Give Yourself a Break!

Taking breaks is helpful to avoid physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.  Awareness, self-permission and planning may be necessary to getting the break you need.  As humans, our bodies and minds need time for rest and rejuvenation in order to function optimally.  It is important to allow yourself to take breaks throughout the day, weekly and yearly.  While this may seem obvious, many people push themselves beyond what is healthy and don’t take the time necessary to rejuvenate.

Your body is an amazing source of information.  Having a connection with your body is helpful as it will signal you when it is time to step away from the pressures of life.  Connecting with your body requires awareness, or paying attention to how it feels.  For example, if you are at work and notice a feeling of tension in your shoulders and a sense of overwhelm, it would be a good time to leave your office and step outside for a few minutes.  If you notice feeling more tired than usual you may want to take a nap or allow for extra sleep at night until you feel revitalized or change your sleep patterns. I encourage you to be mindful of how you feel because it can give you information regarding what you need.  Ignoring the body’s signals can often lead to more serious situations, such as illness.

Breaks from work, responsibilities at home and from life’s pressures can have benefits such as improved health and wellness, reduced stress, shift in perspective, mental clarity and increased productivity.  Although taking breaks is an investment of time, the potential health benefits and efficiency gained are worth finding the time.

Giving yourself permission to take a break is often necessary as may seem as though there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done.  This can be especially important if the idea of taking a break makes you feel guilty, lazy or unproductive.  Repeating an affirmation in your mind, such as “it is okay for me to rest” might be helpful if you struggle with taking breaks.

A mid-day break or a lunch break is a great time to refresh and release stress of the morning by stepping away from your desk.  Many people work through lunch with the notion that it will increase their productivity.  In actuality, you may find that you return from the break with more clarity and energy, which can result in higher productivity.  In addition to eating lunch you may find the time to workout, spend some time outdoors or to run an errand that would give you more time for your evening activities.  Lunch with a co-worker or friend can be a wonderful opportunity to have fun and develop supportive relationships.  If taking lunch breaks is not encouraged at your workplace, taking a regular lunch break may be an opportunity to model effective self-care.  An improved attitude and higher productivity would certainly have everyone wondering what your secret is!

Taking a break, in the moment when you need, it advisable but not always practical.  I encourage you to find some time each day to rest and do something nurturing for yourself.  This may require some planning or can be done spontaneously when you see a window of time.  Good questions to ask yourself each day are “what breaks did I allow myself today?” and/or “what did I do for myself today?”  You will gain awareness of your habits through answering these questions daily.  From this place of awareness you can make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs for rejuvenation.

Scheduling time for rest and enjoyment each week is a good habit.  Setting aside a large portion of time or a day of rest each weekend can help you to refresh and maintain balance.  Additionally, taking vacation time each year can be restorative, aid in maintenance of a positive outlook and prevent burnout.  Scheduled time off can be beneficial whether you go on a trip or stay home.  Allowing yourself some time to do what you feel like doing in the moment can feel liberating and help release tension.

Taking breaks daily, weekly and yearly is good self-care practice.  Meeting your needs for rest, rejuvenation and fun can help to improve job satisfaction, prevent burnout and result in a better quality of life.  Enjoy taking a break for YOU today and every day!

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It’s an Inside Job

It has been said that healing practitioners can only go as deep with their clients/patients as they are willing to go within themselves.  As caregiving professionals, we are trained in and spend a great deal of time assessing and healing others.  It is important to contemplate, look within and to work through personal issues such as unhealthy patterns of behavior, faulty belief systems and personal traumas.   The work can be difficult and require great vulnerability, but strength can be found within by working at such depth.

The greatest gift we can give to others is to live and work work from a place of wholeness found within ourselves.  The gifts we receive by doing our inner-work can include the ability to connect deeply with self and others, compassion, wisdom, intuition, clarity and an unwavering inner-compass.  As caregivers we have the honor and opportunity to touch the lives of everyone we come into contact  with.  It is our responsibility to be the best we can be when doing our work as caregivers.  Compassionate service can be increased when we have the ability to connect deeply with our heart and soul.

Utilizing counseling and therapy services, consulting with a life coach, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, spiritual retreats, artistic expression and journaling are practices that can assist with personal discovery and healing.  When seeking outside help with your inner-journey it is important to find a professional who has has a commitment to both his/her inner-work and the healing of others.  One can guide others better from a place of personal experience and proficiency.  Enjoy the journey!

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Compassion Satisfaction

“Compassion satisfaction is the pleasure we derive from being able to do our work well.  Higher levels of compassion satisfaction are related to your ability to be an effective caregiver” according to Dr. Beth Hudnall Stamm.  The Professional Quality of Life Scale (PROQOL) Version 5 (2009) was developed by Dr. Beth Hudnall Stamm and can be used to measure compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress.  This self-assessment is available as a resource on our website.

There are multiple ways in which compassion satisfaction can be cultivated.  Rather than than focusing on the negative or challenging aspects of the work, one can generate positive feelings by focusing on the aspects of the work that are enjoyable.  Remembering accomplishments, positive feedback from clients/patients/supervisors, times when a difference was made in someone’s life, and feeling gratitude for such opportunities can help shift a person’s perspective and elevate his/her mood.  Creation of a “smile file” to keep positive feedback from others, awards, cards, etc. can be helpful to review at times when the work seems overwhelming and you have lost sight of your positive impact.

Building a support network within the workplace can make work more enjoyable.  Reaching out to people in the same profession for support is helpful as they are likely to have experienced similar frustrations and joys while doing their jobs.  It is nice to take the time out to enjoy lunch and conversations with friends at work.  Identifying supervisors and mentors to whom you can go to for advice and/or learning opportunities can be gratifying.

Effective self-care can help you to maintain resiliency and keep your balance, thus contributing to compassion satisfaction.  Creating balance between work, family/friends and personal needs is essential.  Continually assessing and adjusting self-care between these three areas is important in establishing and maintaining balance.  When it seems as if one area of your life is dominating the others, it is time to make an adjustment.  To do so requires contemplation and mindfulness regarding what is working and what is not.

I encourage you to find opportunities to laugh, have fun, play and relax during time spent away from work in order to recharge and return to work refreshed.  It is too easy to get caught in the demands and responsibilities of both work and the home/family.  There will always be more to do and sometimes it can wait.  Your needs are important too!  You’ll have more to give when you acknowledge and respond to your needs.

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