self-care

Strategies for Self-Care: Scheduling Intention

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Self-care is a word we hear a lot in our industry, not just for clients but for professionals as well. How does one define self-care? Is it true that we need to implement self- care in order to prevent burnout? To better understand fatigue, burnout, and the concept of self-care, let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and how they contribute to wellness.

 

Symptoms requiring Self-Care

For many professionals, self-care becomes something to explore when functioning declines. Our clients come to us because their lives are being disrupted and self-care may be needed to recover balance. We are our own worst clients in the idea that we can talk about the importance of self-care to others, but don’t always put it into regular practice for ourselves.  The result of limited or absent self-care is burnout, and burnout can be long lasting or pervasive as it spreads beyond our careers into our personal lives and beyond. In order to explore the impact of burnout for ourselves and our clients, we may find the following list helpful (adapted from Vital Hearts).

  • I don’t know how to relax.
  • I feel irritable more than I’d like.
  • I feel disconnected from my emotions.
  • I’ve isolated from my family.
  • Nothing makes me laugh anymore.
  • I take comfort in sweets.
  • I have no energy to listen to my family when I get home.
  • I escape by sleeping more.
  • I have no empathy at the end of my work day.
  • I’m ignoring my relationships.
  • I can’t seem to disconnect from work.
  • I am experiencing more anxiety.
  • I just want to get away sometimes.
  • I’m angry at my clients for asking so much of me.
  • I feel underappreciated.
  • I can’t read or watch the news anymore.
  • I don’t share my work with my friends, they just don’t get it.
  • I don’t socialize with friends much anymore.
  • I feel restless but don’t want to do anything.
  • I have lost confidence in myself.
  • I feel pessimistic as the result of my job.
  • I feel sadness.
  • I feel drained, I have no energy.
  • I feel angry.
  • My health has declined.
  • I feel like nothing I do makes things better.
  • I can’t concentrate.
  • I cry much easier than I used to.
  • My road rage has gotten worse.

For some, the list above starts the conversation about how much and to what degree life has been impacted by factors of our work as helping professionals.  Burnout untreated can lead to long lasting decline in quality of life and connection to others. Burnout can take away the passion of why you do this work. As we struggle to practice what we recommend to others, how do we change our patterns to support reduction of the negative impact of burnout? Below are some action steps.

 

Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)

Several organizations in Colorado see the importance of self-care, including the Colorado Mental Wellness Network. Selected by the Colorado Mental Wellness Network and endorsed by SAMHSA, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) is being utilized with various populations to support health and well-being. Colorado Mental Wellness Network supports change through peer to peer connection and wellness education. Through these efforts, they continue to implement WRAP plans within various communities, including those experiencing homelessness and within Department of Human Services caseworkers. What they found was that empowering individuals to notice wellness as well as health decline could support putting self-care into action. Below is an example of a wellness plan that can be used for both professionals and clients to best support their process of identifying and implementing self-care.

 

WRAP

 

Building in Boundaries

In addition to exploring and customizing self-care for meaningful change, boundaries may need to be re-evaluated to prevent burnout. For many helping professionals, long hours, after-hours texts, emails, or calls, client crisis, and urges to help, prevent successful disconnection from work. Technology makes it easy to check work emails 24 hours a day and calls may come in from various parties regarding client care. If there is flexibility to re-evaluate the schedule of work versus home life, it is encouraged. However, the schedule assigned may not be in your control. If this is the case, other means of implementing boundaries may be needed and can include the following:

  • Put an out of office message on email and voicemail to notify others of when you will respond.
  • Separate work and home phones to leave the work phone off during days off.
  • Identify a crisis coverage person to give to clients during vacations or other scheduled absences.
  • Schedule time off in your calendar(s) to support appropriate boundaries.
  • Schedule windows of self-care, even if just for 20 minutes, during your work week.
  • Be concrete with hours for yourself and your clients as to when and how they can reach you.
  • Find self-care you can commit to and put it in the calendar monthly or weekly.

It is with hope that we can create momentum from the talk of self-care into action steps as we continue in our roles as helping professionals. Modeling self-care is both in the benefit of our clients and ourselves as we navigate the busy world of demands in hope of positive change. May we all begin to develop quality self-care in order to find wellness in the path of hard work!

Geared towards Growth: Exploring Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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Have you had a client come into your office wanting to work on their relationships? What about a client who wants to work on self-worth and self-esteem? These goals are valuable and achievable, and could greatly benefit your client in their functioning and connection in the world.  However, depending on your client’s stressors and current life events, basic needs may need to be attended to first in order to achieve the growth and progress desired within your therapeutic work.

 

Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow first introduced the concept of a Hierarchy of Needs in a paper published in 1943. The image found most often in reference to his concept is a pyramid with the bottom representing the building block or foundation for higher functioning. According to Maslow, every human being has needs that must be met and stable prior to advancement to another level of human need. The levels he identified begin with physiological needs, followed by safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualization. Below are some examples of needs for each level:

  • Physiological: food, water, oxygen, sex, sleep, excretion
  • Safety: security of shelter, employment, resources, health, body
  • Love & Belonging: family, friends, intimate partners
  • Esteem: confidence, self-esteem, respect by others, respect for self
  • Self-Actualization: Acceptance, lack of prejudice, enlightenment

 

Goals for Growth

So how do the levels of need impact your client’s therapeutic work? For many helping professionals, the awareness of the hierarchy manifest through client psychoeducation around basic needs. Perhaps your client wants to work fully on their relationships, but is impacted by the stress of not having a job to pay their bills. Maybe your client wants to strengthen self-esteem, but can’t identify housing in suffering from an eviction this month. The present crises will require therapeutic attention and intervention first prior to a client allotting mental energy to higher levels of functioning.

Within your work, it can be helpful to normalize and educate your clients on basic needs being the foundation for functioning. You may consider describing the imagery as basic needs being the foundation of a house. If the foundation is crumbling, the other parts of the house become low priority or unseen in trying to stabilize the problem due to risks of it all collapsing around them. With this analogy, clients can absorb the importance of a stable foundation of basic needs requiring their attention before other goals can be successfully met.

 

Accessing Needs

A stable foundation may require other resources outside of your office. As a helping professional, it is in your best interest to be aware of resources to provide additional support to your client. The databases in your state, (Colorado Crisis Services and Colorado 2-1-1 for example) can be helpful in identifying food, shelter, clothing, legal advice and more.  You may also consider coordination with helpful organizations that would warrant a release from your client in order to collaborate.

Assessing needs can also occur from a place of looking at client resistance. One way this may manifest is through your client’s capacity to work on homework or assigned tasks between sessions.  Although some clients don’t like homework out of personal choice, other clients may struggle to articulate the crises that prevent progress on the homework you assigned, including forgetfulness, loss of focus, or stressors demanding their attention instead. This attempt at juggling varying demands could even translate to cancelled sessions in trying to handle the stressors at home or work. By being aware of basic needs, it can help you as the professional to better understand contributing factors that may present like resistance as elements requiring attention to support client progress.

 

Maintenance and Motivation

With collaboration and stabilization of basic needs come the client’s motivation for maintaining the foundation.  It is the hope that client’s basic needs, once addressed, remain in good standing.  However, with clients experiencing poverty, trauma, or other adversity, the fluctuating circumstances of their life can delay progress on higher functioning goals. Encouraging ongoing boundaries and self-care can support the client in reaching higher goals around self-esteem and relationships. With awareness and effort, a client can harness a healthy sense of control and autonomy in their life. Remaining flexible to the stressors that may occur between sessions, it is important that you and your client continue to be mindful of what takes precedence to allow the deeper, meaningful work you both value to occur at the appropriate time.