As helping professionals, the question is not if, but 'when will we experience the vicarious impacts of this work?' In recent years, we have become more aware of terms such as vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and moral injury in helping others. There are, however, also joyful, hopeful and inspiring aspects of this work. Here at Tempo, we make sense of both sides through the 'Joy - Pain Spectrum'. Take a look at the graphic overview to understand more.
There is a worldwide shortage of healthcare workers. And many of the workers that are available are not travelling well. Whilst the web is awash with the latest self care tips and tricks, this individualistic focus fails to acknowledge the systemic and cultural issues at play. Although it is important for everyone to look after themselves, the push for self care alone is problematic as it lodges the problem in the individual, rather than addressing the social and systemic issues that need wider consideration.
In this National Reconciliation Week, Australians are being urged to 'use their power, their words and their actions' to create a better country; 'to be a voice for generations' (Reconciliation Australia). Here, I am exploring my own sense of shame, helplessness, hopelessness and complacency through a lens of the near and far enemies of fierce compassion. For me, it's a vulnerable and necessary place to start again; to re-find my voice and put my words and values into action.
In preparing for the two hour masterclass that I am offering in June, I have been enjoying a process of research and reading. In this blog, I'm happy to share the eight key texts that will inform this dive into self compassion, embodied empathy and boundaries for health workers. If these pique your interest, take a look in your local library or bookstore. Or, better yet, join us at the masterclass on Thursday June 15 for an immersive, nourishing and stimulating deep dive into these topics.
With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I'm thinking about the importance of comfort. What are the songs or music that you turn to when you need some comfort? When I asked people in my community this question, they generously shared their favourites. I have compiled these into two lists: one for songs and another for music. Music is a very personal thing - I hope these songs and music will invite you to listen and be comforted, or if these pieces are not for you, to create you own comfort playlist.
Step into the mesmerising world and words of multi-award-winning hiphop artist, poet, musician, playwright and author Kae Tempest with their poem, 'Hold your own'. Drink in the words or allow yourself to be transported into inner connection through sound. Take a moment to sit in and with this. What emerges for you?
Being a cloud-lover has brought me great joy, moments of contemplation, imagination, connection, wonder and playfulness. And it turns out that having an ability to connect with ourselves and the world around us in these ways is very important for our capacity to shape our nervous system towards health and wellbeing. Most of us are familiar with 'triggers' but do you know about building awareness of and connecting to a sense of the goodness within and around you through 'glimmers'? Join me in this exploration of glimmers through clouds.
The bulk of healthcare, education and the care and support sector is comprised of women. Despite the providing the backbone and sustenance of our society, these areas remain under-resourced and under enormous strain. In recent discussions in our Creative Embodied Supervision Groups here at Tempo, discussions have explored the frustrations of working within a patriarchal system: as women, how do we stand up for ourselves? how do we unlearn internalised misogyny? how do we back ourselves? There are many paths to these answers. These songs are offered in support of this quest - thank you to these strong songwriters and performers for your support and inspiration.
Finger paints and worker wellbeing?! There is now so much more recognition of vicarious trauma, moral injury, empathic strain, burnout and other vicarious risks of helping work. But many do not know that there are also protective factors that help to mitigate these risks, and bring us strength, hope, inspiration and joy. Understanding of these concepts and connection to our felt experience is crucial for a healthy and sustainable career.
So many of us in helping roles struggle to put ourselves first. For so long, our roles at home, at work and in the community have urged us ever forward in support of others. We have whispered to ourselves, 'but this person is so much more in need...', 'I have so much...', or just pushed on through without realising what we lose. This poem articulates so well the struggle between the different parts of us, and highlights the disconnect that so often occurs. I invite you to take a moment of gentleness with yourself in reading this poem by John Roedel.
Polyvagal theory helps us to understand that we can be creative and and precise in our self supports. We have a whole smorgasbord of ways in which we can connect in, connect with others and connect with the world around us. We already know this, but in our busy-ness, we can forget. This is your invitation to look through and choose your own adventure of nervous system supports. Have a look at this infographic with a sense curiosity and of exploration. How might you bring yourself into greater connection with your world today?
'R U OK Day' is a suicide prevention initiative that aims to reduce risk and harm by through staying connected and having difficult conversations when someone is struggling. Having these conversations is important, but so difficult for us; particularly when many of us do not know how to support ourselves, let alone sit in discomfort with others. This article looks at how we can take care of ourselves, each other and stay connected beyond 8 September - in compassion and in community.
Netflix's award winning TV show 'Stranger Things' highlights the power of music to calm, connect loved ones, reconnect with ourselves, forge new identities, distract monsters, and even save lives. But how much of this is true? What powers does music really have? What does science tell us about the power of music? And how does music help the characters in 'Stranger Things'? Buckle in to hear what we know about the power of music from an Australian Registered Music Therapist's perspective.
We can hardly explore the joy-pain spectrum in helping roles without looking at the pointy end. While previous blogs in this 5-part series explored the positive, protective factors, this post examines the risks in empathic connection when working with those who are suffering. Here, we will consider the symptoms, contributing factors and the differences between empathic strain (compassion fatigue), burnout, secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma.
Given the outward focus on the individual, it is ironic that many of us in this Western culture struggle to truly care for, and nurture ourselves with kindness. Regardless of the types of mothering experiences we have had, at some point we all need to find ways to nurture our inner child. See below for an infographic that summarises one approach to self-mothering in three simple steps.
This Mother's Day blog brings an invitation for teachers, counsellors, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to reflect upon how you might invite self-kindness through self-mothering: a process of caring for your needs as a loving mother might. If you are feeling unappreciated and exhausted, how might you protect, care for, love unconditionally, and find a way to truly see what you need?
In these uncertain times, it is easy to get caught up in the heavy waves of helplessness that come with a world facing a pandemic, war, climate change and the ensuing tsunami of mental ill-health. Connecting with presence and hope through music, imagery and poetry can help us to open to a sense of possibility and connection with ourselves, others and the world around us.
The first four blogs in this five-part series have illuminated the significant challenges faced by workers in helping roles in Australia, and the need for change if we are going to sustain a stable and healthy workforce in healthcare and education. The statistics are dire, but there is a way forward. This blog explores how we can nurture hope in healthcare and education through presence and connection.
In 2022, International Women's Day takes place amidst war in Ukraine, flooding in Queensland and New South Wales, and the third year into the COVID-19 pandemic. With women making over 70% of the education, health care and social assistance workforce, and undertaking 50% more than men of the unpaid household chores and caring responsibilities, the current and cumulative load on women at this time is enormous.
In this third piece of the five-part 'Helping Professionals Interview Series' , we explore the misnomer of ‘self care’ and its suggestion that individuals only hold responsibility for our wellbeing. In fact, the challenges are caused by modern Western society, its systems with ever-shifting policies and protocols, large workloads and insufficient support within our working environments. If you're exhausted and overwhelmed, it's not you: it's a set up.
Through November – December in late 2021, I met with seventeen helping professionals from the following areas: nursing, teaching, music therapy, pharmacy, counselling, child and family therapy, social work and service management to discuss how they seek help or look after themselves when they are struggling. This infographic summarises key findings.
Towards the end of last year, I met with a number of health and education professionals in an informal process to discuss how they manage their own wellbeing. We discussed what gets in the way of them maintaining their own self-care, and finding external help. Part one of this five-part blog series shares the key blockages to seeking support as experienced by these helping professionals.
This time of the year can be difficult at the best of times: the pressure to get things finished, have fun, be social and make merry; family gatherings; multiple social events; late nights and rich food. Additionally, this year’s festive season follows two years of lockdowns, restrictions, negotiating who has/hasn't been vaccinated, ongoing uncertainty, and for many, financial hardship. See below for how the ‘8 C’s’ of Internal Family Systems therapy can guide what you might need to create space and support for yourself.
Well before COVID reared its ugly head, the World Health Organisation predicted a global mental health crisis. With a return to lockdowns and uncertainty everywhere, it's more important than ever to find different ways to support ourselves at home, at work or working from home - wherever you fit now, or when it changes again. See below for some tips on managing the “new normal” of lockdown and uncertainty.
Polyvagal theory describes how our nervous system works hard to help us to connect with others, to keep us safe, and to protect us against threat. Many are familiar with terms such as fight, flight and freeze. However this is only part of the picture. This article unpacks three organising principles of polyvagal theory that help to make it accessible, understandable and easy to translate into daily life.
The body is our home. But what happens when we become disconnected from this home, unable to feel it, or to notice when it needs a break or nourishment? What happens when we tune out from it, turn away and ignore the vital messages it is sharing with us? See below as we explore the role of being aware of, and connecting with the body and its sensations for embodied health and wellbeing - for yourself and the wellbeing of those in your care.
The rich array of autumnal colours remind us of the cycles of life, the delight of colour, and the shift from the expansiveness of summer, to our inner world as we head closer into winter. With so much of our focus caught up in busy-ness and the 'doing' of life, this post invites reflection on presence, connection and transformation through creating the safety and space for our inner worlds, through music, art, embodiment and relaxed states.
The concept of compassion fatigue has been around for twenty five years. Often closely linked (and at times incorrectly used interchangeably with) burnout, compassion fatigue has been a focus for researchers interested in mitigating the risks workers face with prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. Leading experts are calling for a change in terminology, suggesting that ‘empathic strain’ is a more accurate term due to the differing neural networks involved in empathy and compassion. See below for a brief overview of the discussion.
Within the helping professions we often focus on the more challenging end of the joy - pain spectrum in this work: exhaustion, compassion fatigue, secondary stress and vicarious trauma. This blog series seeks to rectify that, with Part 1 focusing on vicarious resilience, Part 2 unpacking compassion satisfaction, Part 3 looks at suggested changes in terminology and Part 4 addressing the importance of, and risks associated with, connecting with others when in a helping role. Cultivating awareness of both ends of the joy - pain spectrum in the helping professions is essential in supporting worker wellbeing.
Post-traumatic growth is a familiar concept to many. But what about other positive impacts that workers can experience? Vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction help us to understand the ways that workers in helping or caring roles can be positively impacted, or even transformed, by witnessing the strength and resilience of others. Holding an awareness of both ends of the spectrum - the joy and the pain in the work - may hold the key for a healthy, successful and durable career.
Creating playlists for fun, to exercise and support us through hard times has always been a great thing to do. You might not think about it much, but your music playlist impacts your mood, your thoughts and your body. And if you're having a hard time, it's worth noticing if the music you listen to is helping.... or not.
We are a sleep deprived society. Research outlines the cost of inadequate sleep to our mental and physical health, our immune functioning and the cost to workplaces. The recommendations for a good sleep routine are well documented. However the benefits of music listening for improved physiological relaxation and sleep are less known. Find out how music listening may be your ticket to a better night’s sleep.
Therapy groups are a fantastic way to find support and connect with others facing similar experiences. They bring people together, help you to see that you are not alone and can be a way to learn about yourself in relation to others. In joining with others in a group, you can develop skills in communication, see things from different perspectives, share learnings and develop some great networks of support.
When so many of our challenges are a result of pressures from work and (rather topically) society in general – reference to ‘self care’ can seem to be a dismissal at best. What of the larger systems and social mechanisms at play? How can we look after ourselves and each other? Social buffering and ideas about connection and empathy give us some clues.
Within all the uncertainty of 2020, one thing is for sure - Telehealth is here to stay. Attending your first online session can be daunting. But meeting over the internet doesn't have to be hard. Here are some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your session when meeting over the internet.
We don’t leave ourselves behind when we go to work, we take our whole selves in. Some days it is easy to keep ourselves separate. But when we are tired, have a special connection to a client or patient, have difficulties of our own, or are touched by the moment, it is not always possible, or appropriate, to maintain a separation. We feel their joy and we feel their pain. And sometimes it touches ours.