The Cost of Creating Self-Care: Can You Really Afford Not To?

Posted by: Gloria Pynn on February 19, 2019 1:10 pm

“Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off  a piece of that Kit Kat bar” – many of us have been there. The all-giving, dedicated counsellor is exhausted at the end of the day having given so much to our clients, colleagues and employers. We reach for that little reward – food, drink, bed, TV, and we collapse into the abyss of mindlessness or sleep to awaken to another day of emotional yet essential and passionate service to others.

Over time, the daily work and commitment of counselling can manifest itself in unhealthy responses to stress resulting in weight and health issues, withdrawal or retreat, anxiety, depression, or an overall lack of joy. That feeling of being a hamster on a wheel despite, and maybe because of, your passionate love of “your wheel”; your profession. In many different forms, compassion fatigue can rob you of your energy, deflate relationships and create a subtle but definite disconnect with your daily life.

The need to be mindful vs mindlessness is ever-growing in our profession.

Yes, we should all feel that it is okay, actually imperative, to focus on our self-care but often there is a guilt associated with looking after ourselves versus others. I’ve often called it a “counselling curse”. Empathy and service to others trumps self-compassion. Often early in our careers we pave the road to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. I feel these are two major thieves of our daily joy, health and peace.

We all read and listen to messages at local conferences, on blogs, and webinars to “provide self-care” and we all fully agree with that message, on a rational level. But how can you make it a reality and a constant in the forefront of your practice and life? Can we concretely plan or create self-care? Generalize it to our daily life practices? In our hurried world of could-haves, should-haves, would-haves, the first step to manifesting any change starts in our heads and hearts.

First Step.

Do absolutely nothing.

You may very well need a rest. Allow true mindless in. Sit, nap, journal – follow your mind’s natural path – this can often show you many of your own thoughts, worries and needs. If you can do this by integrating walks, hikes, nature, all the better. If you have developed mental health issues associated with compassion fatigue, please seek professional support. NO shame! As a counselling professional of over 25 years – been there, done that and will continue to seek whenever needed. NO apologies! Then, read about others and their minds. You can read self-help books but also those stories of people you admire, or even “disaster stories” (where life went wrong) with many lessons to be learned of misplaced priorities and regrets.

Second step.

Get a grip – Take stock and gratitude daily.

Take a long look around and see where are you in your life. Are you healthy? Are you happy? What makes you happy? What do you dread every day? Journal if that helps you, walk or talk with yourself and be open to hearing honestly what is good, what’s missing and what would make you feel more at peace or “peace-full” every day.

Also, truly listen and see what things you regret and how those things and relationships could be changed even gently. The power of change is one of our fundamental beliefs as counsellors and psychotherapists. Change is possible for us as well.

Think on your relationships and what you owe your family, significant others and most important yourself. Start to consider how to commit to those people and then learn to include yourself in that commitment daily. For me, this was integral as this helped me learn stepwise, that giving to myself was the best step to giving to family, and also my clients. (Had to do it for others first but getting there).

Thirdly.

Manipulate your mindset.

Sometimes we overthink and rationalize to our own detriment. Perhaps we need to build a rationale that “allows” us to take a break. Maybe it’s okay because we are learning new skills and perhaps a new naturopathic approach to healing, mindfulness workshops or training etc., to complement our counselling work. Think always about what you would like to learn, what motivates you, your passions and then start to weave these things into your life and career plans. Self-care sneaks in and can become a natural consequence and an amazing byproduct.

After this self-assessment, and during it actually, look at any and all possibilities to create self-care daily, monthly and long term. A few ideas in no particular order follow that I have woken up to (after 25 years as a counsellor) and have started to use or integrate in my own counselling practice and life:

Creating your own self-care plan

Financing self-care – money is always an object or is it? Use the money, options and health plans you may already have in place but you don’t think on daily.

  • “Sick” or leave days – use them or lose them. I dislike the negative connotation of sick days and firmly believe in attending to your physical and mental health days. When you delay or defer these days, you are likely to develop further issues and illnesses.
  • Our health care and insurance plans (Counselling, Massage, Naturopath Services, Dietitian, etc.)
    • How often have you finished another work year and realized that you had coverage for services you never even used but could have benefited tremendously? Just a thought. You could be paying for these services every month or pay-cheque. Allow yourself to engage in what could help take care of you.
  • Mini Vacations
    • Professional learning is also all around us and can equally benefit us and our clients. On-demand webinars and workshops on stress, meditation, mindfulness exist, as does professional learning experiences in places you want to see or places you would like to go. Grants are often available to help you with cost and provide you important learning, as well as a change of scenery or rejuvenation. There is also much benefit from the connection with fellow counsellors and in being around those who know or understand our work.
  • Deferred salary leave plans
    • Deferred salary leave plans can be a wonderful way to create a long-term plan for self-care. Readers should investigate whether their employers and respective workplaces offer this option as a first step. It can be a viable option here in Newfoundland and Labrador for many public sector employees. Consult Human Resources personnel in your place of employment to discuss of particulars with regard to requirements and benefits of these types of options. Long story short, deferred salary plans may be a means for some colleagues to planning self-care longer term – to rejuvenate, pursue personal, family, and/or professional goals.
  •  “Lunchables”
    • Don’t have a full day or afternoon, then make the time for coffee or quick lunch. A quick break away or a coffee run, a drive can be a change of scenery and change can be as good as a rest. Connect with others but have boundaries on time and select places you enjoy.
  • Commit to you by including others (you like)
    • Plan it – Build connection into your day or week or month and make the commitment to other people – connect with those who help you to laugh, reflect, get outside, exercise – whatever it is you feel you need for peace and joy.
  • Continue to Tweak it
    • Try new things and add new elements – walk n’ talks, yoga, painting, meditation anything you love or would love to try. As counsellors who wants to continually improve our practice, look to your passions and the things you personally enjoy! You can learn about, practice, teach and model much of this for your clients. An authentic life and counselling practice is always amazing and powerful!! Do as I do not as I say. Who knows, imposter syndrome may start to slide away? But that’s a topic for another post.

Think, talk and always take care,

Gloria




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Making Contact Inside the Computer

Posted by: Sherry Law on June 29, 2016 11:49 am

Over the last 2 years as I have delved deeper into virtual reality (VR) I have learned things I never expected to experience. The fact that VR is programmable means that the experience is solely dependent on ones imagination (and perhaps a little aptitude for software development). VR transports you immediately into a new reality and this holds many implications. The truth is that the physical body, or meat space, does not go anywhere. It is the mind or the psyche that is convincingly transported and the focus of my exploration. This is the true potential for the impact of VR.

I recently received a consumer version VR device. This device not only allows you to glimpse into another world, but also provides you the ability to manipulate the world around you with your hands. In addition, the technology provides the freedom of movement throughout a play area where you can walk around, sit, dance, pivot, the full range of bodily motions as long as it is within the bounds of a play area. This transforms ones understanding of the lived experiences almost 100% from the meat space into a digital realm. When you can train your aim inside an archery simulation and the fidelity nearly reflects reality, it is a strange experience indeed. I have never done archery myself, but being able to have some measure of behavioural mimicry to archery was not only a fun experience, but immersive and tiring! Having to duck and dodge enemy fire, destroying enemies with accurate aim, and spinning around at a second’s notice to ensure no one was attacking you from behind was thrilling. To imagine that this is the new world of the gamer, no longer bound to a computer chair, but sweating instead in a dimly lit room, practicing proper aim that can maybe be carrieblogphotosherryd into the real world. On the score board, your abilities are compared against the best in the world and usernames compete in a never ending battle to the top rank.

I also experienced an amazing level of intimacy in VR. Coming headset to headset with other people around the world, playing games and chatting with them through mics was absolutely astounding. I could see their heads move about as they thought about the ideas I shared with them. People witnessed my hands held on my hips as I wait for them to take the next shot at pool. We giggled together as we threw chairs all around a digital bar and made a mess with beer bottles and books. I high fived someone from Germany, we chatted about what a strange experience VR was, we looked at each other’s computer screens to check time zone differences between me and someone from Illinois, and goofed around with the interface as we learned and tinkered with our new toys. I was approached by a Frenchman from Austria that even wanted to show me around the digital space while I practiced my French. We spent time with phantom others in our minds, while our bodies remained alone and without company, yet I felt connected online for the very first time. I have made several friends already from around the world.

Does the mind care that you are not physically next to a person? No. I can say for myself that my mind was thoroughly convinced that I was properly socializing with others beside me, sharing and laughing together in a room. Meeting with strangers was no more jarring than in person, and in earnest, less so because all my fears of judgment vanished with the replacement of my body as an avatar. However, my expression, who “I” was did not vanish, and was perhaps enhanced by the removal of my distracting physical self.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The elusive work/life (self-care) balance phenomenon for the self-employed professional

Posted by: Jamie Dovedoff on March 7, 2016 12:31 pm

stacked-stones-664928_1920For the vast majority of us, work is life so I prefer to think of this concept not as work/life balance but rather work/self-care balance. The elusive phenomenon where you reach and maintain that vacation-induced “Zen” Monday to Friday.

It seems we are often plagued with the seemingly impossible notion of establishing a consistent work flow that always seems to be in constant flux between too busy or too slow (with not nearly the same amount of time spent at that “just right” pace) and managing our self-care needs. How much is too much to take on? It’s easy to say “yes” to more work, it seems we are pre-programmed for it. We justify this by telling ourselves that we don’t necessarily know when the next referral is coming through our door. What is always saying “yes” costing you? Your clients? Your loved ones?

A simple google search provides you with the definition of balance “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady”. So, if you are awake an average of 16 hours/day and 8 hours/day is spent at work, by the very definition of balance, you should spend the other 8 hours of your day engaged in activities which replenishes and prepares you for a new day. How realistic is that?

Establishing equality amongst your many commitments is not an easy task (ever tried walking on a tightrope?). The figurative scales are constantly going to be encouraged one way or the other. Realistically, at times, you are going to have to allow for this to happen. HOWEVER, remaining too long in a state of imbalance can lead to fatigue, decreased mood, stress, burnout, etc.

Ten steps to re-balance the scales:

  • Set realistic goals – set financial goals for your work but also establish goals around how much time you would like to devote to yourself
  • Identify and prioritize your priorities – what tasks are “must do” and which ones are “would be nice too”
  • Set equal work and self-care priorities – if you are going to take on extra work then how much extra time can you afford to give to your self-care to replenish your energy
  • Get organized – make a schedule, be conservative with your time estimates to complete each task, be realistic about what you can and cannot manage, plan in advance (as much as you can), and keep a regular schedule (prescribe regular work hours for yourself)
  • Be flexible
  • Declutter – clean up your physical working space and/or move your working space to free you of unnecessary distractions
  • Set boundaries for yourself – respect your boundaries or no one else will
  • Practice saying “no”
  • Schedule breaks self-care does not need to be quarantined to the end of your work day or over the weekend. Try to incorporate regular self-care practices for short periods throughout your day

LIVE IN CONSCIOUS AWARENESS AND PERFORM REGULAR AND TRUTHFUL CHECK INS




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Finding Compassion Within

Posted by: Denise Hall on February 2, 2016 5:11 pm

self-careBy Denise E. Hall Psy.D CCC MCVP

Every part of us that we do not love will regress and become more primitive – Carl Jung

I have been thinking for a long time about writing about Self-Compassion. In my work as a psychotherapist and with my friends and family, I am constantly struck by the lack of self-compassion people convey in their words about their work and life. They are constantly saying things like “I am so stupid”, “I should have known better”, “how could I have missed that”, “who would notice or like a _____”. “I am just a ________” etc. etc.

No wonder we have high levels of depression and anxiety in our culture. Western society is high on guilt and judging individuals. It also encourages people to have unrealistically high standards for themselves and sometimes their standard is pure perfectionism. Their failings are seen as a panacea for everything that is wrong. Not only are individuals judged and blamed, parents, in particular, are one of most heavily blamed group in society. Some people believe that Individual blame conveniently shifts the responsibility from organizational, corporate and /or institutional/governmental culpability.

What is self-compassion? I think we confuse it with selfishness if we tend to spend time on caring for our self. Self care and self-compassion, I suggest is an afterthought, something we do when we have time and when all our responsibilities are taken care of. What happens usually is there is nothing left to give to self. We turn to other things like alcohol or drugs, food or other dependencies that hook us quickly but do not provide the profound and positive effect of simple self-compassion.

Self-compassion is the act that states “I am human; I am fallible and it is OK to make mistakes to change my mind, to pursue my passion.” It is not judging our actions as good or bad, just viewing them as part of learning and growing, part of being human. How can we be compassionate of others if we do not practice it with ourselves? The Green Cross Standards of Care state that we cannot perform our work as a caregiver unless we take care of ourselves. There is also the metaphor of the airplane oxygen mask, putting it on first before we put it on others.

The driver of this judgemental approach is our critical voice or voices that are internalized from the Media, and the dominant stories in our culture about who is valued and who is not; from our parents and school experiences. Awareness is the key to self-compassion and the more we understand these influences, the more we have control over our actions. When we judge ourselves harshly it demeans us and often drives our self-esteem into the black hole of constant recrimination, fear and helplessness.

There is a Buddhist sutra that is called Metta or lovingkindness that blesses ourselves and others. It is a meditation similar to the following:

May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I have ease of body and mind
May I be at peace

The practice goes on to bless others, dearest ones, benefactors, neutral ones and those we are in conflict with. Compassion starts with the self and it encompasses our work, our friends and family, relationships with others and those that are sick, troubled or difficult to deal with. The whole world looks and feel different when we practice self compassion. The native Hawaiians have a practice called Ho’oponopono which is a forgiveness ritual that starts with loving, accepting, and forgiving the self and then others. They call it the miracle healing practice.

Self- compassion is a simple concept however it is not easy to practice. It takes accepting ourselves and all our parts warts and all!!!

Your comments are welcome! Please contact me at 604-562-9130.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

The Role of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion in Self-Care

Posted by: Amal Souraya on October 28, 2015 5:00 am

In our daily lives we juggle a multitude of roles. Professionally we are called counsellors. As counsellors we spend our time working with and assisting people on bettering their lives and living more healthfully. We do this in real time while we are working with these clients in an individual counselling session, while we are involved in case consultations pertaining to these clients, while we write assessment reports, and case notes; we spend a great deal of our time investing in client change.

For most therapists, this professional role is not the only identity that we hold. Some are also business owners, teachers, volunteers, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and students. With this vast array of roles that we juggle it is paramount that we find balance in our lives. This is a rudimentary skill that we thrive to teach our clients. Do we not deserve the same principles for ourselves? Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Self-Care Is Not a Luxury

Posted by: Lisa Shouldice on October 23, 2015 5:00 am

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I am so excited at this time of year when I open my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to see lots of articles, links and Blogs circulating about self-care. But I do think we lose sight of self-care as an all-day, everyday practice, including the times we need a bit extra. So let’s open up about the concept of self-care in our lives.

Self-care is many things from stopping our work at 4:00 to make a hot, immune-boosting tea as the days get longer and colder, do Yoga stretches at our desk so our backs muscles stay limber and so much more. On the weekend we may take time to connect with family, go on a hike etc. This is self-care all-day, everyday.

I think the piece, a lot of people slip on is when self-care needs to become deeper, more frequent and healing in our lives. It is so easy for us to ignore signs of fatigue, burnout and sadness and just keep going. But it does not work. Depression and Anxiety are on the rise. It will become physical in our bodies; our feelings will not be ignored. So instead of not sleeping, having another fight with your partner, and drinking 6 cups of coffee tomorrow, let’s STOP, and practice some deeper self-care. Otherwise you get sick and have to take stress leave anyway. So let’s be proactive. Deeper self-care or healing can be practiced on a more regular basis as well, and fit in you life. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Fostering Self Acceptance Part -1

Posted by: Denise Hall on September 9, 2015 3:04 pm

 

The issue of self- acceptance is a complex one and there are a number of components to consider. First though, the negative affect of non-acceptance of one’s self can be dangerous to one’s health and well being. Non-acceptance of self leads one to be highly self-critical, denying of their emotional needs, inability to learn from past mistakes, inability to set realistic goals, isolating and unable to form positive relationships, and being unaware and/or unappreciative of their strengths and positive qualities. It keeps a person in a negative space, could lead to depression and social anxiety and colours everything we do. Non-acceptance is addiction’s tool that serves to numb the feelings associated with negative feelings about self and behavior.

Self-acceptance is about accepting the self unconditionally, negative parts, and all. Now that is a large order and generally self-acceptance is a “work in progress”. It is challenging to be fully self-accepting and maybe in order to continue to grow as person, a person needs to accept the challenging parts but see them as things they are willing and able to change. Jung called the dark part of self, the shadow side. Knowing and accepting the shadow side is the work of personal growth. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

One Hand Washes the Other

Posted by: Bonney Elliott on August 19, 2015 1:30 pm

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In nursing school in my early 20’s strict principles of infection control were drilled into our heads. From basic hand washing to elaborate sterile technique, the focus was on caring for people without spreading disease from the infectious patient to the wounded or immune compromised. These principles have served me when working up close and personal with the human body as a nurse, but nursing school did not prepare me for the emotional impact of caring.

 

In my first job as an RN at a children’s hospital, I loved the kids. Children are honest, fun, and incredibly resilient. Over time it became harder to separate my personal feelings from the clinical scenarios that unfold in an acute care setting. I often took on the suffering of my sick and dying young patients and their families. I brought it home with me. This was heartbreaking, and unsustainable once I became a young mother myself.

 

With support from family, I upgraded my skills and moved into community health in my early 30’s as a nurse practitioner. I developed more solid emotional boundaries, which I found easier to maintain outside of the hospital setting. Working with families from all walks of life still pulled at my heartstrings though. I am prone to holding onto the emotions of others, sliding from empathy into sympathy. It was early in this second phase of my career, that I received simple but sound advice from a visiting Elder from the Nova Scotia Mi’qmaq First Nation, a warm and wise medicine woman.

Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Echo Bullying

Posted by: Jonathan Delisle on August 19, 2015 10:17 am

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Echo bullying is a term I’ve developed based on both personal and clinical experiences. It is a phenomenon that occurs long after the bullying ends. It is an internal self-depreciation that continually underlies the former victim’s self-perception. The depreciating internal dialogue perpetuates the past bullying (usually sub-consciously). This internal dialogue is the echo of the bully’s message to his former victim.

Bullies direct hurtful comments or behaviours at you, and then you walk away and think nothing more of it or you may even try to repress or distort the memory of it while trying to convince yourself that you don’t care. Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Nature’s Invitations

Posted by: Angela Herzog on August 18, 2015 2:43 pm

Nature speaks truth into our lives on a daily basis.

So often, I lose sight of this simple truth, as my attention begins to zero in on tasks, appointments and concerns.

I was blessed to have a couple of weeks of summer holidays immersed in nature. Through this, my gaze began to widen again and I was able to receive some of nature’s invitations.

  1. Have I ever looked at trees and been amazed at how they are not falling despite their height?

The tree invites me to nurture my roots.

  1. Have I noticed how leaves respond gracefully and receptively to the wind?

What external forces am I fighting against?

  1. Have I enjoyed watching the freedom flight of a butterfly with a knowing of its journey to flight?

How can I trust the process within seasons of constriction that feel like a cocoon? Continue reading




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA