Professionals engaged in mental health/health sciences field are often reminded about "self care." From grad school training, to supervision, to literature offered in our professional organizations, we understand the benefits of it-and are warned of the consequences of neglecting it. This is wise. And, the very concept and practices of self-care can rightfully be extended to parents, caregivers, couples, and all beings engaged in living and encountering life.
As the Russian existential novelist, Dostoyevsky wrote: "To live is to suffer." The reality is we do suffer at times, for ourselves, for others, for our world. The "secondary trauma" experienced by the professional, the personal trauma encountered, or the engagement in the world-with its own sufferings of war, violence, disease, racial tensions, poverty, natural disasters, etc. can result in what the professional literature calls "compassion fatigue." In professionals, it results from the secondary trauma experienced and not eased through self-care practices. It can lead to feelings and behaviors of mental/physical exhaustion, poor concentration, compulsive behaviors, substance abuse, isolation, and other behaviors and feelings that impact one's relationship with self, clients and others.
As many see and understand the importance of self-care, how is it embodied in practice? I invite you to think of it as a facet of being, an innate part of self at our healthiest. As we open our hearts to nurturing ourselves, a natural integration of self-care practice is found, seemlessly attuned to her needs-and responding to her with the tenderness and gentleness of that which we would extend to a child, a beloved in need, a dying parent...
A general guideline is to tend to the essentials of holistic wellness. The following are life domains for your consideration, with some suggestions for self-care practices:
- Physical: nutrition, sleep, physical activity, meditation, yoga
- Emotional: meditation, yoga, writing, talking with a friend, creating/viewing art, composing/listening to music, guarding what enters your mind and heart through visual, print and auditory media, as well as language.
- Social: connecting with friends and family, social organizations, clubs, conversation salons
- Transcendence/Spiritual/Religious: experiencing a sense of awe/interconnection through nature, engagement in religious rituals, reflections on religious/philosophical texts, observing the Sabbath, attending services, prayer, belonging to a spiritual/religious/philosophical community
- Intellectual/brain health: brain training, reading widely, learning a new language/musical instrument, conversation salons/philosophy club meet ups
- Financial: living below or within your means, getting the best price on quality items you want, "paying yourself first" (some form of savings/investment), increasing earnings