Do you often find yourself last on your to do list? Wish you could press pause on your life? I’ve been there more times than I count.
My Self-Care Journey
Six years ago I was working as a social worker in a public foster care agency, I was fresh out of graduate school and ready to be the best social worker I could be. Within a few short months, I learned how difficult it really is to act as a guardian for a caseload of foster youth with extensive histories of trauma, abandonment and abuse. I did everything in my power to support and advocate for them, but there were times when I couldn’t be everywhere and everything to everybody, and then there was the red tape. The amount of red tape I ran into was so ridiculous and so counterproductive to the mission of ensuring the safety and well-being of children. You may laugh when you read this, but rapper, Rick Ross released the song, Hustlin’ that year and I swear that song was my anthem because to me everyday I was hustlin’, going over and beyond to make a tangible difference in the young lives I was responsible for.
By that winter, I wasn’t me anymore. I lost a certain joy and energy that I used to have. But, how could that have been, when I was trying to help the children? At the time I didn’t realize that I cut myself off from friends and family, things that I used to enjoy because I was so tired and I just didn’t have the energy. I literally had given everything to my job. As time passed, my body eventually began to break down under pressure. My eye began to twitch, I was depressed, I began to grind my teeth at night on top of experiencing chronic fatigue. And, then one day my arm went numb while I was driving and then once more at a going away party holding an appetizer plate, it soon became painful and I was scared. I remember thinking, What is happening to me? Everything seemed to be coming down on me, one of my kids had run away and another pregnant, and then one of the social worker’s in my unit was resigning, so I had more kids on my caseload. I literally would cry on my way to work. I had TMJ, 2 pinched nerves, and I was literally stressed and depressed.
So, I made the very hard decision to leave my job with no job to go to and take a short sabbatical. Thankfully, I had money saved up to last me for a few months. During that time, I practiced yoga, began to cook for myself again, read for pleasure and reach out to friends and family again. I made caring for myself a top priority, while looking for another job ; ).
Self-Care Takes Practice
Practicing self-care actually takes practice. When life doesn’t go as planned, self-care often takes a backseat, when it should be in the driver’s seat. Self-care doesn’t mean that you abandon things or people, but you’re making decisions that are based on what’s best for you. If you don’t take care of YOU, who will? How can you support others, if you’re not taking care of yourself first. You have to put your oxygen mask on, before you can help others put theirs on.
Here are several questions to explore how often (frequently, occasionally, rarely, never) you practice self-care:
Do you eat regular meals?
Do you take time off when you are sick?
Do you exercise? Practice yoga?
Do you take vacations?
Do you get enough sleep?
Do you get regular physicals?
Get a massage?
Read for pleasure?
Take breaks from email, internet, cell?
Take time for self-reflection?
Make time for friends & family?
Ask for help?
Spend time in nature?
Connect with spirituality?
Look at the areas where you could improve and develop a plan to practice self-care in the areas of work and career, relationships, and physical and emotional health.
Let me know how you practice self-care.
If you need help with practicing self-care and developing a self-care plan, I would love to hear from you at email@example.com.