The entire Youth Dynamics team met at the Chico Hot Springs on May 2-3 for our Annual All Staff Retreat. The theme of this year’s retreat was Dealing with Secondary Trauma – Self-Care. The two days was set up with stations for YDI staff to try new self care techniques. This week’s blog post will cover some of the benefits of self-care and next week’s will describe actual self-care techniques.
Self-care refers to the activities and practices we do regularly that reduce stress, maintain, and enhance our short and longer term health and well being (University at Buffalo School of Social Work). For care givers, self-care can become the last priority. It is very easy to put everyone first and forget to care for ourselves.
People need self-care like plants need proper water and sun light. With to little of either, all plants will shrivel and die. Without self-care, a person will shrivel into themselves and begin to burnout. Here are a few of the many benefits of self-care.
It gives you more energy
We all want more energy. A good self-care regime will energize you. There is the day-to-day self-care of eating healthy food or getting good sleep that are part of staying energized for the long term. There are also the more sporadic activities such as taking a vacation that are just as important. One of the quickest ways to more energy is exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are one of the hormones that make you feel happy.
Self-care makes you more balanced in all aspects of your life.
Kristen, a case manager in Billings, describes how being in Chico helped her identify how burn out was effecting her.
“For a few months now, I’ve been in this weird slump to where I haven’t wanted to go out and do things and have been just depressed for no apparent reason. It felt good to be able to get myself out of my comfort zone again because I love meeting and talking with new people!
Some of the little self care sessions were fun (and I got a massage so it can’t get better than that!) and I realized that I really do need to start taking better care of myself.”
Self-care helps us to avoid letting the stress of our jobs bleed into other parts of our lives. It helps us have the energy to keep all parts of our lives in balance.
Taking a break for self-care gives us more creativity when solving tough problems.
Those of us in the behavioral health field are often confronted with complex problems that tax both our emotions and creativity. Every client requires a slightly different approach and constantly being creative to find new approaches that will support their treatment goals can be exhausting. The science shows that taking breaks will “help shift our thinking from its habitual, stuck patterns. They create the space for energy and creativity to flow.”
Whether it is a 5 minute break in the day to walk outside or a 5 day break for a vacation with your family, breaks for self care are essential. Breaks give our brains a rest. They give us the time and space to approach problems from different angles. Self-care can involve playful activities. As the old proverb goes: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.
It will allow you to have longevity in your career.
When asked Olivia Swartz, a licensing worker from Great Falls, explained the importance of self-care like this:
“I love my job and I want to keep investing in myself so I don’t hate my job.”
Those of us in the human services field have seen the high rate of turn over due to the stresses of this job. One study out of the UK found that a social workers “life expectancy” is just 8 years. Burning out quickly like this is unhealthy. Self-care is an investment you make in yourself. Over time this investment will pay off for both you and your clients. You stay healthy and happy while providing the highest quality of care to your clients.