Taking Care of Yourself While Helping Others
If you’re in an industry that deals with helping people—grief worker, social worker, nurse, police officer, or mental health professional—nine times out of ten, you are prepared and willing to put everyone else’s well-being before your own. I know I do it all the time. However, around that tenth time, I notice something happening to my mind, body, and soul. I feel so heavy inside, and it becomes harder for me to fall asleep at night or get up in the morning. I’m highly distracted, and I struggle to maintain my focus. It’s then that I realize I have been so busy helping others, I have neglected myself. It’s extremely important to make sure you strike a healthy balance in this sense when working in the helping fields. If not, then you will surely reach a level of burnout, and honestly, that’s no good to anyone.
There are so many sad stories and traumatic experiences that people share with us. Over time, it becomes more and more challenging to shake off the impact of those stories and leave them in the office. That’s why it is important to find yourself a network of peers to discuss ideas with when dealing with something that is troubling you. Try not to talk about your clients beyond these professional circles, or soon you will find that you’re consuming yourself with the lives of your clients. It is of utmost importance for me to not read books or see movies that depict traumatic scenarios like the kind I come across when working with clients.
We must also make time to exercise, whether it be a rigorous gym session or just getting out of the office for a walk. Either can help clear your head. This physical exertion is a helpful tool in removing stress from our bodies. In addition to making time for exercise, you also need to be willing to exercise your right to say “No.” No to new commitments that will add to your stress level; no to discussing professional topics at parties or during your free time, like your lunch breaks. It is okay to take time for yourself and to not be forced into conversations that keep you in the work mode.
I know it’s not something we think about often because we want to help others with their pain. But remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be able to help anyone else. Burnout is a real concern, and it can drastically diminish our ability to maintain our professionalism as well as be 100% available for our clients. Make sure you have a self-care plan and are willing to utilize it on a regular basis.