When we look back on different periods of our lives, we can clearly see how we change. However, our ability to see our unfolding as a smooth ongoing process is quite remarkable. We are constantly changing. Our priorities were very different at different times in our lives, what we believe to be true about ourselves and the world and what our needs are.
To generate a greater levels of self awareness of how your needs may have changed at different stages of your life have a read through the following. Often just bringing some things into our conscious awareness can be helpful.
Sleep Patterns Changes
Do you find that you need more or less sleep than you used to 10 years ago?
Some people can take a nap during the day? Can you? If so, is there a time you could fit that in?
Do your energy levels tend to lag at certain times of the working day?
What time (s) usually?
What could you do to counter act this?
How have your nurtritional needs changed over the past number of years?
Have you become more conscious about eating well?
What could you cut back on to make a positive change? Even just one small change to feel better.
How have your drinking habits changed over the years?
How many drinks would you have during a typical week? Weekend?
Are you happy with this level?
How has your level of general fitness changed over the past number of years? Less of a priority? More of a priority?
What would help you to feel ‘a little fitter’ ? for example a 20 min walk 3 times a week
Your own thoughts; Finish these sentences for yourself
Lately, I’ve been feeling that I would benefit from more………….
In order to bring more stress relief to myself during my life I think I would like to………………..
Once a month, I would like a few hours to myself to………………
Our media use and consumption has changed dramatically over the past number of years. It has tended to creep up on many of us. The desire to stay up to date with what is going on has increased with the proliferation of rolling news, always on internet access though smart phones etc. Research in the States has shown that watching rolling news can increase anxiety amongst some people. Do we need to assess our media consumption?
I watch TV when, where, duration ?
How do I feel about this?
How often do I watch/ read/ listen to the news daily?
How often do I need to watch/ read/ listen the news daily?
How much time do I spend online daily?
On what device? PC, tablet, phone?
Where do I spend this? (public transport, work, pc, sofa, home office, bed)?
How do I feel about this?
Any thought comment are always welcome….. many thanks
Having a sense of balance is so important in our lives, no more so than in the lives of those of us who spend our time caring for others. Our ebb and flow can be affected by the amount of our time and emotional energy we feel that we give versus how much we feel we receive. Of course, the old adage is true, that in giving we receive. However, for most of us this needs a balanced approach that respects our own personal sense of equilibrium.
We also need to be ready when required to respond to our own needs with generosity, entitlement and without even a shred of guilt. As it was so succinctly, put by a participant in a recent training workshop “self care is a necessity not a luxury”. Amen.
In this exercise, you are encouraged to explore in a very ‘practical way’ (the watchwords of Self Care for Carers) how you are giving and receiving in your life at the moment.
Using the symbol ying and yang to represent perfect balance as per the natural order, let’s consider this symbol in terms of giving and receiving.
Let’s imagine that shaded part represents the amount we feel we give to others (clients, patients, family, friends, additional commitments) and the white is amount we sense we receive from ourselves or others.
Draw a curved line in the large white circle to represent how you much you ‘feel’ that you give and you receive at the moment. Here are some examples of what being ‘out of balance’ might feel like.
Now, close your eyes for a moment, take a couple of deep breaths and when you’re ready with a pen draw a line to bisect the circle below to represent how in balance you feel in your life at the moment. Shade the part based on how much you feel you are giving and leave the white part to represent how much you feel you are receiving.
Be honest and go with your gut
My giving and receiving
Take a moment to consider your drawing
Looking at your drawing: Are you surprised at what you drew?
What is the ratio of giving to others and receiving?
Do you think its an accurate representation of how in balance your needs are at the moment?
Is there any messages that you can take from this diagram?
Here are a list of items that can be useful for helping to identify areas of self care which we may take for granted. Take your time going through this list, it is non exhaustive, but please feel free to write in any additional areas that you feel describe your individual needs. Source: Transforming the Pain: Saakvitne, Pearlman & Staff of TSI/CAAP (Norton, 1996)
Using the scale below, rate the following areas in terms of your frequency attending to each.
5 = Frequently 4 = Occasionally 3 = Rarely 2 = Never 1 = It never occurred to me
___ Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner)
___ Eat healthy
___ Get regular medical care for prevention
___ Get medical care when needed
___ Take time off when needed
___ Get massages or do both work exercises such as EFT, acupressure etc.
___ Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
___ Take time to be sexual—with yourself, with a partner
___ Get enough sleep
___ Wear clothes you like
___ Take holidays
___ Take day trips or days away
___ Make time away from mobile phone or other electronic devices such as ipads, etc.
___ Make time for self-reflection
___ Have your own personal psychotherapy
___ Write in a journal
___ Read literature that is unrelated to work
___ Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
___ Decrease stress in your life
___ Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
___ Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibition, sports event, play etc.
___ Be curious
___ Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes
___ Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
___ Stay in contact with important people in your life
___ Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself
___ Love yourself
___ Re-read favourite books, rewatch favourite movies
___ Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
___ Allow yourself to cry
___ Find things that make you laugh
___ Play with children
___ Make time for reflection
___ Spend time with nature
___ Be open to inspiration
___ Cherish your optimism and hope
___ Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
___ Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
___ Be open to not knowing
___ Spend time with children
___ Have experiences of awe
___ Contribute to causes in which you believe
___ Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)
Workplace or Professional Self-Care
___ Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch)
___ Take time to chat with co-workers
___ Make quiet time to complete tasks
___ Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
___ Set limits with your clients and colleagues
___ Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
___ Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
___ Get regular supervision or consultation
___ Negotiate for your needs
___ Have a peer support group
| From this exercise: What are the main areas that you feel would help you to feel connected and balanced. How can you schedule in time in these areas?
Feedback and comments on this exercise are always welcome: Karen@selfcareforcarers.ie
Balanced Needs (c) Self Care for Carers 2015
Taking good care of yourself is very important for those who spend their time caring for others. As well as being satisfying, healthcare work can be physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding, whether you are a nurse, doctor, carer, social worker or therapist. Being present with patients in physical or emotional distress can be challenging as staff try to stay in touch with what they are feeling.
Compassion Fatigue (CF) symptoms are normal displays of stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do, according to Eric Gentry, who is a leader in the field in the united states. It is interesting that many people working in healthcare haven’t heard the term. cF can result from caring for patients in physical and/ or emotional pain or stress. Internationally, there has been an increase in research in and treatment for CF since the 1990s. Symptoms vary from person to person but can include sleeplessness, apathy, irritability, anxiety, loss of focus, increases in pessimism, etc. The good news is that compassion fatigue is a set of symptoms, not a disorder and responds well to skill building and committed self care. It is up to the individual to watch out for signs of fatigue in themselves and to act if they feel they need assistance.
Many professionals don’t feel comfortable talking about this topic, so it is important to normalise conversations about cF rather than feeling embarrassed or viewing it as ‘just an occupational hazard’. Carers’ stress should be acknowledged at all levels as treatable, and a sign of a caring person working in a challenging area. Lombardo and Eyre (2011) provide evidence of the importance of staff increasing self-awareness, communication skills, and recognising the types of situations, events and people that tend to trigger us.
From my own experience, talking openly with staff about stress-inducing situations has been very productive. Acknowledging that we all feel stress sometimes increases communication and trust amongst team members. Additionally, regular brief group relaxation sessions have resulted in stronger team cohesion.
Developing a healthy self care plan can be really enjoyable and rewarding. To begin with, make a list of issues in various areas of your life that may be contributing to your stress. Are there adjustments you can make? Can you reprioritise or delegate to others to create more space for yourself?
Review your available resources, including people with whom you can talk: a friend, colleague or counsellor. Training in compassion fatigue is also very helpful for staff who need skills to work in healthier and more self-sustaining ways.
Many people use self-soothing techniques to mitigate against the build-up of stress or fatigue during their working day. Deep breathing techniques, prayer, meditation or basic acupressure techniques such as ‘tapping’ are healthy habits worth forming, and which can be incorporated into the working day.
Good boundary management is a key skill which can be developed if you have a tendency to take work home with you. Respect your need for your own time. Nourishing yourself by spending time on your own interests is validating and affirming whether it’s baking, golfing, fishing, painting or whatever you enjoy.
Committing to healthier self care practices can make a big difference to your life and work. Your own self care plan can be a tool, buffer and comfort on challenging days. This is a real prescription for wellness.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, treating Compassion Fatigue as just an occupational hazard and minimising its importance doesn’t help any caregiver who is feeling stressed as a result of their work.
If anything its demeaning to minimise the stress that is very normal to feel by anyone who is working in challenging role providing human services support to those in need.
As a result of the training that we carry out and our constant contact with people in a wide variety of roles, we know that Compassion Fatigue is very common, very widespread and very treatable. It doesn’t distinguish between professions or indeed levels and the inevitable outside stressors which form part of daily life can sometimes compound ones feelings.
Training and information is available. Change is possible, and it can be gentle but make a huge difference to how you feel. As Charles Figley, a leading researcher in this field suggests its the people who are highly motivated and very good at their jobs who can be most at risk of Compassion Fatigue. Because they care so deeply. Finding a way through is possible though people who are suffering from Compassion Fatigue can feel alone and have sometimes negative self evaluations.
If its all become too much. If you are suffering from stress symptoms such as chronic sleeplessness, depersonalisation, depression, isolation, anxiety etc. and you feel it might be due to your work don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Training, assistance and support is there for you.
firstname.lastname@example.org (087) 2248181
One most common red flags associated with burnout is the tendency to postpone our own self care. Nurses, doctors, care staff, social workers (whatever area you work in) if you’re highly invested in your role with minimal self care strategies you could be at greater risk of burning out according to Leiter & Maslach (2005). A habit of postponing behaviour starts to gain traction and we neglect the areas of our lives which renew us, revive us and give us a sense of control, peace and joy in our lives. In the now.
“I don’t have time”, I’m too tired”, “not another thing to have to organise” “I don’t have the inclination, “I can’t afford it” (time, money, resources),” I won’t keep it up”, “it doesn’t make much of a difference anyway” “I’ll start next Monday”. “I’ll start when she comes back and tells me if Wednesday evenings suit her too”, “I can’t get a baby sitter”, I don’t like working out on my own”. “I my knee is still sore” “I’ll start when I finish this next matter”, “I’ll do it when things ease up” “I’ll do it when things change……”
Lowered awareness of our own needs can become destructive at work. We can start to overwork as we switch off and allow ourselves to be distract from our own needs both physical and psychological. We get into the habit of not knowing what it is that we need and so we go onto autopilot, moving from patient to patient, eating on the run, just keeping our selves in survival mode. And the process speeds up.
BUT, self care starts with making very small changes.
Creating space for self awareness can start today. Try taking 5 minutes to do Alternate Nostril Breathing.
before or after a meeting
after a toilet break
or after lunch
Taking snippets from your day to check in and destress can start this process. Developing your awareness of what you need in the now is the key element of this practice.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique or (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama) means cleaning energy using the breath. This is a deeply relaxing technique which can be used in the middle of your day to destress. It takes only a couple of minutes and works by unblocking energy, harmonising the left and right hand sides of the brain and bringing a sense of calmness and peace.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight and shoulders relaxed
- Place your left hand on your lap. Drop your shoulders.
- Place the top of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. The ring finger and little finger will open or close the left nostril and you’ll use your thumb for the right nostril.
- Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe in gently through the left nostril for a count of 8.
- Hold for a count of 4
- Now breathe out from the (same) left nostril for a count of 8, and hold for a count of 4.
- Gentle press the left nostril with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe in from the right nostil for a count of 8 and hold for a count of 4.
- Breathe out from the right nostril for a count of 8, hold for a count of 4 and inhale through the left for a count of 8.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
- After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort.
- Dont force your breath and if you feel dizzy or light headed take a break. If the count of 8 is too long count to 6 instead.
Aim to do 9 rounds of Alternate nostril breathing. It will bring a sense of deep relaxation, helps lower blood pressure, and aids the circulatory and respiratory systems.Take another moment to enjoy the serenity you have created for yourself before moving on with your tasks.
God of love, our true shepherd!
Fill our hearts with your strength,
joy and compassion
to continue to care for those in our lives,
to care for those we find it difficult to care for
and to be open to those in need of care.
‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness and self control.’
May the fruit of the Spirit continually nourish us
and be ever-present within us,
those we care for and those who care for us.
Lord of hope!
Give us the courage to be people of hope, to show respect, dignity, empathy,
love, faith and friendship.
Help us to be truly present with those
we care for and those who care for us.
And when we are over-burdened, restore us… comfort us… strengthen us…
We thank you God for the many opportunities
of being Christ-like to others.
(‘The fruit of the Spirit’ – Galatians 5:22)