This is the fourth and final blog about caring for ourselves. The question I’m sitting with is: how do we manage after prolonged periods of intensity? This builds upon themes that Karen shared in May 2022.
I had coffee with an old friend late last year, who said to me, “you’ve had a really full on year!” And I replied, “have I?”
Throughout 2022, we settled into a new house, our cat was hit by a car, I broke my foot, visited the emergency department with some cardiac stuff, had a procedure to cure me of the cardiac stuff, renovated the entire exterior of the house which cost more than we budgeted, went to London for work and caught Covid over there when our borders were still closed, we discovered our ducted heating system was pumping poisonous carbon monoxide into the house, my father died, somebody crashed their car into me, and we entered the fourth year of a deadly global pandemic – not to mention the other existential threats looming like war and climate change! And I’ve probably forgotten something because I’m so hope-and-future-focused I often don’t hold onto pain. Even writing that list took a long time to recall. The problem might be that I ignore the accumulative impact of lots of naturally stressful events.
What do we do when we have a long season such as this? I have three suggestions:
- Use Supervision to assess the impact of life and work on each other
- Consider the ideas of flourishing and languishing
- Ask yourself what kind of life you’re building.
Supervision in rhythm helps monitor stress over time
There’s a free resource called the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) survey that I regularly explore in supervision. It reflects on the past 30 days and can be helpful to do every few months when things are tough. It measures your level of compassion satisfaction (and therefore compassion fatigue), burnout and secondary traumatic stress. It’s usually a highly reassuring tool, although I have been surprised at the results sometimes when someone might be presenting “ok” on the surface however their hinengaro and psychological well-being needs additional clinical support. Check out www.proqol.org
Flourishing, languishing and the space between
As we all queued up for Covid-19 vaccination in late 2021, Dougal Sutherland from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington wrote about an ‘emotional vaccine’. The idea of flourishing is well understood when we’re living our best lives. Languishing is somewhat of a dull opposite, perhaps a general feeling of meh. This can accumulate over time. Sutherland has some excellent tips for how to manage this here. https://theconversation.com/emotional-vaccine-3-ways-we-can-move-from-languishing-to-flourishing-in-these-testing-times-168733
What kind of life are you building?
Brianna West (2022) suggests self-care is “unbeautiful”. She resists the trend and declares that bubble baths and chocolate cake as self-care strategies to enjoy life rather than escape from it. Therefore we must ask ourselves about the life we’ve created. Am I living and working in a way that I want to escape from? Or do I have a sense of integration and satisfaction, even in the face of challenging events?
Writing this series of blogs about self-care has taken me longer than it normally would. It’s required vulnerability, self-disclosure and it hasn’t been easy. But hey, life happens. I’m often validating and normalising similar struggles with others so why not be similarly kind to myself? If we’re committed to supporting others to work well with people, heal from trauma, and enable social change, then the bare minimum must be practicing what we preach.
Wishing you well on your journey of self-care and creating the life you wish to be building.
Ngā mihi, Rod
Sutherland, D. (2021). Emotional vaccine: 3 ways we can move from ‘languishing’ to ‘flourishing’ in these testing times. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/emotional-vaccine-3-ways-we-can-move-from-languishing-to-flourishing-in-these-testing-times-168733
West, B. (2022) This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.