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 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 late last year 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.