Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Work As Self Care ...

Hi everyone!

Many of us think of self care as something we do away from our caring work, in order to refresh and refuel. However, whether we're helpers in a professional workplace or family caregivers whose work lies within the walls of our own homes, there are things we can do while at work to rejuvenate and enhance our resilience.

Sometimes self care at work can be as simple as pausing for a few moments in the day to take some deep mindful breaths, eat a healthy snack, drink some water, go to the bathroom, wash our face and hands, rest quietly while gazing out the window at the natural world, connect deeply with a co-worker or go for a run up the stairs.

But how many of us think of the work, itself, as a means of self care, purpose and meaning? Many of us can forget that we chose the work we do because, at its best, it was so energizing and life-giving. As Rachel Remen, physician, healer and author of, Kitchen Table Wisdom, says:

No question that the medical system (in the USA) is seriously broken, but Medicine itself is not. Even on the most stressful and pressured of days there are moments in which we can experience something else, moments in which we connect to people on a very intimate level and make a difference to them and they to us. Times when, despite everything, we experience compassion, give and receive love, ease suffering and fear and are profoundly trusted. Instances when the greatness and courage of an ordinary person is suddenly revealed and we know ourselves to be in the presence of a hero. Or we recognize that we ourselves are heroes. No question that these experiences are brief, but they happen daily. And often they are life-giving - like taking single breathes of pure oxygen in the middle of a deep-water dive. There is a deep river of meaning that runs through the work of every health professional. It can sustain us in difficult times.

Rachel's wisdom does not apply only to those engaged in healthcare. The same could be said of first responders bringing people to safety, teachers reaching out to children who've been abused or neglected, clergy comforting the bereaved, therapists helping to heal emotional wounds, interpreters easing communication in a new land or family caregivers coordinating and providing care for loved ones.

If we can be mindful of the golden moments of human connection and compassion that brought us to our work in the first instance, and that are still available to nourish our hearts and souls today, we will both build our compassion fatigue resilience and bring a greater degree of humanity and caring to those we serve.

I think John O'Donohue understood this when he wrote his Blessing For Work:

May the light of your soul bless your work
with love and warmth of heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring light and renewal
to those who work with you
and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never exhaust you.

May it release wellsprings of refreshment,
inspiration, and excitement.

May you never become lost in bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find hope in your heart,
approaching your new day with dreams,
possibilities, and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed,
sheltered and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you.

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