This list of self care ideas was compiled by participants at last week’s one day Compassion Fatigue workshop which was held in Ottawa on March 26th, 2010. Take a look! Could you commit to one of these in the week to come? A springtime resolution perhaps?
Self Care Strategies at Home
-listen to the birds for 5 minutes
-dance uninhibited to one song
-play in the dirt
-play with your children and/or grandchildren
-colour mandalas or colouring book
-play wii – nintendo fitness
-manicure/pedi/facial at home uninterrupted
-treat yourself once a week
-enjoy the sun
-express positivity once a day to those you love
-have a fun day
-start work late one day a week and pamper yourself (music, bath, long shower)
-read how much and however you want when you arrive home
-learn to yodel (or another new fun skill that makes you laugh)
-borrow a neighbour’s pet
-discover a new musician or poet
-put on different music and dance with your children
-share what you are grateful for every night
-have “me time” once a week
-have flowers once a week
-have sex with yourself or with a partner once a week
-all day in bed – music, books, meals
-go to a park and play on the swings
-have a family pedi/manicure
-have a nerf ball fight in the home with the whole family
-put on some music and dance
-have all you need for the next day ready and waiting in the morning
-try a new recipe to cook for yourself
-try to delegate without nit-picking
-take time to enjoy walking your dog
-take time to release – crank up the stereo, dance and go wild
-take up a new hobby
-plan to be organised i.e. meals
Self Care Strategies at Work
-leave your office and enjoy your lunch break
-screen your calls and prioritize them
-leave your briefcase “on a tree”
-plan and organize
-learn to say no
-go for a walk
-have movie time for release, maybe at a staff meeting
-hold a staff fun day e.g: drumming day
-never miss lunch/don’t eat it at your desk/don’t work during lunch
-have a pot luck lunch with your team
-stretch every day
-pack a cooler with healthy foods, drinks, snacks
-meditate with a bell/chime to remind you of time
-put a stretch reminder on your work computer
-music for work during down time/breaks
-wear slippers all day at work/at your desk
-once a day email a funny video to colleagues
-introduce yourself to someone new once a week
-lunch time yoga or after work
-watch a movie at lunch
-community soup lunch with recipe to share
-bring pet or baby in for a visit
-share what you are grateful for at staff meeting
-read a non-related book at work
-deal with confrontations one-on-one
-look at alternative ways to debrief (drawing, dance, etc)
-discuss with other organizations “best practice”
-social field trips (i.e. white water rafting, friday bbq or potluck)
-watch or listen to comedy (Ellen, Loreta Laroche, youtube)
-have a memory box full of happy memories
-fill 5 pages with what pisses you off about your life. When you are done, put them in a sealed envelope and then shred it
-bring fresh flowers to your desk
My 9 year old son: “this morning, at my sleepover at Z’s house, I woke up at 6am, but I knew I had to let him sleep in, so I lay there until 740am when he woke up”.
Me: “wow, that’s a long time to lie there. What did you do with all that time?”
My son: “Oh, it was totally fine, I just thought about lots of stuff”
Me: “Oh yeah? Like what – What you are going to do when you grow up? Things that worry you? (ever the shrink…)
My son: “Nah, I thought about all the great moves I could do next time I play on my wii hockey game. Time just flew by!”
Ah, gender differences…
Yesterday, I had a chance to enjoy several peaceful hours doing two of my favourite things: cooking meals for the week while listening to CBC radio’s Eleanor Wachtel (this time, I took in an interview Zadie Smith, the author of White Teeth and a very bright and reflective person. Thoroughly enjoyable). Wachtel is a truly gifted interviewer and it is always a treat to listen to her show. These two activities are very restorative practices for me – going into another person’s universe for a while (in this case, the authors she interviews), chopping vegetables for the meals of the week and most importantly, doing all of this alone and in silence. For me, a perfect restorative day would start with making bread, I would then go for a long run, come home and make soup and then while the soup is cooking and the bread is baking, lie on the couch and read the entire Saturday newspaper from cover to cover. Ah…, I feel relaxed just thinking about it.
You notice that in my scenario there are no kids, no partner, no friends calling on me. That does not mean that I don’t love them and cherish my time with them, but there are times when I need to be completely alone to recharge my batteries.
The work that we do requires us to be ‘on’ all the time, for our clients, our colleagues and the families we work with. In fact, some of us are so used to being ‘on’ that we have difficulty switching off and may spend the evening avoiding silence and solitude because we have lost the art of slowing down. Some helpers are never alone because they are so overcommitted in their personal and professional lives that others have access to them 24/7. Some other helpers are so fried that they have no energy left to talk and socialise with others on weekends and evenings – ever – and this can end up feeling lonely and depressing.
In addition, a lot of helpers tell me that they feel very guilty about wanting to spend some time on their own and have no idea where to begin.
My example above (cooking, podcast etc.) may not be your idea of a good time, so I would like to invite you to think about your own restorative practices. What do you enjoy doing to recharge and reconnect with yourself? How do you carve out the time among all your family and work responsibilities?
Photo from: www.flickr.com/photos/mharvey75/374461385
This free webinar came across my google alerts this morning:
March 3, 2010 – Compassion Fatigue
LCDR Pamela Herbig – Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Director, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences as Director of the PMH-NP program.
I don’t know the organisers or the presenter, but Rocky Mountain Learning seems to be a really interesting agency who specialises in bringing training to folks through webinars and other distance learning modules.
As I gear up to leave my young kids for five days (nearly the longest ever), the idea of doing more and more web-based training is highly appealling to me, let alone the significant cost savings for all involved (no travel, no hotels, etc.)
So, if you’re free on March 3, consider signing up for this training and let me know what you think, both of the content and the learning medium.
Are you a compassion fatigue/vicarious trauma educator and/or practitioner? Are you interested in sharing your ideas/new approaches to helping other helpers who are facing compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma? The Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists will be holding its annual conference September 29 – October 3, 2010 at the Delta Airport Hotel – Toronto, Canada.
Click here for more information.
“Almost three in every five health-care workers are suffering from “role overload”, a situation that is damaging their physical and mental health and putting many on the fast track to burnout, a new study suggest.” These quotes (the title quote as well) are from an article by André Picard, published in yesterday’s Globe and Mail (January 19, 2010) reports the findings from a recent study by Linda Duxbury on Ottawa area hospitals. To view article click here.
I am glad to hear that health care workers are finally getting the attention they deserve. Anyone working within the system could have told you that this was happening but maybe, just maybe, if the data is there to back it up, something will be done.
I recently came across this lovely little blog: palliativechronicle.blogspot.com
I don’t know anything about the author (known on the blog as simply JL), except for what she writes on the heading of her blog: “FROM ANESTHESIOLOGIST TO PALLIATIVE MEDICINE PHYSICIAN” and I take it from her profile that she is currently doing a fellowship training in palliative care.
If you work in end of life care, you may find useful resources and musings there.There are some very good links to other resources, postings of recent articles in the field and JL’s posts which recently spoke of mindfulness meditation in connection to keeping CF at bay.
I personally enjoyed visiting and will definitely be going back.
Safeguards Training for Children and Adult Services is sponsoring four of my Compassion Fatigue workshops this Winter: Two in Markham and two in London. If you are a member of CMHO, OARTY, ONTCHILD/YPRO, ANCFSAO or Community Living Ontario, the price of these workshops is extremely low.
In addition, a non-sponsored version of these training sessions are being offered in Kingston. Visit my website for more details.
Walking the Walk: Creative Tools for Transforming Compassion Fatigue
January 18, 2010 – Holiday Inn & Suites, Toronto (Markham)
March 29, 2010 – Delta London Armouries, London, On.
Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC.Certified Counsellor, Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Director of WHP will present this one day training (this will be followed by the Trainer-the-Trainer session so you can take this valuable training back to your agency.)
Compassion fatigue is characterized by deep emotional and physical exhaustion and by a shift in a helping professional’s sense of hope and optimism about the future and the value of their work. It has been called “a disorder that affects those who do their work well” (Figley 1995). The level of compassion fatigue a helper experiences can ebb and flow from one day to the next, and even very healthy helpers with optimal life/work balance and self care strategies can experience a higher than normal level of compassion fatigue when they are overloaded, are working with a lot of traumatic content, or find their case load suddenly heavy with clients who are all chronically in crisis.
Compassion fatigue is a normal consequence of working in the helping field. The best strategy to address compassion fatigue is to develop excellent self care strategies, as well as an early warning system that lets the helper know that they are moving into the caution zone of Compassion Fatigue. This is a highly interactive one day workshop, incorporating a combination of solo, small group and whole group activities.
Registration Details & Fee(s):
Members: Training Fee: $0 plus $50 Admin Fee+GST
Non Members: Training Fee: $99 plus $50 Admin Fee+GST
To register click here
Compassion Fatigue Train the Trainer: 2 day course
January 19-20, 2010 – Holiday Inn & Suites, Markham
March 30-31, 2010 – Delta London Armouries, London
Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC.Certified Counsellor, Compassion Fatigue Specialist and Director of WHP has designed a two day, intensive train-the-trainer retreat on Compassion Fatigue.
This train the trainer workshop offers tools, handouts, strategies, training material and marketing strategies to adapt Walking the Walk to your agency’s specific needs (and to your own presentation style).
The train the trainer workshop is designed to take you deep first, to gain a true and thorough understanding of your own relationship to CF. Then you will learn the didactic details (what to teach, how to teach) and finally talk about the mechanics of the whole process (how to customize this for your own work needs/goals etc.).
Spaces limited to a maximum of 20 participants.Certificates of Completion will be provided
Prior attendance to the full day or half day workshop Walking the Walk is required. (You may have attended a session at your workplace, or in a different community in the recent past). For those who have not attended this workshop in the past, Walking the Walk will be offered on the day prior to this training. If you have attended Walking the Walk at an earlier date, please indicate when that was on your registration form.
You will Learn:
·How to use the Compassion Fatigue Workbook
·What are Compassion Fatigue, Caregiver Stress, Vicarious Traumatization and burnout
·Signs and symptoms of CF/VT/Burnout
· Assessment tools
· Warning signs
· Resiliency skills
· Self Care Strategies
· Academy of traumatology standards of Ethics
· How to offer psychoeducation on this topic
· Experiential activities that work with audiences
· How to design your own workshop: what is your target audience
Member fee $52.50
Non-member fee $260.40
To register click here
For more information contact:
Contact Name: Donna Stevens
Contact Phone: (905) 889-5030
Contact Fax: (905) 889-7155
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am posting a bit late this week – I was in Toronto yesterday, attending Dr. Gabor Maté’s workshop on stress. I will write more on this later as it was a very rich day of learning and Dr Maté deserves his very own post.
Last week, I had the privilege of sharing the podium with Dr David Kuhl at a conference hosted by the Elizabeth Bruyere Continuing Care Centre in Ottawa. Dr Kuhl is both a physician and a psychologist and he is the director of the Centre of Practitioner Renewal (CPR) at Providence Care in Vancouver. The CPR was created several years ago to offer support to staff members of the hospitals of the Providence Care network. At the CPR, Dr Kuhl and his colleagues offer counselling and education to health care workers and carry out research related to compassion fatigue and helper wellness. They work with individuals and also with entire teams to try and improve staff relationships and enhance the quality of care.
Dr Kuhl is a very erudite and skillful presenter and his session was inspiring and illuminating. I really appreciated the focus he puts on teams and the challenges they are facing in health care.
Conference participants had many questions for us about organizational challenges and expressed their frustration at the current state of affairs in health care. Their anger and exasperation towards the system was expressed strongly throughout the day. This is not an isolated case: I have the opportunity to meet hundreds of health care professionals each month from across the country and the evidence is overwhelming: physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and hospital managers are struggling. Health care workers all over Canada describe having to do more with less resources and trying to deliver quality of care when staffing has been cut beyond what is realistic. Last week, one nurse told me about mandatory overtime where nurses are not allowed to say no when the hospital calls. She talked about nurses who work in remote communities who get a knock at their door when they don’t answer their phone – in order to force them to come to work.
Taking a step back, how can quality patient care be delivered when you have been coerced to come to work for an additional shift? It simply does not make sense.
What happens, of course, is that we all suffer, patients and health care workers alike: we turn on our colleagues, we resent any extra time off they take (I call it the “must be nice phenomenon”), we blame our managers whom, we feel, “don’t understand”. Perhaps that is sometimes true, but I meet with different managers weekly and they say they feel like “the peanut butter in the sandwich”, squeezed between upper management, ministry demands, staff needs and concerns and patient care. A very difficult position.
So, what to do about all this? Sometimes we can try going the advocacy route, protesting to the upper echelon in various ways, not voting for a government that doesn’t value health care workers (and also doesn’t believe in a restorative justice system, but I digress). But sometimes we feel that we do not have a voice. We feel stuck.
In my opinion, to find our voice within this deeply flawed system, we need to gain a better understanding of organizational health. This is what my esteemed colleague Dr Pat Fisher does. Dr Fisher is an organizational psychologist as well as a trauma specialist and she has spent the last two decades working within our system. She has developed an approach to diagnosing and enhancing organizational health and the results are very convincing: a year after her interventions, agencies report a significant improvement in decreased absenteeism, productivity, decreased job stress and employee wellness. Pat has developed the 4 tier, 12 factor model of organizational health. I invite you to go read more on her important work.
I received several emails this week from people who read this blog. It was very nice as it puts faces to my readers and I’m never sure who is “out there” actually reading these posts. So, Hello dear friends and colleagues (Hi Deb – it was lovely to have tea yesterday, we should do that more often. Go write that book, it’s going to be a fantastic resource!).
I am posting my blog post early this week as I am taking Monday off – it’s been a hectic past few weeks with a lot of travelling and presenting, and it’s time for a bit of self care for this workshop presenter.
This was an interesting week: I presented a one hour talk on PTSD to a second year Abnormal Psychology class at Queen’s University (weird timing given the Texas shooting, I’ll return to that in a minute) and offered an evening and a one day session for the Alzheimer’s Society here in Kingston. The evening session was for family caregivers and the day for helping professionals. I learned a lot during both events. I can tell you one thing: when I am elderly and in need of long term care, I hope to receive care from people such as the ones on the panel. These folks, most of whom have been looking after elderly patients with dementia for 20-30 years, radiated with compassion for their clients. When they described why they love their work, their faces started lighting up. I can’t quite capture it now, as it is 6am and I’m about to take my son to play hockey, but it was something very moving. Everyone on the panel also spoke of their self care strategies and it was clear that they have remained compassionate and resilient because, in part, they had learned to care for themselves both physically and emotionally. All of them exercise on a regular basis, try to eat well and have a strong support network.
It was also wonderful to present to family caregivers. These folks have been caring for a loved one with for years, often on their own, often in their homes until they can no longer do it. I hope I was able to offer a little bit of support to them, in my limited ways. It was certainly an honour to meet you all.
I will not wade into the massive speculation that took place in the media this week surrounding the psychiatrist who went postal and killed a dozen military personnel in Texas. If you have google alert you will have been deluged with posts discussing and speculating on whether this man suffered from vicarious trauma and whether that is what led him to kill. The problem with the internet, of course, is that there is a lot of rubbish being written by pretty much anyone who can type, and there is some good stuff in among all that. I found a good discussion on the topic, written by Drs Figley and Pearlman and other solid sources, so I invite you go read this to if you want a sensible analysis of the few facts that are known at this time.
As for me, I’m off to Hamilton this week to present to helpers who work in developmental pediatrics. I also want to rake leaves, make soup and go for a run in the crisp November air. I hope you also have a good week and can fit in some time to exercise, stretch and breathe.
Last week, both my children came down with the flu (likely the most popular strain currently deluging the media). So my husband and I juggled: we shared the home care for the week (I was co-teaching a three day Crisis intervention course) and washed our hands like mad and tried to resist giving hugs and kisses to them (now, that was hard). They are back in school and seem to be on the mend and we are trying to catch up on missed deadlines and the lot.
It was nothing very serious, but it reminded me of the incredible stress of having younger children and getting the dreaded call from the daycare, which normally meant that not only Poopsie was sick today, but he/she was going to be banned from daycare for the following day, until they were deemed to have been fever-free for a full 24 hours. As soon as I would see the daycare number on call display, my mind would start racing, thinking about coverage for the following day, what was I going to do with the suicidal client I had just safety contracted with (the deal being that they would come back to see me on the next day), who would see the couple who had travelled 2 hours to come for a session who were already on their way to the office, and where would I fit in all the people who had been moved to the following day. Of course, it always worked out, somehow, but the stress involved was significant. And I’m talking about minor ailments here, not the catastrophic illnesses that so many people cope with.
Working as a front line worker has many rewards but the challenging reality is that you have to be “on” when you’re at work. You were up all night with a sick family member? Too bad, you have to be 100% focused right now. There are no half measures really. Of course, there are many ways to help each other out – family and friends can step in, if they live nearby, but the stress of the unkwown never really goes away when you are a front line health care worker.
Of course, with the flu outbreak this week, hospital and public health workers are facing a mounting workload and having to deal with many stressors all at once – the hours-long lineups for vaccination speak for themselves, as do the crowded flu clinics.
This morning, I heard a very topical radio interview on CBC’s The Current on the impact of the pandemic on health care workers. On the show was Dr Robert Maunder, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who is part of a team who have developed The Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine, an online course for health care workers to help us develop resiliency skills while facing the pandemic. He said that several studies found that health care workers who were in the thick of things during the SARS epidemic were found to have lasting psychological effects from working in the SARS environment (more fearful of contamination for long periods of time following the end of the SARS outbreak).
Let me quote from their press release: “A computerized course for health-care workers worldwide to build their resilience during a pandemic. Based on the SARS outbreak in 2003, Mount Sinai experts understand that the spike in health-care workers’ stress-related absenteeism results from fear of contagion, concern for family health, job stress, interpersonal, isolation, and perceived stigma. That’s why Mount Sinai researchers Dr. Robert Maunder and Dr. William Lancee led a pilot study of computerized training for 150 Mount Sinai health-care workers in 2009. The results suggest that the training improves health-care workers’ belief that they can handle the changes a pandemic brings, confidence in support and training, and interpersonal problems. This also suggests that the training may be able reduce stress-related absenteeism. From these findings, the researchers are launching The Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine course, which will be an education tool and also the basis of pandemic resilience research.
The course is available over the Internet making it widely accessible at no cost for the health-care workers. The goal is to reach 3,000 health-care workers worldwide.
The course is now live. It is part of a randomized control trial. Hospital-based health-care workers can register at
www.msh-healthyminds.com/stressvaccine. The pilot study was funded by Canadian Institutes for Health Research.”
I have not yet had time to go take a look at the course, but Dr Maunder suggests that if you are a health care worker facing the onslaught right now, it may be very worth your while to take a few minutes out of your day to take the course now, rather than wait until you are not in the eye of the storm.