This is not a new concept, but it’s a very important one: in order to care for others we must take care of ourselves.Becoming a mother was one of the first times I experienced this first hand–the endless need of another exhausting my reserves in a way I had never even known possible.
And that was with a healthy, easy baby.
Caregivers also need to be aware of their own personal “tipping” point. It will be unique for each one of us. My husband can survive on six hours of sleep without a problem. If I try to gain hours in my day by cutting back on the eight hours of sleep I need, by day three I am a walking zombie.
Often in healthcare it is not the patients themselves that cause the exhaustion, but rather the broken processes and waste involved in giving care. In addition, caregivers have unique challenges not limited to working long, alternative schedules, going for long periods of time without breaks, the stress and strain of keeping track of multiple patients at a time with all of the details of their care, as well as the possibility of being thrown in a life or death situation at any moment.
At every one of our trainings we end with, “How do you refresh?” What de-stresses you, refreshes you, and makes you feel alive and well? What activities re-charge your batteries and help you think clearly and creatively, both at home and at work?
Here are just a few of the many examples of activities that refresh caregivers, from their own mouth:
- Drinking water
- Talking a walk on lunch
- Getting some sunshine
- Writing a thank you note/receiving a thank you note
- Seeing the impact of their care on someone
- Being with their dog/cat/goat…etc.
- Their kids
- Hanging out with friend
Knowing activities that are a “go-to” for you in order to allow your mind to decompress and relax is very important for long-term sustainability with a career in healthcare. I encourage any care team I interact with to know what types of activities contribute to their overall sense of well-being and to prioritize them into their life on a regular basis. The metaphor is true: we must put on our own oxygen masks if we are to be of any use helping others to put on theirs.
What types of things do you do to refresh? Especially when it’s busy at work, what types of small things have you found to be beneficial to silencing the chaos and giving your mind a moment of rest in order to re-enter with clarity and compassion? I’d love to know!