Writing exercise from The Compassion Fatigue Workbook

This exercise was inspired by Saakvitne and Pearlman’s book Transforming the Pain

Make sure you have some undisturbed time to work through the five following questions:

1) Where do the stories go?

What do you do at the end of a work day to put difficult client stories away before you go home?

2) Were you trained for this?

Did your training offer you any education on self-care, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma or burnout? If it did, how up to date are you on those strategies? If it didn’t, how much do you know about these concepts?

3) What are your particular vulnerabilities?

There are two things we know for sure about the field of helping: one, that a large percentage of helpers have experienced primary trauma at some point in their past, which may have led them to being attracted to the field in the first place; two, that personality types who are attracted to the field of helping are more likely to be highly attuned and to feel empathy towards others which makes them good at their job and also more vulnerable to developing CF, VT and Burnout.

What are your vulnerabilities?

4) How do you protect yourself while doing this very challenging work?

5) On a blank sheet of paper, write out the story of your career as a helper

What have been the biggest challenges in your current job? Think broadly – client challenges, organizational challenges, interpersonal, societal, other? Thinking more specifically about your current job – what have been or are the biggest challenges – your work schedule, colleagues, office layout etc.

How did you come to realize that your work was having a significant impact on you and on your life?

Once you have written your story, take some time to review what you have written, and look for themes and patterns. What aspects of your CF/VT have to do with the nature of your work? What aspects have to do with your own history/family of origin? Can you see how the nature of your place of work may have impacted on your levels of CF and VT? Can you see how your own history/family of origin may have contributed to your levels of CF and VT?

If you feel comfortable doing so, consider discussing this with a colleague, friend or counsellor.

(This is an excerpt from The Compassion Fatigue Workbook © Françoise Mathieu 2009)

List of Self Care Ideas from SAN Conference Ottawa

This list of self care ideas was compiled by participants at last week’s one day Compassion Fatigue workshop which was held in Ottawa on March 26th, 2010. Take a look! Could you commit to one of these in the week to come? A springtime resolution perhaps?

Self Care Strategies at Home
-listen to the birds for 5 minutes
-dance uninhibited to one song
-play in the dirt
-play with your children and/or grandchildren
-colour mandalas or colouring book
-play wii – nintendo fitness
-manicure/pedi/facial at home uninterrupted
-treat yourself once a week
-enjoy the sun
-express positivity once a day to those you love
-have a fun day
-start work late one day a week and pamper yourself (music, bath, long shower)
-read how much and however you want when you arrive home
-learn to yodel (or another new fun skill that makes you laugh)
-borrow a neighbour’s pet
-discover a new musician or poet
-put on different music and dance with your children
-share what you are grateful for every night
-have “me time” once a week
-have flowers once a week
-have sex with yourself or with a partner once a week
-belly dance
-all day in bed – music, books, meals
-go to a park and play on the swings
-have a family pedi/manicure
-have a nerf ball fight in the home with the whole family
-put on some music and dance
-have all you need for the next day ready and waiting in the morning
-movie night
-try a new recipe to cook for yourself
-try to delegate without nit-picking
-take time to enjoy walking your dog
-take time to release – crank up the stereo, dance and go wild
-take up a new hobby
-plan to be organised i.e. meals

Self Care Strategies at Work
-leave your office and enjoy your lunch break
-screen your calls and prioritize them
-leave your briefcase “on a tree”
-plan and organize
-learn to say no
-go for a walk
-have movie time for release, maybe at a staff meeting
-hold a staff fun day e.g: drumming day
-never miss lunch/don’t eat it at your desk/don’t work during lunch
-have a pot luck lunch with your team
-stretch every day
-pack a cooler with healthy foods, drinks, snacks
-meditate with a bell/chime to remind you of time
-put a stretch reminder on your work computer
-music for work during down time/breaks
-wear slippers all day at work/at your desk
-once a day email a funny video to colleagues
-introduce yourself to someone new once a week
-lunch time yoga or after work
-watch a movie at lunch
-community soup lunch with recipe to share
-bring pet or baby in for a visit
-share what you are grateful for at staff meeting
-read a non-related book at work
-deal with confrontations one-on-one
-look at alternative ways to debrief (drawing, dance, etc)
-discuss with other organizations “best practice”
-social field trips (i.e. white water rafting, friday bbq or potluck)
-watch or listen to comedy (Ellen, Loreta Laroche, youtube)
-play cards
-have a memory box full of happy memories
-wave breathing
-fill 5 pages with what pisses you off about your life. When you are done, put them in a sealed envelope and then shred it
-bring fresh flowers to your desk

The green smoothie

During my travels last week, I met some lovely people and enjoyed several great chats over lunch and during breaks during the training sessions. One of these conversations was about green smoothies (as in smoothies made with greens) – yes, you heard me right. Let me explain what this is all about.

Several months ago, I came across an article on the health benefits of eating raw foods. I had heard about raw foodism in the past and was always rather sceptical about this approach to nutrition. In a nutshell, raw foodism advocates eating foods in their least processed and most natural forms. The argument is that cooking food destroys important enzymes and make foods less nutritious and less digestible. I have no idea about the science behind this, but I do know that eating mostly plant-based foods in their least processed forms can’t be a bad thing and that most of us eat far too much salt, fat and preservatives.

I decided to try introducing more raw foods in my diet in October and within two weeks, I noticed significant changes in my overall health. After a lifetime of low blood sugar crashes, for once in my life I started feeling actually satiated between meals. I no longer got that shaky headachy feeling if I didn’t get lunch right on time. I also noticed a whole host of other improvements to my overall health and energy. Eating more raw food is not about dieting or depriving yourself. Rather, it’s a way of introducing more plant-based foods in your life.

Anyhow, if you want to know more about raw food, you can read all about it at the sites I mention below, all I really wanted to tell you about today was green smoothies.

I don’t think that many people will argue with the concept that eating more greens is good for all of us. Raw Divas recommend a very painless way to do this: drink a green smoothie once a day. For starters, they suggest making this very simple green smoothie: (you need a blender for this): 2 ripe or frozen bananas, a handful of spinach, a cup of water and a few ice cubes if your bananas were not frozen. Start with a little bit of spinach and add more after you are used to the taste. Try having a green smoothie at breakfast, as a midafternoon snack or in the evening instead of your usual cookies and milk. Tera Warner of Raw Divas also has a very tasty banana ice cream recipe on her website. Here is a cute video of her and her son making the ice cream.

I have no affiliation with these raw food sites but thought I would list a few that I like to visit once in a while for inspiration:

The raw divas website mentioned above has lots of recipes on the site if you navigate around a bit.
www.rawmazing.com (she has the best recipes, I find)
www.kristensraw.com (she is hard core raw vegan but offers a lot of recipes on her blog)
Choosing raw has very nice lunch ideas and other recipes worth trying

Whether or not you decide to go the raw food way, try a green smoothie and let me know what you think.

Photo by Nillerdk @ wikicommons

Take up the 5/30 challenge – Relevez le défi 5/30

This wellness challenge is an initiative of heart institute of Montreal. For the next six weeks, you are invited to commit to eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and exercise for at least 30 minutes daily (these can be three separate 10 minute activities such as climbing the stairs, walking to the grocery store and going for a walk at lunch, or one thirty minute exercise session).

You can make this commitment on your own, with friends or, if you are reading this on or before March 1st, you can enroll in the challenge online

Relevez le défi 5/30! Une initiative de l’institut de cardiologie de Montréal. Pour les 6 prochaines semaines, optez de manger au moins 5 fruits ou légumes par jour et de faire 30 minutes d’activité physique. Vous pouvez vous inscrire sur le site ou relevez votre propre défi au bureau ou avec votre famille! Visitez leur site pour plus d’information.

(Tonight, when they come home, I’m going to challenge my kids and hubby to this and see if they can rise to the challenge. We’ll see who wins – full disclosure is that I already do both of these things on most days so I am pretty sure I am going to win but let’s see who gets the silver medal in our home!).

Photo from Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net