Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back to Work ...

I'm back from the sunnier and much warmer climes of Santa Barbara, California, relaxed, freckled and looking forward to this week's Compassion Fatigue Workshop with 100 BC Home Care Rehabilitation Professionals at Shadboldt Center in Burnaby, BC.

My time off was a wonderful opportunity to rest, to eat warm, juicy oranges fresh from the trees, to enjoy early morning latte's and good books at Jeannine's, to walk the colourful "aisles" of the farmers markets and to have a good "tune-up" with my incredibly skilled and intuitive mind-body therapists.

Today, Mother's Day, I'm planting rainbow chard and mesclun seeds in the garden, fertilizing the roses and preparing stakes for planting the sweet peas later next week. (Thanks, Mom, for planting the gardening seed in my heart at such an early age.) Later this afternoon, I'll drive up the Valley for dinner with dear friends. As I reflect upon my return to work after all these nurturing activities, I am grateful to see that the burnout that accompanied my Compassion Fatigue six or seven years ago has lifted and that, as a friend said yesterday, I'm "back again".

Recently, I reread notes I'd taken from the recording of a talk by CF researcher, therapist and author, Eric Gentry, where he spoke about how altering our perceptions regarding work can make us more resilient to the burnout that almost always accompanies CF. With his permission, I'd like to share his thoughts with you:

There are 3 maxims that can help us to change our perceptions about work:

1. The outcome of our work is none of our business.

None of us is powerful enough to control the outcome of our work. Our job is to focus on taking right action in our work as best we can and then to let go of the results.

2. We are not "entitled" to anything just because we are caregivers.

As caregivers, the more burned out we are, the greater our sense of entitlement seems to be. Because we work so hard, we begin to believe that our workplace "owes" us. One of the ways that we can become more resilient, is to start to recognize that our workplace doesn't owe us anything other than our wages and safe working conditions. We need to replace this entitlement idea with the notion that our workplace is the place where we get to go to do our mission, to practice our purpose in life. The only reason for any of us to be in the caregiving field is because we have a mission to be there. The extrinsic rewards are so few and far between in this field, that it doesn't make sense that you would be there for any other reason.

3. Your workplace is always going to demand more from you than you can give and it will never be satisfied with what you do give.

Your resilience will grow if, understanding this maxim, you stop struggling to provide everything that's demanded and know that your job is only to go to your workplace, hang on to your mission, hang on to your principles, do the best job you can and continue to stay self-validated while practicing your principles.

I think these 3 maxims are important ideas for all of us to consider as we "return to our mission" this week and seek wellness and resilience in our workplaces.

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