Working in a caring field – as a support worker, counsellor, nurse, psychologist etc. is highly rewarding. As carers we make a significant positive impact on the lives of others.
Yet it is also emotionally demanding and challenging. If we don’t attend proactively and effectively to our own care, we risk ‘burn-out’.
Imagine a balloon-Now imagine this balloon as if it were you (your mind and your body).
The balloon represents your capacity to cope with everything life throws at you – the ups and the downs.
The downs – the stressful events – are the air that gets blown into your balloon. Most of us can manage fine with a little air in our balloons. In fact, a little stress can be a positive thing – it’s what motivates us.
However, if air keeps going in without being released, we will soon feel over-stretched.
The size and ‘stretchiness’ of your balloon depends on a range of factors, including your biology, personality, and previous experiences. However, if your balloon is already stretched, then even the smallest breath of air can cause it to pop!
What is ‘burn-out’?
Burn-out is the feeling of complete exhaustion – emotionally and physically. You feel little energy to get things done, and you lack the motivation to even try. In the workplace this can impact your relationship with those you support, leading to a loss of empathy and compassion. Being ‘burnt-out’ for too long can also be associated with feelings of depression and anxiety.
What to do?
To prevent your balloon from popping, you need to keep letting some of the air out. Letting the air out means engaging in self-care activities.
Develop a self-care plan
Self-care should be an ongoing quest and engaged in preventatively – that means before we feel ‘burnt-out’ and overwhelmed. Self-care should also take into consideration the different aspects of your life e.g. work, personal, relationships, health, physical, emotional, and spiritual. For each aspect of your life, try picking at least one strategy that will support your self-care in that area. Self-care is personal and everyone’s approach will be different. It is important that you make it meaningful to you!
Healthy self-care strategies
Some examples if positive self-care are:
Make time for yourself
Do things you enjoy
Eat a balanced diet
Get enough sleep
Maintain social support
Try relaxation (e.g. meditation/yoga)
Engage in professional development
Maintain a work/life balance
Keep an optimistic attitude
Now you have some ideas for self-care, write them down and schedule some time each day to engage your chosen self-care activities.
To be successful in self-care you might need to identify possible barriers – what might get in the way? – and solutions – what can you do to remove these barriers?
Discuss your self-care plan with those close to you e.g. close friends, family, and supervisor (for self-care in the workplace) to keep yourself accountable. Ask someone to check in on how your plan is going from time-to-time.
Finally, review your plan regularly to ensure it continues to meet your needs and lifestyle.