I’ve recently had a couple of days off and I’m still tired.
May be it’s the late nights or the chocolate-filled days. May be it’s just being 50 years old!
Or may be some of it is due to the impact of working with troubled young people for 20 odd years – it can certainly takes its toll.
Once again I’m looking in the mirror asking, “do I look after myself enough?”
How you could look after yourself better (& a bit about why)…
It’s now very well established that working with other people’s problems has an impact. Such impacts can be negative. Sometimes very negative.
Psychologists have various terms for it, including:
Whatever the label, the result is the same. The worker suffers difficulties through helping others deal with theirs.
When I first started work with children with sexualised histories, I thought I could pretty much take anything that came my way. I soon learnt different. This led to a series of changes I made to look after myself better – see these here.
Here are some more thoughts about how we might ensure we take a proper pit-stop between sessions at work…
- Highlight achievements – Resist the perennial obsession with criticising the caring sector. Remind yourself that the work you do makes the world a better place. What you do is worthwhile. This might help you unload the burden at the end of the working day.
- Maintain healthy boundaries – Leaving work at work is easier said than done, I know! Try making your trip home a transition point. Whenever possible, don’t take work home – you really shouldn’t have to. When you close your front door, shut work on the outside.
- Read your body – take note of how you feel. If you’re more tired than usual, sleeping less well, eating noticeably more or less – it’s time to stop and think whether you’re overdoing it. Don’t automatically write it off as “understandable”. Do something about it.
- Cultivate quiet – Again, easier said than done – kids, pets, family, household chores, bills, social commitments all demand attention. Try to carve out time to just “be.” Stillness, peacefulness can be achieved. But we have to be deliberate.
- DIY bath spa – you don’t need a health club membership. In line with the last point, make some effort to relax regularly at home. Bubble bath, dimmed lighting, candles, soft music-or your own equivalents-can make for a half hour of stillness. Do what works for you.
- Get outside more – a little bit of time outdoors can clear the head. Take a walk around the block, walk to the shop, take the dog out (buy a dog!). Being outdoors helps clear the head. You notice more when you walk – this can be a useful distraction.
- Raise your heart rate – but not by worrying about work! The benefits of regular exercise are well established. Are you getting any? This is one of my shortcomings, too! Start small and work up – a brisk walk is better than nothing at all.
- Laugh – this helps on all kinds of levels; it’s just good for the soul somehow. The associated dopamine release gives you a chemical boost too. I like Peter Kay, Michael McIntyre, Alan Partridge – buy a video. Read the stuff that makes you giggle. Be deliberate.
I’m not great at goal-setting, though I’m working on it. This is not about deciding to make massive life changes – we all know the fate of most New Year’s resolutions (most will have been well and truly broken by now!). It’s about doing something…
Call to action…
This is really about making small changes. Just one or two. Feel the benefits first, then look for the next change you can make.
Ultimately, the young people you deal with will benefit – as will you…
- How do you deal with self-care?
- What do you plan to do next to improve it?
Please let me know what your thoughts are… Leave a comment below.
For a more thorough look at this subject, check out my eBook: Looking After No.1 – Self-Care for People Working with Troubled Children…
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© Jonny Matthew 2014