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.
Connection, community and collaboration are essential for best outcomes in healthcare work. Drawing inspiration from thought leaders and research that advocates for a collective, compassionate and courageous response to peer support, this blog conceptualises a unique approach to collective care. How can we develop and support each other through creative expression and networks that hold us with a strong back, soft front, wild heart and clear mind for the wellbeing of our clients and our own sustainability in the work?
Healthcare workers are passionate, caring folk. With a diminished workforce worldwide, overloaded systems and reduced resources, it is no wonder we are all feeling stretched and compromised in the face of the ensuing moral distress. It is important to address the wider systemic issues but we also need to do small things to care for ourselves and each other day to day. One solution? A feel-good music playlist - have a listen and share with anyone who may need a boost!
For too long there has been a focus on self care when we work in systems with groups of people, in community. We know that community, authentic connection and support are essential for our survival: the pandemic taught us just how vital we are for each other, and polyvagal theory confirms that the need to come together for safety and support is built into our neurobiology. So what is collective care? What does it mean? Why is it so important? Take a look below to find out 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.
We have all heard of the 'fight / flight / freeze' responses, but there are many other complex systems at play when we become stressed. In this blog, we will take a look at the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal systems, otherwise known as the HPA axis, to understand how and why dysregulation of this axis can compromise our immune system, and lead to inflammation and a downward spiral in our mental, hormonal and physical health.
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.
'Stress' has become a ubiquitous concept and term, bandied about with (ironically) careless abandon: 'I'm so stressed'; 'He really stressed me out'; 'I've got to stop being so stressed'. We talk about stress all the time, but what exactly is stress? What are the differences between acute stress and chronic stress? And why does it matter?
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.
When we are burnt out it is hard to take the steps we need to begin to recover. In this blog you will find short summaries and links to podcasts on burnout. There is a range of information here from different professions, including doctors, naturopaths, psychologists and therapists. Understand the stress response cycle, hear personal stories from those who have experienced burnout in relation to work and home, hear why listening to your body is important and even what we can learn from dancing to our own rhythm!
What causes burnout? Is it the person? The culture? The environment? Or a combination of all three? Informed by latest research, dive in to unpack the causes of burnout through a lens of workplace culture, community supports, values and individual, predisposing factors. Learn how understanding these contributing factors may help you to assess your own situation, and see what you might be able to change ... or not. Which aspects of work are supportive for you right now, and which may be leading you to burn out?
There is a lot of information and talk about burnout these days - and rightly so. Our world is fast-paced to the point of enormous suffering - mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. But what is burnout? And how can you tell if you are affected by it? In this blog we outline the key symptoms of burnout as described by 'The Sydney Studies' - research undertaken by the team at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
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.
This five-part blog series of the 'Joy-Pain Spectrum' has explored the opportunities for growth, hope and positive change that help to protect us and mitigate the risks associated with the challenges of helping others at the other end: burnout, vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue (empathic strain) moral injury and secondary traumatic stress. So how do we protect ourselves? How do we maintain our healthy selves in relation to helping work? The answer lies in the need for cultural, political and organisational shifts, as well as the need for BOTH individual and collective supports.
For workers in a helping role, professional supervision is an essential component of the work: it supports positive outcomes for clients, maintenance of ethical standards, the development of skills and, importantly, the wellbeing of workers. Whilst most workplaces strive to offer regular supervision, the reality is often far from ideal. This blog explores how supervision groups outside of your workplace can offer a much needed space for reflection, connection and mutual support for teachers and healthcare workers.
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.
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.
From the first three parts of 'The Helping Professionals Interview Series' we've heard that teachers and health professionals struggle to reach out for support and care for themselves. Why is this? In this penultimate blog in the series, we hear through the voices of participants that the answer is tied up in societal messages that begin in childhood, and continue on through professional training and within workplace cultures.
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.
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 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.
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.
It’s a big claim, but think about all the times of need you have turned to music ... in times of heartbreak, teenage angst, weddings, funerals, setting the scene for a party (at the beginning and at the end of the night), for graduations, for religious services, and on and on.
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.