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Mental Health

Standards of Self-Care for Helping Professionals Series 2 of 3

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In my last article, I introduced the Standards of Self-Care that were created by The Green Cross Academy of Traumatology.  These standards are created for their members who work with people who have experienced trauma.  The purpose is to ensure that as a worker you “do no harm to yourself” and to ensure that you are giving high quality of service.

meditationThis week I will review the Standards for Establishing and Maintaining Wellness.  This section contains guidelines including:

1) Commitment to Self-Care

2) Strategies for Letting Go of Work

3) Strategies for Gaining a Sense of Self-Care Achievement.

As a Compassion Fatigue Coach, I often see the long-term commitment to Self-Care as one of the biggest struggles.  Most people have great energy for change in the beginning and then life starts to get in the way and self-care is one of the first things to go.  I usually notice this after three or four weeks.

The self-care standards states that we should make a formal, tangible, specific, and a public commitment to self-care and letting go of work in off hours.  This is to include putting good energy into activities that are “fun, stimulating, inspiriting, and generate joy in life”, which will help us let go of work.

Like all good goals, we are to set deadlines and come up with strategies that work and monitor them over time.   I love the last part that states “advocates of your self-care” should monitor your strategies.  Having an advocate of self-care is a beautiful concept, because we know that helpers tend to put more energy into caring for others than we do for caring for ourselves.

The third part of this section speaks to ways we can gain a sense of self-care achievement.  How do we know that we are achieving self-care?  When I ask people about their self-care practices, I am often given a laundry list of “self-care” activities.

It sounds something like this… “Yeah, I go to the gym a few times a week, I do yoga and I cook healthy meals”.  This is great, but I don’t hear passion for the activities and don’t usually get a sense that these activities bring “joy” throughout the day.

While it is important to have strategies that promote rest and relaxation, these need to be “tailored to your own interests and ability which result in rest and relaxation most of the time”.  The goal is to bring major stress reducing practices as a daily lifestyle practice, not something that is checked off a few times a week.

It can be helpful to take some time and explore personal interests and passions that can be incorporated throughout the day.  This can include meditation, mindfulness practices, journaling, reading, cooking, physical relaxation practices, spending time with children/animals/family/friends.  I think what is most important is to foster an awareness of self-care and stress reduction as it is happening.

Those 10 minutes between clients that you take to do some deep breathing is relaxing your nervous system and giving yourself the care you deserve.  I call this “Flexi Self-Care”.  What small self-care strategies can you incorporate into your lifestyle, as opposed to just checking off an hour at the gym or yoga studio a few times per week?

This week I challenge you to spend a bit of time and reflect on what really brings you joy & relaxation.  Then find ways to incorporate small amounts of this throughout your day (both at work and at home).  Let me know what you add to your self-care repertoire in the comments below!

Photo Courtesy of Psycentral.com

Charlene is a Clinical Social Worker providing mental health counseling for a Family Health Team in Ottawa, Ontario. She is a Compassion Fatigue Specialist and supports helping professionals move from Compassion Fatigue to Compassion Satisfaction through workshops, coaching and an online eCourse at http://www.charlenerichardrsw.com.

          
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