What is a Mental Health Day? For me it is the day I recommit to myself.
I haven’t posted in a few weeks now and I really miss the cathartic relief I get from putting thoughts to paper.
My practice continues to grow so quickly, that I find myself as busy as I ever was in child welfare and in the corporate world. The initial, idyllic image (I carried in my head) of picking and choosing a few clients to help them in their journey towards trauma healing turned in to full time (plus) adventure. Fortunately, I like being busy and I love the opportunity to work with the hurting. So this is not me complaining about my new endeavor. Honestly, I cannot remember ever being more happy in a job. But this IS me admitting that I have to continuously take my own advice!
Years ago, I started writing Water for Camels as an encouragement to social workers with not-so-lightly veiled warnings about allowing the job consume the person. Secondary trauma is a very real thing, and helping professionals take on that trauma as they work with and listen to others in crisis. I have been told that my writings seem authentic and relatable. Most likely, that is because most of the time, I am preaching to myself. And much like the preacher who is not really listening to his own sermon, I get snatched up by the nape of the neck (metaphorically) and forced to realize that “I have done it again.”
In the spirit of “done it again”, let me explain. Recently, I found myself wandering into the same minotaur’s maze that I had visited multiple times before. You know the one. So focused was I in doing right by my clients, that I temporarily lost sight of myself.
You see, like other social workers, I tend to allow the work to consume…well just about everything: my time, my thoughts, my energy, my interests, until I become exhausted. Luckily and blessedly, for me, I have an internal alarm that goes off when I get too far off my path. And when that happens, I often discover that my traitorous brain (in its infinite false wisdom) has allowed me to temporarily shelve the non-essential things in my life.
You know….those really unimportant things like: relationships…doing things for me…having fun…writing.
If you often read my blog, you have seen that I have no problem confessing to my own culpability in habits that aren’t very healthy for my mental health. It doesn’t happen consistently, but when I do trip up, I think it is important to admit it. The reader should never come away from my blog thinking of me as the one who “totally arrived…achieved self-actualization”. Because I am not that person.
And like you. I sometimes take wrong turns on this path of mine and have to back track and re-focus.
So, that’s what I am doing today.
This is my mental health day. What was the straw that broke this camel’s back?
I woke up this morning, unusually tired despite the fact that I slept fairly well. And my poor husband, my dog, even my fish…could not get anything right this morning! Ever have those days when everyone around you just cannot seem to get it together?
I know. I know.
It wasn’t them, it was me.
I was grumpier than a horse with a burr under her saddle and everyone around me just seemed to annoy me. My normal morning routine is to go to the gym with my husband before work and before our busy schedules lead us into opposite directions. However, today, I decided today that I was too grumpy for the gym??? Instead, I went straight to work to prepare for my full day of working with clients.
The day passed quickly, in between seeing people, entering counseling notes and billing insurance. By the end of the day, I felt good. But when the last client had left, the exhaustion hit.
I felt unbelievably exhausted.
I sat in my car wondering why I cringed at the thought of doing anything other than going home, getting in the shower and donning my pajamas. I didn’t want to see, hear or talk to another soul. In those few minutes, sitting in the rain, inside of a Mazda CX5, MY inner camel reared it’s head and said,
Immediately I knew what was wrong.
Begrudgingly munching on my own words I recalled an earlier blog written on the importance of refilling your bucket. And just as I had cautioned others in the field, I knew , at that moment, in the rain, that I was completely empty. The blog (Replenishing Your Bucket Aug 2017) discussed how pouring yourself out day after day to fill up the bucket of others requires that you find a way to keep filling your own bucket up. In other words…Take care of yourself first!
Sound weird for someone in the helping profession to worry about taking care of themselves before helping others? Think of the airline stewardess who cautions mothers to put the oxygen mask on themselves before securing the mask on their children. I used to think that was crazy! What mother wouldn’t want her child to have a mask first. But when a plane loses pressure, the mother will lose consciousness without a mask before she could help her children. She has to make sure she can stay alert by putting her own mask on first. I made the mistake of making sure everyone else had an oxygen mask before I thought about my own need for air. Puzzle solved. I had no energy because I had lost all of my air. Everything I had shelved to make sure I met others’ needs were the things I needed the most to meet my own needs.
Including writing this blog. Which I have re-prioritized for my own self-care.
It’s slightly embarrassing to admit that as I harp all of the time on self-care for Social Workers, I sometimes forget to care for myself. But, here I am. Admitting my faults before all.
What about you? Are you in the same boat? Have you poured everything out to help others and forgot to replenish yourself.
If so, join me in recommitting to taking care of ourselves first, so that we can care for others. There are so many good ways to replenish yourself:
- Yoga focuses on the present and mind and body cohesion
- Mindfulness Practices: Deep Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation help you to focus on the present and reduce stress and anxiety
- Drawing, Music, Writing, Creativity can boost energy and feelings of well-being
- Spending Quality Time with those you love or those who support you and bring you Joy
- My favorite Self-Care: Laughing!
- Taking a Nature walk can prove to be relaxing and refilling.
Find out what works for you and make it your permanent Oasis? Remember how to get there! Then when stress causes you to doubt your way…Find your well, drink long and deep and keep returning for more. Not only will you stay refreshed for yourself, but you will be a better help to others as well.