Self-care is seen as an indulgence - visit a spa, eat chocolate, treat yourself! While these things can make you feel good, they don;t necessarily make you feel better. There is a very distinct difference between those two words - good and better Maintaining a level of self-care is a necessity, particlarly if you work in a helping profession. Self-care practises are protective against the deleterious effects of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.
To really take care of yourself you need to do a
regular check of what's important and what isn't. This prioritising is a tricky skill to learn, particularly if you've been programmed into putting everything else before your good self.
But how do you prioritise?
As with anything you have never done before, it's all about leanring it as a new skill. And, yes it takes practise (blah blah blah). But I need to emphasise that poor self-care practises, or self care that gives you an instant feeling of feeling good isn;t enough to protect you against burnout.
Instead, looking at self-care as an observer, one who can look at things form the outside in, you might start to understand where your needs and wants lie, and already have a good idea about what the next step is. To give you some food for thought, here are some helpful tips you can use to get started in taking control of your well-being:
Start to notice everythign aorund you, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. Notice how you respond when you open your emails, or the phone rings. Notice what you think about on your way to and from work. Notice what you are feeling on a Sunday night or when you wake up on a work day. You won;t have to be noticing this for very long to see a pattern forming. If your thoughts, feelings and actions are negative, these are a definite warnign sign that soemthing needs to change. Once you've identified where you're head is at the next step is.....
If you want to delve further into your self-care habits a fantatsic resource can be found on the ReachOut Website https://schools.au.reachout.com/articles/self-care-for-professionals
You do not need to be a mental health professional to access these resources, and to make it even more attractive, they are free to use.
By assessing which aspects of your life need a self-care overhaul, this resource will get you to think about every facet of your life form work, home, relationships, emotional and spiritual well-being. Although we see our lives centred around a dichotomy of work/home, we are more complex creatures than those 2 simplistic categories. Once you have identified which aspects of your life need to change, you move on to.....
Start saying "No" to things you don't want to do, or don't have the energy for. Start saying "Yes" to what you have let go of because the busy-ness of life took over. Start exercising because you want to, or read that book you've heard so much about, or read the one you've read so many times the pages are falling out. No matter what floats your boat, the point is to float the damn boat.
By engaging with your Self in a way that fosters a sense of achievement, enjoyment and satisfaction you will notice a building up of resilience against those parts of your life that suck. Whatever those sucky parts are. The greater investment you put into your own well-being, the harder it will be for the edges of yourself to become crispy from the attempts at burning you out.