Volume 5 • Issue 3 • March 2020
Uplift Family Services is a trauma-informed agency, providing whole person care through resilience-oriented, data-driven, culturally sensitive services. We believe in the power of staff investment, advocacy and collaboration as we partner with individuals, families, and communities to heal from the widespread impact of trauma.
Caring for Others Starts with Caring for Ourselves
As we become a more trauma-informed agency, staff at Uplift Family Services hear a lot about “self-care.” But what is self-care, why is it important, and what does it look like for you?
Self-care is the practice of attending to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It is all about maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself. You deserve that healthy relationship. Without it, you simply cannot have healthy relationships with others.
Stress and dysregulation, both emotional and physical, are part of life, and we are built to cope with them. When your mind and body tell you that things are out of kilter, you can take steps to feel calm, centered and whole.
If stress is a part of everyday life, it plays an even greater role in the challenging work we do at Uplift. Careers in mental health and social services can be fulfilling but also demanding and, at times, overwhelming. We give ourselves over to the work and it can deplete us. For the sake of ourselves, our families and our customers, we must proactively make time to rest and re-energize, both at home and in the workplace.
The idea of self-care at the office raises questions. “How can I squeeze self-care activities into the workday? It is certainly not part of my job description! How can I take time away from the kids and families I serve? From writing notes? From team meetings? How do I even give myself permission to allow me to be important?”
There are no easy answers, but one thing is indisputable: Because you are a human being, your well-being matters.
A good starting point is giving yourself and others grace. Be aware of what you can and cannot control. Be reasonable in what you expect of yourself.
Putting Professional Self-Care Into Practice
Whatever the requirements of your job, you can manage at least some of your time: with colleagues by putting up a “do not disturb” sign; with customers by agreeing to respect one another’s time; and with friends and family by not over-committing. Honestly, does that party you’re throwing next weekend really need to be “Pinterest perfect?”
How ambitious should you be? There is no one-size-fits-all plan. In our ad filled, social media culture it is easy to over commit to a rigorous exercise plan, a new diet, a sport, social group, or new hobby. Big steps like this can work, especially if undertaken with a partner who encourages and holds you accountable to measurable goals. But big steps are not for everyone and in some cases are a set-up for failure.
Successful self-care is individualized. Sometimes what counts is doing little things throughout the day, like taking a minute to stop and breathe, or sending a funny meme to a colleague. It might be allowing an extra half hour of television or grabbing Starbucks on the way to work. The point is that self-care will not look the same for everyone.
We encourage managers at Uplift to initiate self-care conversations with their supervisees, making sure not to present it as one more stress-inducing workplace expectation. Ultimately, the manager’s job comes down to supporting staff as they learn over time what works for them.
Whatever it looks like for you, remember that taking care of yourself is critical both to the well-being you deserve and to your functioning, including your capacity to take care of others: your family, friends, customers and colleagues.
Mark Edelstein & Elika Beckwith