Work/Life Balance

Great resource! Self-Care Starter Kit

how to flourish in social work

The University at Buffalo School of Social Work has developed an excellent self-care starter kit aimed at social work students and other professionals. They have an extensive bibliography, readings, checklists and other resources. They also have a great infographic called “How To Flourish in Social Work” which you can view here.

It’s very exciting to see such good quality resources emerging from the trenches. If you are an educator, preceptor or supervisor, please share this resource with your folks. This is a great tool for all helping professionals.


Being Healthy: It’s all about Perspective

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Plenary Session: Being Healthy – It’s all about Perspective

muscle manTake a quick look at any magazine stand at your local supermarket – the headlines are either about celebrities or weight loss (or both at the same time):  ”Flat abs in two weeks”, “Miracle new pill that lets you lose weight while you sleep”, “Huge muscles” (for men) and “Strong and toned, but not too bulky” (for women). Doesn’t it get a little confusing and just a bit overwhelming? What is healthy eating? What does “being fit” really mean?

Exploring the connection between healthy minds and healthy bodies, this session features three experts with a passion for health, inside and out, and a message about keeping your quest for “health” in proper perspective.

Challenging “Self-Care”: The power of changing your attitude toward diet and exercise

Carrie Watson, MSW, RSW

Carrie Watson Counselling, Kingston

Carrie Watson is passionate about working with individuals and families struggling with eating disorders, disordered eating, poor body image, and self-esteem issues. She believes in building confidence from a variety of sources including healthy relationships, meaningful daily practices, self-reflection, and mindful living. Carrie guides her clients to consider how the body can support the life of which they dream, and teaches the value of being gentle and forgiving with one’s self. Carrie has eight years of clinical experience in community settings, and has taught at the high school and college levels. Carrie currently divides her time between her clinical practice at the North Kingston Community Health Centre and her private practice.

Nutrition: The fuel for mental health

Jess Sherman, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Jess Sherman Nutrition, Kingston

Jess Sherman work as a nutritionist, primarily with mothers and families. She started her career as a teacher and earned degrees from McGill, Queen’s, and UofT.  But found that the classroom was not where she could most effectively help children. So she left to study nutrition and developed a particular interest in the connection between food and development/behaviour.  Jess coaches her clients in how to use food to help their children and themselves thrive. She also coaches parents around issues of self-care through her MamaCare program.

Be kind to your body: Who said fitness had to be punishing?

Renee Whitney, Personal Trainer, Owner of Focus Personal Fitness Studio

Focus Personal Fitness Studio, Kingston

Renee Whitney has an honours degree in sports psychology and is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. With over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, Renee is the owner of a very successful fitness studio in Kingston. At Focus, the emphasis is on using proper form to prevent injury, and on whole-person health and lifestyle changes.

Click here for more information

30 Speakers, 20 workshops, 3 Keynote Presenters

Hi! Sorry for the long silence!

In the coming days, I will be blogging about some of the fantastic talks being offered at this year’s annual Compassion Fatigue Conference, June 3-4, 2014. This is a very exciting event for us – now in its fourth year, the conference has grown in some wonderful ways thanks to my new conference planner, the amazing Lisa Doulas, who has taken the helm of all things related to organising the event: this year, we have 30 speakers over two days who will present on wellness, organizational health, managing highly stressful situations, mindfulness and many other topics in line with our themes of “Learn, Connect and Refuel”.  We have a great lineup of speakers, including stress expert Dr David Posen, Nutritionista Meghan Telpner and even a vice president from Cirque du Soleil! (ok the Cirque du Soleil guy is my adorable brother, but still, isn’t that very cool?)

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like lately because all of my writing energy has been concentrated on writing a feature article for an American psychotherapy magazine. My piece is a stock-taking exercise – after 20 years of compassion fatigue research, what have we learned, what works, what are agencies doing right, does self-care really work? I look forward to sharing this with you once it’s done. Right now, I am just learning the ropes of writing for a mainstream magazine, particularly dealing with a great editor who doesn’t mince his words when he doesn’t like what I’ve written. Ouch! But I’m learning a ton and he’s being a great teacher. It’s not always a bad thing for the ego either, to be schooled into a new genre.

Next week, I am off to Victoria, B.C. to attend the International Counselling Association Conference and the Canadian Counselling Psychotherapy Conference. Nice spot to visit in early May! Given that all we’ve had in my part of the world lately has been rain and cold weather, I am excited to leave for a week and looking forward to connecting with colleagues and learning a lot at the two conferences.

So, stay tuned for more on our Care4You Conference. We still have few seats left, but they are going fast. If you are thinking of joining us, I would recommend booking your seats soon. We are also offering a Laughter Yoga session as a preconference event. One person recently told me that she is bringing her mom to it. How cute is that?

Click here for more info about the June 3-4, 2014 Care4You Conference.



Having Enough

This is a post written by my friend and colleague Robin Cameron. I received it as a newsletter and asked her for permission to repost it here. A lovely reflection on simplifying and slowing ourselves down.

Having enough: continuing 2014 resolutions

By Robin Cameron

Good morning on a beautiful spring day.  I’ve been reflecting on the “I have enough” project that I turned into my 60 day resolution on January 1, 2014.  Thank you to my lovely client who wrote to ask for an update on how it went!  So here it is if you are interested.

Project “I have enough”. 

The gluttony of the holidays, the forever searching for lost keys and the endless piles of laundry for a family who seem to wear the same 5 outfits every week was beginning to get to me.  I realized I was spending what could be leisure time sorting through our abundance.  Growing up, we had enough, we didn’t have a lot, but we always had enough, but began a habit of holding on tightly to things.

So for 60 days, I would not shop, at all, unless it was a gift, groceries, or a drug store item that had run out and we did not have an extra.

I found the experience transformative, not because I’m a big shopper, Sophia Kinsella did not write a book series about me, but because it just made me realize how many purchases are made mindlessly, tossed into the basket at shoppers drug mart as I’m working my way toward the cashier.  My daughter also got into it, she knew that we couldn’t go to staples and buy furry balls, blank notebooks and yet another package of markers.  So I received the added bonus of feeling like I was teaching a value by doing, not just by telling her how much we have, how fortunate we are, you know, the kind of lecture they tune out?

Why not do it all year?

I really wanted to be successful at the goal, so I made it timed and ended it right before our holidays would begin.

Pitfalls: is cheating always bad?

I realized that we would be on a plane on March 1st when the challenge was over, and I started to sweat when I realized that I had planned to buy a pair of jeans that I could take to both destinations, (hot holiday followed by one night at the air port hotel where I switched out our swim suits for ski gear and went to BC to see my family).  So did I cheat?  Sort of…but there was a real difference in how it happened.  Instead of just mindlessly picking them up and then deciding I failed and tossing the whole project, I did my research, picked the pair I wanted and then without buying them, went home to try to find a way to (justify?) make it work and not loose the real meaning behind my goal, which was that I had enough.  Not shopping, while transformative, didn’t do anything to reduce what I was already sorting, washing, organizing and tripping over…so

The next 60 days; MARCH AND APRIL


In the end I donated more than 30 items in order to have that new pair of jeans.  This may not be sustainable but what I love about it is that it forces me to really ask myself, do I really want this?  Here is the pile I traded for my jeans.

1 in 10 out


This goal is about Having enough Time…Stay tuned.  I am setting an intention to write to you about this next week and send a free resource.  I would love to hear how your projects are coming along. To join Robin’s newsletter please contact her by clicking here.

Quick healthy snack or breakfast: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats


My daughter and I have been oatmeal-obsessed lately. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the long winter, but we both found ourselves craving oats about a month ago: the hearty, steel cut variety, that takes forever to cook. Steel cut oats are the best kind: slower to digest, with a low glycemic index.

We’re a busy pair: she is a high school student and a competitive athlete, and I travel a lot, on top of running this awesome business and a household, so I couldn’t imagine spending an hour a day over a double boiler! In a matter of minutes, I had found the solution online: slow cooker steel cut oats. We now make up a batch every sunday and enjoy it all week, simply by reheating it in the microwave. My daughter likes it for breakfast, topped with frozen blueberries, almond milk and cinnamon. I eat it as a midafternoon snack or sometimes even for dessert, since I found that my dark chocolate addiction was bothering my stomach. I usually add chopped walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and, if I’m feeling fancy, a small amount of maple syrup. For those of you trying to eat gluten-free, make sure that your source of oats guarantees that it has been milled in a gluten-free environment.

How to cook Steel Cut Oats in your Slow Cooker:

2 cups of steel-cut oats (beware, this makes a huge amount. That is usually enough to last us a week)

8 cups of water or a mixture of water and milk or almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon

Some bloggers recommend lightly greasing your slow cooker before putting in the oats, so they don’t stick. I don’t bother, but I probably should. It does stick!

Put all ingredients in, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours. Slow cookers vary, so do make sure you check on your batch the first time around. My slow cooker tends to be faster than most recipes.

Here’s a delicious-sounding variation on the basic slow cooker oats:


Free Wellness Challenge for moms! Starts Monday Jan 13th

Our friend and nutritionist Jess Sherman is offering a free 14 day wellness program for busy moms. Interested to know more? Click here. 

Work life balance: A load of bunk?

Happy New Year dear readers!

To say that I have been incredibly busy during the past six months is pretty much the understatement of 2013. Since July, I have worked with folks from L.A. County Courts, cancer care workers in Bermuda, amazing trauma therapists in New Haven, visited Vancouver three times to present to ObGyns and refugee protection staff (not at the same time…)

I also met staff from the UNHCR, presented at a children’s hospital in San Diego and had incredible learning experiences with fantastic helping professionals at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto.  My wonderful team of associates have also been busy, travelling to Indiana, Newfoundland and also offering a lot of training right here at home in Ontario. We presented on compassion fatigue, secondary and vicarious trauma, self care, conflict, change leadership, and developed a brand new training on rendering bench decisions to refugee claimants.

I also had the chance to co-develop a new workshop with my friend and colleague Leslie Anne Ross, from the Children’s Institute in Los Angeles, called “a Roadmap for Change Agents.” We are firm believers that the best way to promote healthy workplaces is to encourage the emergence of champions in each agency. This was an opportunity to share best practice ideas with folks from various child welfare departments in L.A. County, and encourage them to spread the learning about healthy workplaces.

Yes, it’s been nuts. But it has also been the most professionally rewarding year of my career. I would like to highlight some personal and professional learnings from the past year and see if some of them resonate for you: Read more ›

Change one lightbulb – Reflections on Work-Life Balance


The weather today was classic Ontario Fall: crisp air, bright sunshine (great for photography, I sighed to myself, pining for a good camera), and a fresh cool breeze coming off the lake. There were autumn colours everywhere, with pumpkins, gourds and mums on my neighbours’ front porches. I love this kind of weather and I enjoyed a nice long walk along the shore of Lake Ontario this morning, taking in the colours and the light.

With all the travelling that I had to do this Fall, this was my first quiet weekend at home since August – unbelievable! On Friday, as I was mapping out the coming days, I made the conscious decision to accomplish as little as possible on the weekend. Here is a sampling of the things I did not do this weekend. I did not: rake leaves, clean up my garden for the upcoming frost, declutter my house, do a big grocery shop, cook ahead for the week, clean anything, catch up on emails or do any work, I also did not work out, or do piles of laundry. In fact,  I set out to get one single thing done this weekend: to change one hard-to-reach lightbulb in my house (that, I must confess, has been out for weeks.) That’s right, my goal for this weekend was to change one solitary lightbulb. Oh, and I went to see the new Bullock/Clooney movie “Gravity” which was visually stunning and a total nail-biter. That’s it. Lightbulb, movie,  and some time on the sofa reading and watching TV.

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Up in the Air, again

With the left foot in the Pacific...

With the left foot in the Pacific…


and the right foot in the Atlantic!

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.


What would you do for a mini-retreat?

Hi dear readers! I’ve been on summer hiatus for the past month. Every year, I take some time off after the annual conference. That means taking a break from writing and non-essential work in order to refuel and take stock. Don’t go imagining that this means that I am not working – far from it – there is always a lot to do, but I do deliberately shift gears from the Winter/Spring pace which can be frenetic at times, in spite of all of my best efforts. It’s a funny problem, really, to have a job I love! What I have also found is that busy times do not always allow for creative flow – when I am knee-deep in logistics, such as planning the annual conference, I don’t feel particularly filled with great new ideas, you know? But I have learned, now, because it’s the same every year, that if I give myself some time to slow down, by August, the writing muse comes galloping back.

A few “ungoals”

This year, I was a bit more deliberate in planning my writing break: I set some “ungoals” if you will, a few things that I wanted to integrate more regularly into my life, without being too dogmatic about them, and I also planned a retreat.  Here are some of the “ungoals” I set:

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