Emerge and Spread Your Wings

The Resilient Practitioner

Don’t you love those moments when a piece of new information creates a link between your understandings and your wonderings? My most recent connecting moment started with a question. The topic was wellbeing or self care.

When I presented at the Occupational Therapy Clinical Workshops in 2016 I asked the question “Why is tending to our own wellbeing in our work lives so hard?” I thought I had an idea of why, and during the discussion at the workshop some of these reasons emerged:  As practitioners we feel the pressure to care put others’ needs first, we experience high work demands and time pressures, we want to do everything well, and our work culture often encourages over-giving. All these factors can result in our own self-care and wellbeing getting pushed down the priority list.

But Why SELF Care?

The missing piece in the puzzle for me was the second half of the question “….yet so important?” I had an intuitive sense that looking after ourselves in our work is extremely important. After all we see all around us examples of colleagues not tending to their self-care and experiencing burn-out, compassion fatigue, anxiety, depression or ill health. We also see great examples of colleagues who are able to show resilience in the face of their work and life challenges. But where was the literature supporting and explaining the importance to back up my gut feeling?

In their book The Resilient Practitioner Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison sparked my connecting moment when they described the challenges experienced by those in the helping professions to maintain our resilience.

Where a builder uses a hammer, a singer uses her voice, or a sportsperson his bowling arm, our tool of practice is our “self”.

We use our “self” as a method of change, and our work is characterised by intense giving of oneself  to enhance the lives of others.
We are often drawn to our careers by earlier life experiences “wiring us” towards caring for others
We are experts at empathy, and seeing from another’s perspective – which often leads us to feel guilt for not helping enough

So it makes sense that if we are using our “self” to create change, and giving of our “self” at an intense level, then if we do not sufficiently replenish our “self” regularly and fully we will deplete our reserves, becoming ineffective in our work and in our lives outside of work. We need to take care of the tool of our trade.

How do we care for our “self”‘ as our tool, and create the balance between caring for self and caring for others?

Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison identify these important resources:
Professional supervision – providing a safe space to reflect, “vent” and replenish our resources.
Create Healthy Work Boundaries (this is the topic I am presenting on at the 2018 Clinical Workshops in September and the content one of my e-courses )
Continuous learning and professional development – find meaning in learning
Foster positive team dynamics and support of others
Actively practice self care and preventative care to maintain our resilience: including recognising when times are more stressful than usual then a higher level of self care is required.

I’d love to hear what self-care you find replenishing and how you fit this into your life regularly. If you would like support to build your skills in resilience, self care and wellbeing in your work life contact me here.