I worked as a mental health counsellor for a Canadian military base for about a decade. During this time, I saw many soldiers with PTSD – infantrymen, pilots, intelligence officers and other trades, all of whom had been exposed to unspeakable horrors in war-torn countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Many of them struggled with nightmares, anxiety, intrusive thoughts and reintegration into the civilian world. Some treatment modalities helped, some did not. At some point, a new military psychiatrist came into town, and all of a sudden I started hearing of clients being referred to hot yoga and mindfulness meditation (MBSR) classes. This, in the early 2000s, was very unusual in our neck of the woods.
With the left foot in the Pacific…
and the right foot in the Atlantic!
Fall is a time when I travel a lot - and this year is no different. So far, since July, I have been to Vancouver, NYC, Los Angeles, Bermuda and am now in Connecticut. I have dipped my toes in both the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean two weeks apart which is pretty incredible! In the coming weeks, I will be going to Vancouver again, and to San Diego, along with a few more local hops to Toronto and Montreal.
I love to travel. I have been on the road pretty regularly now for the past seven years offering compassion fatigue training and consulting and I get asked the following three questions ALL THE TIME so I thought I would answer them here, on the blog, in case anyone else wants to know. The latest person to quiz me was my Bermudian cab driver last week, who gave me the third degree (in a most lovely, kind way) about being away from my kids for a week. So here goes, a little Q&A with a road warrior:
Q: ”Isn’t it tiring?”
A: No, not really! When you travel a lot, you get into a groove and you develop a system for packing and for the home front. Almost every person I know who travels regularly for work has a suitcase that they keep packed and ready to go, they wear the same clothes on every trip so there is no big dilemma as to what to wear – when you get home, you just wash your duds and put them back in the bag for the next trip. And, let’s be honest, travelling alone without a screaming toddler (or two, which I have done many times), is not what I would call tiring: I get to read when I want, eat when I want and watch movies without having to worry about anyone else. When I finish a work day, I get to go to my hotel and work out, then have a hot cooked meal without having to clean up, drive anyone to basketball practice or do laundry. So, no, not too bad! I also get a lot of work done without constant interruptions.
I try to stay healthy on the road by bringing power bars, protein powder for green shakes and other health foods. I stay away from fast food and the minibar. I have found some great yoga downloads and meditation apps. It might be harder on people who hate being alone. I greatly value solitude, and given that the work that I do is highly social and rather intense, the downtime of trips is very rejuvenating.
Q: “Isn’t it hard on your family?”
A: Well, yes and no. First of all, I find it interesting that men rarely get asked that question. My husband travelled a great deal for the first decade of our children’s lives, and no one ever asked him that, not even once, not even the time when he went to Japan-England-Sweden and wasn’t home for weeks, leaving me with a 5 month old who never slept and having accidentally locked the stroller to his bike, before he left. No, I’m not still bitter about that, why do you ask? :-)
I’m pretty sure a taxi driver has never asked my hubby how his family manages back at home without him. Right? Would my kids prefer that I was home 24/7 with baked cookies waiting for them after school? Yes, of course. But they enjoy the benefits of the job – the fact that I get to work from home, take the entire summer off, am home for most of the winter, and the fact that they get to come on some of my trips (Hawaii!). I also think that they have learned to be more independent than if I were always home, as I tend to be a bit of an overfunctioner. At their ages now, they mostly ignore me when I am there, to be honest (although that’s nice too – to be able to ignore your mom but to know that she’s there, I totally get that). It’s been harder at some times than others. I think that anyone who is a parent and a road warrior will confess to moments of terrible homesickness when on the road. That’s also true for me. But overall, I actually think it’s been good for my family. My partner has learned to be the main parent when I am away, and we now make a good team. I know that I’m a big personality, and it was probably very healthy for me to be out of the picture at times so he could get his place as a dad, if that makes sense.
Of course, the only reason I am able to do any of this is because I have amazing support back at the ranch from my honey and my friends. And, if my kids get sick or get hurt, all of my zenitude goes by the wayside and I am one unhappy camper who just wants to get home asap. I also try to have long stretches at home in between hectic times. I know I’ve been there too long when my kids start asking me “isn’t time you went on a trip, mom?”
Q: “Why do you do it?”
A: Ah! Because I have the best job in the world! Meeting new folks, in new places, and getting to understand them, their community, its challenges, what works for them, how their system as a whole is coping with cutbacks and change and being able to offer some solutions or perhaps even inspire one person in each town to explore their self care, their relationship to compassion fatigue and secondary trauma and their compassion satisfaction is the most rewarding work that I have ever done. From the Yukon to downtown Los Angeles, to the Caribbean to Newfoundland to the Midwest, I have met helpers of all stripes: nurses, judges, lawyers, police officers, social workers, foster parents, paramedics, doctors, chaplains, the list goes on and on. And every time I meet a new group, and have the privilege of getting to learn more about what challenges they are facing, what strategies they have tried, I grow a little wiser and a whole hell of a lot humbler. I am very privileged to get to do this work.
So, if you are reading this while on the road, I raise a toast to you too.
Walking the Walk: Creative Tools for Transforming Compassion Fatigue Nov 18, 2013
with Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC.
Special Sale: Bring a friend and get 30% off each!
You must both register before October 11, 2013
Can we help prevent a new cycle of violence in Syria and the Middle East?
I don’t know if you had a chance to read Mark MacKinnon‘s very disturbing account of the current fate of Syria’s displaced children in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (“Why Young Syrian Refugees Will Haunt the Middle East for Decades to Come” Sept 14, 2013), and if you are affected by traumatic details, you may not want to as it is quite graphic. One of the refugee camps, the Zaatari camp in Jordan, is currently housing over 130 000 displaced Syrians in one sun-scorched site. That’s more people than the entire city of Kingston, where I live. Over 50% of those refugees are under 18, and they are struggling with post traumatic stress, and meagre resources. Many of them are acting aggressively towards each other and adults, and have few resources to cope with the unspeakable violence they have seen and experienced in their short lives.
McKinnon write that donations to Syrian refugees have been slow:
Despite the best efforts of a badly underfunded Unicef, only a third of the 180,000 school-age Syrians living in Jordan (the total refugee population is 600,000) were in classes this week as the new semester began. Similar statistics apply to the broader population of Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East.
Unicef relies heavily on the private sector, which covers about 40 per cent of the cost of schools and sanitation centres it runs in crisis areas. But with Syria’s refugees, private donors appear reluctant, thus far making a mere 6 per cent of contributions to Unicef’s region-wide appeal. So just over half of the $470-million being sought for Syrian refugee children this year has been raised. Aid workers suspect donors view Syria, unfairly, as a political problem, rather than a humanitarian one.
As a result, UNICEF classrooms have only 14,000 spots for Zaatari’s 30,000 school-age kids. (Another 30,000-plus kids are under 6, with 10 newborns arriving every day in the camp’s hard-pressed hospitals.) And the learning environment is far from ideal. School No. 2 is a collection of 70 portable classes surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. There’s no electricity, so no fans or air-conditioning in the blazing desert sun, and water reaches the toilets and sinks only sporadically.
Please consider donating to Unicef for this important cause.
Valuable Work – Meaningful Life:
Effectively Addressing Stress, Burnout & Trauma in the Workplace
58% off introductory offer expires Sept. 30, 2013
Travailler Mieux, Vivre Heureux
Cours Virtuel sur l’épuisement professionnel,
le trauma et la gestion du stress
L’offre speciale de 58% de rabais se termine le 30 septembre 2013
My esteemed colleague Dr Patricia Fisher has designed an outstanding 15 hour online course for staff and managers who work in high stress environments where burnout and exposure to direct and vicarious trauma is high. This intensive program provides key resources, an introduction to complex stress, self assessment tools and a guide to build your own wellness plan. This is currently the only program of its kind. At CF Solutions, we are delighted to endorse this course and offer it as part of our training products.
This unique online training course is currently available for $234.95, until September 30, 2013 only (Regular price $599.00). CEUS are also available for an additional fee.
Click here for more information
By Meaghan Welfare, Conflict Management Practitioner
In today’s workplace we can be certain of only three things: there will be change, there will be stress and there will be conflict. It’s inevitable. As we navigate through our work days, we are confronted with conflict on different scales: perhaps someone drank the last cup of coffee and didn’t make more, maybe someone jammed the photocopier and walked away, or maybe you are experiencing bullying and harassment. The fact of the matter is that conflict has an ubiquitous influence on our working relationships. A recent survey conducted by CPP Global found that employees spend an average of 2.8 to 3.3 hours a week dealing with conflict, (low level and un-escalated conflict) and human resource workers spend upwards of 51% of their week addressing conflicts. A 1996 study demonstrated that 42% of a manager’s time is spent on conflict-related negotiations.
So, the million dollar question…What can we do about this? While conflict is never truly preventable, we can learn effective approaches for maximizing positive outcomes and harnessing conflict to make it work for us.
A friend of mine recommended Ron Finlay’s TED talk on planting gardens in South Central LA. If you are feeling tired, or need a few minutes off from your work, go watch this. Moving and inspiring: Guerilla Gardener
Here are three upcoming events that may be of interest to you. They are being posted free of charge as a public service to our community and friends:
A Leaner Life
with Dr Deb Thompson, Psychologist, Integral Coach
Begins September 28th, 2013, in Kingston, On.
Designed for you to learn and practice new ways of knowing, nurturing, moving and nourishing yourself on behalf of a healthier and leaner body, and a more vibrant life! Led by Dr. Deb Thompson, a midlife mother, psychologist and Integral Coach TM who knows this topic professionally with dozens of clients, and personally, having kept off over 80 lbs. for over 9 years.
Click here for more information
Brain , Body & You Series (FREE)
Take advantage of one or more of these FREE four hour workshop modules in the 4 part series “THE BRAIN THE BODY AND YOU” being held this November 2013 at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. This series is designed for front-line staff (eg. PSW, RPN, RN, Rehabilitation Assistants and Restorative Care Aides) who care for stroke survivors and other complex patient populations in the community, acute care, complex continuing care, Long Term Care and other related settings. These interactive workshops are brought to you by experienced and dynamic instructors who are stroke care specialists. The workshops are FREE with the support of the Stroke Network of Southeastern Ontario. Light refreshments are served. Space is limited so register soon. You can select and register for one or more of these FREE sessions:
Wednesday November 6th, 2013, 4-8pm Stroke Care-Prevention to Life After Stroke & Continence Care
Wednesday November 13, 2013, 4-8pm Communication & Behaviour
Thursday November 21st, 2013, 4-8pm Mobility
Wednesday November 27, 2013 4-8pm Nutrition, Hydration and Feeding
You can register one of two ways:
1. Going online http://www.slccorporatetraining.ca/programs-and-services/registration.html, completing the registration form, indicating “BBY” and specifying dates and submitting.
2. Calling Elizabeth Allen at 613-544-5400 x 1884 and she can complete the registration form with you over the phone.
A Daylong Retreat: An Exploration of holding on, letting go and opening to
Facilitated by Jill Davey and Supria Karmakar
October 27, 2013 Fergus, On.
due to FULL registrations, a second offering has been set for Nov. 17th, 2013
A daylong retreat exploring the difference between letting go, holding on and opening up to, using meditation, yoga, and creative vision boards
Click here for more information
Salt Lake City, Utah
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Tools for Vicarious Trauma and to enhance your professional work
For Clinicians, Yoga teachers and anyone interested in healing trauma
Starts September 28th, 2013. Salt Lake City Utah
Click here for more information
•Professional Ethics & Boundaries with Gary Schoener, Oct 25, 2103.
•Anxiety Disorders: Recognizing & Treating the Emerging Epidemic
with Dr Paul Foxman, Nov 4th 2013.
•Becoming Safely Embodied: Skills Training with Deirdre Fay Nov 18-19, 2013.
•The Attachment Puzzle with Dr Gordon Neufeld Dec 9-10th, 2013.
Click here for more information
Has your work changed?
Is there more stress and uncertainty in your job than there used to be?
57% of Canadians report high levels of stress
1/3 Canadians put work first and let it interfere with family
(Duxbury & Higgins, 2012)
In 1991, according to the Duxbury study on work-life balance, 46% of Canadians reported being satisfied with life. In 2012, it has plummeted to 23%. As many of you know first-hand, the recent economic downturn has led to significant budgetary compressions in the public purse. As a result, many of us working in the helping fields and in the civil service have experienced massive changes: layoffs, reorganizations, job abolitions, changes in mandate, elevated conflict and a lot of uncertainty and fear of what is yet to come. Over the past ten years, I have crisscrossed the country many times to offer compassion fatigue training in nearly every province and territory. During my workshops, I get to meet with public sector employees, health care workers and other helping professionals as well as with management and human resources. Lately, I have been hearing the same words from nearly everyone I meet: “change”, “stress”, “conflict”, “uncertainty” and “overload”.
Is this true for you as well?
Today, I am delighted to bring you an interview with Yael Calhoun, an E-RTY (Experienced Yoga Teacher, registered through Yoga Alliance) and executive director and co-founder of GreenTREE Yoga, based in Utah. I met Yael in Salt Lake City a few years ago and invited her and her colleague to present at our first annual compassion fatigue conference three years ago. I immediately loved Yael’s approach to yoga and her dedication to bringing yoga to populations who may not necessarily have access to it under normal circumstances. In this interview, Yael describes the tremendous benefits of trauma-sensitive yoga and offers simple techniques to help manage compassion fatigue. At the end of the interview, you will also find resources and links to explore this fascinating topic further. Thank you to Yael for sharing her thoughts and wisdom with all of us!