Balancing Self Care and Selflessnes
Laura Guay MSW
There are many paths that have brought each of us to positions where we are gifted the opportunity to support others on their path towards building resilience and healing. The experience is rewarding and life-giving, and it can also be full of heartbreak, frustration and exhaustion. While it may seem counterintuitive to look inward and attend to our own needs when those before us are struggling or in crisis, we have an ethical responsibility to do so.
Self-care is a term frequently used throughout helping professions. It is vitally important to providing services that are responsive to the trauma related needs of youth and families, to building community resilience, and ultimately to sustaining a workforce of experienced professionals. But what does self-care truly mean and what does it look like in practice? There is not a singular definition of self-care, however across human service fields it is universally understood as the activities and practices we engage in to reduce stress and support our long-term physical and emotional well-being so that we are at our best both personally and professionally.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network identifies three basic aspects of self-care:
- Awareness: An intentional slow down and inward focus on emotions, stress levels, thinking, and whether our behaviors and actions are in line with our values.
- Balance: To seek balance across all areas of life including work, family, rest, and leisure which improves productivity and personal satisfaction.
- Connection: Deliberately building supportive relationships with colleagues, friends, family and community; a sense of connection is one of the most powerful stress reducers.
Strategies to Support Awarness, Balance, Connection
•Fuel your body: Eat nutritiously to avoid being too full or too hungry
•Practice good sleep routines: Sleep provides our bodies restoration and is essential for proper brain functioning
•Move your body: Create moments to move and stretch even if it is at your desk
•Remember to breathe: A simple breathing exercise is 4 count breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold a full breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold an empty breath for 4 seconds. Repeat this 3 times to support self-regulation
•Identify unhelpful thoughts and reframe them: We often default to value based thinking which is not productive. Try noticing when this happens and then reframe your initial thought to reflect facts. Example: “He doesn’t stand a chance getting sober,” versus “He has an uphill battle in his recovery, what supports might he need to be successful?”
•Check-ins: Connect with colleagues and ask for and offer support when it is needed. Stay focused on creating solutions and problem-solving
•Laugh: Nurture activities and relationships that make you laugh!
Additional Resources for Self-Care Strategies: