their interests. Who will protect and nurture our interests?

Social Workers: The Untapped Hub of Entrepreneurs

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In what many might consider the most unlikeliest of places to look for entrepreneurs, social work is actually a hub of entrepreneurial thought leaders.  Residing in this place of ideas for change with little to no funding, social workers are constantly grinding out creative ways to progress human and societal conditions.

Being kind and doing good are now viewed as intelligent and necessary traits to have in the professional world.  However, let’s remember social workers were kind even when it implicitly was taken as ignorant and the reason they were doing good was because of compassion, empathy, resilience, commitment, and determination, so essentially they are trailblazers and natural entrepreneurs.

Social workers have been “doing good” before doing good was cool.

Below is a list of 5 entrepreneurial skills that social workers embody in their everyday work.

Ability to Raise Money

Many social workers work within the nonprofit sector or within the public sector, both of which see little working capital and funding cuts.  Due to this consistent lack of cash flow social workers are constantly figuring out how to come up with funding for their clients, communities and programs.  Due to social workers being committed and determined they are brainstorming different ways to raise capital just like an entrepreneurial venture would do.

Many sectors like to think of social workers as not being financially savvy however in a world where one has to figure out how to best advocate for their clients and communities with the least amount of money, they have learned how to get very creative with fundraising.

Branding/Marketing

Much of what lies behind social work theory is psychology.  Additionally, much of what lies beneath effective and efficient branding and marketing is psychology as well.  Thus, when social workers are attempting to brand or market their program or organization they have a leg up as they can easily analyze what their audience might want by knowing the different psychological theories that already exist. Additionally, social workers are generally speaking, natural empaths.

Yes, some have to work harder at empathy but social workers don’t go into their profession by monetary motivation, they generally go into social work because they are empathetic and compassionate individuals wanting to solve worldly problems.  The ability to empathize with your audience gives you an advantage when branding and marketing because you can easily put yourself into your audience’s shoes to figure out what they need and want.

Self-Care & Resilience

If you research anything about social work, you will most likely stumble upon self-care and compassion fatigue such as Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Wellness in Social Work: Effects of Contemplative Training, Caring for Ourselves: A Therapist’s Guide to Personal and Professional Well-Being.  Once again, social workers were developing and taking trainings and discussing the importance of self-care before all the mindfulness coloring books, meditation helmets and such started appearing in popular culture.  Social workers realize how incredibly important it is to take care of yourself so you can be a more effective professional and person in all areas of life.

Additionally, resilience is something that social workers have to recognize, assess and teach within many of their client populations such as mentally ill, abused and neglected and impoverished. Due to consistently working with the most disadvantaged in our societies and seeing and teaching that resilience, it has become an innate trait for any professional social workers to embrace.

Social workers experience many failures with clients, programs and organizations but it’s that compassion, grit and resilience that keeps them doing their job everyday waiting to change even 1 person or 1 community. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries addresses many entrepreneurial obstacles and how to overcome them, one of them being failing fast and failing often to get to success.

Building Cohesive Teams

One thing that many social workers have to develop or at least review is called a strengths and needs assessment for individuals and/or communities they are serving.  Many decades ago social workers started realizing that only identifying and treating needs of persons and/or communities wasn’t treating the issue as a whole and in the most viable way. By identifying the strengths of the person, organization or community you can then more effectually address the issues.  Many entrepreneurial articles (Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Inc.) talk about the need for building effective teams as one of the most important steps in a successful venture.

Due to that being a skill set already learned by social workers, as well as some of their background training in psychology and their ability to empathize as spoken about earlier, social workers can build some of the most empowered and potent teams out there.

They realize the importance of different learning styles and how to communicate your message.

Ability to Sell

Last but certainly not least is the ability to sell.  Most everyone would think that sales could not be further from social work.  However, if you have ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie you will quickly realize that empathy and sympathy are 2 of the most effective traits to have in order to be successful in dealing with people. Additionally, having that grit, determination and resilience are other characteristics that social workers have that help them pick themselves up and keep forging on after a failed “sale”. Many social workers may not even have thought of themselves in sales before, however they actually have to “sell” themselves to their clients quite a bit.

In social services you have many untrusting people due to things such as life experiences or mental illness.  Social workers usually use the terminology “gaining people’s trust” however it is a matter of semantics because the social worker is essentially “selling” themselves or services to someone.  You have to make them believe that you are trustworthy, dependable and honest in order for clients and/or organizations to open up to you. Gaining people’s trust is one of the traits social workers have that help them “sell” their service and or product just like in entrepreneurial ventures.

So next time you are out looking for a founder, co-founder, partner or for investors looking to invest in social impact products or services; don’t look past the social worker.

Gone are the days of social workers “just” being a bleeding heart or “just” being kind…like kind implies ignorance?

Many entrepreneurial ventures that are solely motivated by money will fizzle out because they don’t have many of the other necessary skills that make a venture succeed.  Social workers naturally have these skills in them by virtue of the profession, so take a look and see what social workers have and are still accomplishing these days that could help your entrepreneurial venture out.

Common Job Interview Questions for Therapists

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There are plenty of websites that focus on general interviewing skills and questions you may encounter in an interview, but here are a few questions specific to the mental health and social work field.

Despite the importance of interviewing, very few people practice their interview skills.  Most people do three things to prepare for an interview.  They start by developing a list of questions they think they will be asked.  They then prepare answers to those questions.  Finally, they research the company where they will interview. – The Importance of Interview Practice

1. What is your theoretical orientation?
With this question, you want to not only impress your potential employer with your knowledge, but also demonstrate how you will apply it to the specific position for which you are applying. You may have a background in several theoretical orientations that are excellent and evidence-based, but not evidence-based for the population for which you will work if given the position. Use your knowledge of theory and how you will apply it to this position to this specific population.

2. How do you stay organized and stay on top of documentation?
This question is very common for both bachelors and masters level positions. This question is asked because it is so easy to get disorganized and get behind on documentation requirements. You will need to give your potential employers examples of how you stay organized and stress your commitment to keeping on top of your documentation requirements.

3. What experience have you had with inappropriate boundaries and HIPAA violations and how have you corrected them?
Your potential employer wants to know that you are committed to following the regulations for PHI and that you are knowledgeable about these requirements. This might be the time to mention how you avoid dual relationships, deal overly friendly clients, or how you dealt with an ethical dilemma in the past.

4. How do you maintain the confidentiality of clients?
Your potential employer wants to know if you understand confidentiality laws and that you are committed to following these rules to protect your clients. Remember that in order to maintain confidentiality, it is never appropriate to speak with a client in public, speak with them on the phone in a public place, not keep confidential materials locked, carry confidential material on a thumb drive that does not meet HIPAA requirements, text or email clients or about clients without using encrypted email or initials, keep files in your car especially if they are not locked or if they are out in the open where they can be seen, etc. Let your potential employer know you are careful and mindful of the potential for breach of confidentiality.

5. How do you utilize your supervision time?
Supervisors want to know that you are willing to learn from your supervisor, who is your mentor while you are working toward your unrestricted license.

6. What experience have you had with crisis situations and how did you handle it?
When working in positions in which there is a high likelihood of clients with suicidality, suicidal ideation, self-injury, delusions, command hallucinations, etc, it is important for you to be able to keep a level head and be able to handle the situation calmly and in an organized manner. It is also important that you maintain the dignity and self-determination (as long as they aren’t in danger of hurting themselves or others) of the client in this situation.

7. What experience do you have with cultural competency and trauma-informed care?
Your potential employer wants to know if you are current with the research and that you will be able to treat your clients who come from a diverse background and who may have a history of trauma. Remember that bilingual does not mean bicultural. Let your employer know what populations you have worked with that have given you experience for the job for which you are interviewing.

8. What do you do for self care?
This seems like a really personal question and an odd question to ask in a job interview, but really for the mental health field it makes a lot of sense. Your potential employer wants to know what you do for yourself so that you don’t burn out in your career helping others. This would be a good opportunity to let them know about some appropriate hobbies you have or maybe throw in that you are into mindfulness or yoga, as these are things that are very supported by the mental health industry. Your potential employer wants you to work hard, but they don’t want you to work so hard that you are not taking care of yourself.

Self Care: Placing An Oxygen Mask On Yourself Prior To Assisting Others

Traveling with friends and family to events is something I like to do for two reasons. One is the fact that I like to share experiences with others who might not otherwise have the opportunity to travel. If I can help them create new memories and expand their minds I always try to. Two, I simply prefer to have company when I travel for speaking engagements or HipHop performances.

But there’s one specific time I recall that I’m sure my travel companions may have wished they had missed out on my excursions.

Primarily filled with judges and lawyers, this 1000 person audience threw me for a loop and off my game. What happened was both humbling and embarrassing. It also opened my eyes to some internal emotional work that I had yet to address. I wish it wouldn’t have unfolded on stage, but everything happens for a reason and this was no exception.

I stayed up until 5AM the night before the big conference preparing my notes and pacing in my hotel room, undoubtably irritating both my sister and friend/videographer who were sharing the two room suite that had been provided to us. I was noticeably more nervous than usual. Rightfully so, it was an entirely new audience. This nervousness led up to a level of self-exposure that was not planned nor pretty.

Keep in mind that keynote speaking is my full time career. These organizations don’t hire me just because of my fancy website or produced videos, they hire me because I have personal experience in the system and spent 15 years working as a Registered Nurse and child welfare advocate prior to launching my platform and publishing my book. Hopefully this tells you that this mishap was not due to inexperience, but rather a lack of awareness in the self-care department. It was not something that was obvious.

A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen by firefighter/paramedic Mark Hubert. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)
A small dog suffering from smoke inhalation was rescued by firefighters and given oxygen by firefighter/paramedic Mark Hubert. Photo by: Gigi Graciette (shared by OCFA)

I have spent nearly a decade engulfed in self-development and improving my approach to self-care so it was not for lack of trying. It was simply something that went under the radar. I think that we all have little things that sift through the cracks of our diligent efforts time and time again. Which is why we need to regularly and consistently be reminded of the importance of self-care.

No matter how many times you have flown, the flight attendants always remind you to take care of yourself first. If the cabin loses oxygen then make sure you have your oxygen mask on prior to assisting others even children. You’re no good to anyone if you die before getting to them. And that is what happens when we keep letting little things slip through the cracks.

We die a little inside and aren’t able to be the great people we were meant to be for our friends, family, and clients. How many social workers do you know that need a social worker? Probably a lot. Remembering this can save your life and your relationships.

Therefore, at the risk of exposing my own insecurities to yet another large audience, I offer this story to inspire your own self-reflection in hopes of allowing you to be better prepared to face the unknowns in your life and work. Allow yourself to care for your own hidden emotional barriers before making a fool out of yourself in front of friends, co-workers, and most-importantly family members and clients.

During my presentations, I often speak about my relationship with my mother and the impact it had on me as a child as she was absent and often emotionally abusive. Shortly before this presentation, I learned more about the truth behind my mother’s behaviors during my childhood. I learned that she had been labeled with multiple mental health diagnoses and placed on several psychotropic medications that impaired her ability to function, much less parent.

It gave me a sense of relief. So much of my life, I had hatred pent up in my heart for her inability to provide love, compassion, trust, and understanding. But, this new knowledge gave me a new direction for that anger. It allowed me to blame others or simply blame the system.

During this presentation, I spoke about those new findings. Self-exposure is generally very moving, right? I thought so too, but I found that to be the case only if done strategically and with purpose.

There was no purpose for my ranting about the corruption of the system. I was simply ranting.

Afterwards, a lady who looked my mom’s age and as if she may have had a rough life herself gave me a note. She told me to open it when I get back to my hotel room, and I did. It read: “I’m glad your aunty was there for you when I wasn’t able to be. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be who you needed me to be. I love you very much. -signed, Mom”

I didn’t know it, but those were the words I had been longing to hear my entire life. And this woman knew it. Something tells me she was in my mothers shoes most of her life and possibly was once in my shoes as well.

Sitting in that hotel room, I broke down in tears immediately upon reading those words. She got it. She found a gaping wound and she picked up on it from my ranting on stage when I should have been providing actionable steps for the audience.

50 percent of the reviews from this event were negative. I obviously didn’t follow through with what the audience needed. I am embarrassed to say that, but hopefully this is a reminder that it is okay to need help. It is okay to take time away. Self care is essential, and it is okay for the counselors to seek counsel. Actually, it is necessary so that you don’t cause 50 percent of the people in your life to feel negative about your interactions with them.

We are here to help others, but we must help ourselves first.

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