One day Compassion Fatigue Workshop in Salt Lake City

3rd Annual “Renewing the Spirit of Caregiving Conference” with Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed. CCC.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
University of Utah, College of Social Work
Goodwill Humanitarian Bldg.
395 South 1500 East
Cost: $100 (Before May 17)
Group: $85 (5 or more)

Evening session for Caregivers
Wednesday May 19th
Cost: $35 or free with conference registration

Register online or call Wendy Anderson (801) 571-2111

On the road again…

A child in a state of full March break. Photo by FM

I am back after a week at home with kids. I laughed when, on Friday, lining up at the cash while trying to break up a bickering little fight between my two, the cashier said to me: “only a few more days, hang in there” referring to the fact that kids would soon be back in school. I do love them to bits but for a working mother, a week at home with kids is not always particularly restful or peaceful. For once, however, I wisely did not make unrealistic plans before the break (as in “I will read the following three novels this week, and clean up my basement, and nap daily, and …”). No, this time, I was clear in my goals: “Other than going for a run daily, I will not have an agenda and we will do fun family-centered activities all week.” And that is what we did, and although I am a little nap-deprived, I am happy with that. We had a lot of laughs and I learned that Ontario is the biggest peanut producing province in Canada, did you know that?

This week I start travelling again and I have many trips scheduled from now until June with nary a week without a visit to one part of Ontario or another. Time to haul out the photo of my daughter pouting again (if you’ve been to one of my talks recently, you know what I’m referring to). This week I’m in Hamilton and Ottawa, next week in London, Ont, then Ottawa again, Hamilton and Brampton. Going on the road is very rich with new learnings for me, and the workshop continues to grow and change as I make new connections and hear new stories. Those encounters hugely compensate for the downsides of being a road warrior, as my husband lovingly calls me. I look forward to meeting you if we have not yet met.

Guest post: Fragile People

by Lindsay

After donating blood a friend of mine wrote in a google buzz, “Why are health professionals so rough??? I’m fragile people!”

Sadly, we often are rough. We spend so much time patching people up that pretty soon we’re like factory workers putting bolts on a widget. It’s a form of “compassion fatigue.” We’re faced with so much sadness and suffering that we slowly, subconsciously, learn to hold our patients at a distance. But somehow, some patients, some situations, find their ways deep into our hearts.

This weekend I was changing a dressing on a particularly nasty bed sore on a sweet young lady that is close to my age. The sore was so nasty, and the patient so young that I couldn’t help but my let my heart go out to hear and to feel pained for her situation. I did my best to let her see and feel my empathy and made sure to talk to the next shift about a few things that could be done to make her more comfortable.

To respond to my friend’s comment, we health professionals are also fragile people, but we’ve wrapped our hearts away so that we can do our jobs professionally and efficiently. But we’re grateful for comments like yours, and for patients like mine that remind us that we’re all fragile people.

End of guest post. Thank you Lindsay for letting me reprint this from your blog.

Back from Whitehorse

Wow, what a wonderful trip.

A beautiful place and amazing people. I received an incredible welcome in Whitehorse and was treated like royalty…Imagine the re-entry shock when I got home: “ahem, my water bottle is empty…(cue to my family sitting on the couch watching the olympics, ignoring me) ahem…I need to be driven to the store, someone? No? Say what? Do it myself? Oh…”

Things I learned while I was away:

1) If you live in Whitehorse and your windshield gets cracked by flying gravel, don’t bother replacing it. It will only get cracked again (percentage of cracked windshields of cars I was driven in: 99%, pretty strong data I would say.)

2) If you notice, just as you are about to check in for your return flight home, that you have mistakenly booked your flights for March 20th rather than February 20th and are flying through Vancouver, the busiest airport in Canada this weekend, just cross your fingers and pray that somehow the Air Canada guy (ACG) is in a good mood. Plan B, start crying loudly. Luckily, I was just about to start working on Plan B when some miracle happened and ACG got me a seat on all three connecting flights even though they were all overbooked. Thank you ACG.

Today, instead of travelling across the country to give a talk, I am going…across the street to St Mary’s of the Lake (isn’t that a beautiful name for a hospital? It always makes me think of Arthurian legends for some reason).

I will post something deep and meaningful related to Compassion Fatigue later on this week. For now, I am adjusting to being back home and trying to catch up on life.

Contest winner! I would like to congratulate Mezaun on winning a copy of The Compassion Fatigue Workbook. I will be sending it to you this week.

Stillness is a Powerful Action

By Leo Babauta, author of the book “From Zen to Done”
Go see his website:

“Activity conquers cold, but stillness conquers heat.” ~ Lao Tzu

It’s a bias of our culture that stillness is regarded as lazy, as being stuck in inaction, as a negative.

It’s not. It’s an action, and a powerful one.

What’s more, it can change your day, and in doing so change your life.

You’re in the middle of a frazzled day, swamped by work and meetings and emails and interruptions, or hassled by kids and phone calls and errands and chores.

You pause. Stay still for a minute, and breathe. You close your eyes, and find a stillness within yourself. This stillness spreads to the rest of your body, and to your mind. It calms you, centers you, focuses you on what you’re doing right now, not on all you have to do and all that has happened.

The stillness becomes a transformative action.

Stillness can be a powerful answer to the noise of others. It can be a way to push back against the buzz of the world, to take control. It can remind you of what’s important.

How to Practice
Stillness, oddly, doesn’t come naturally to many people. So practice.

1. Start your day in stillness. Whether it’s sitting with a cup of coffee as the world awakes, or sitting on a pillow and focusing on your breath, stillness is a powerful way to start your day. It sets the tone for things to come. Even 5-10 minutes is great.

2. Take regular stillness breaks. Every hour, set an alarm on your computer or phone to go off. Think of it as a bell that rings, reminding you to be still for a minute. During this minute, focus first on your breathing, to bring yourself into the present. Let the worries of the world around you melt away — all that is left is your breath. And then let your focus expand beyond your breath to your other senses, one at a time.

3. When chaos roars, pause. In the middle of a crisis or a noisy day, stop. Be still. Take a deep breath, and focus on that breath coming in, and going out. Find your inner stillness and then let your next action come from that stillness. Focus on that next action only.

Let stillness become your most powerful action. It could change your life.

“Through return to simple living Comes control of desires. In control of desires Stillness is attained. In stillness the world is restored.” ~ Lao Tzu

Starting the year at warp speed. Not what I had planned…

I did not expect the new year to start with quite the bang it did in our house. The minute the kids went back to school, things quickly got busy on many fronts: at home, my children announced that they had long term projects that required nightly help from me (one involved building a diorama of the North American prairie bison’s habitat, to give you an idea…), my hubby decided that it was time to get organized and started clearing out and decluttering not one, but four areas of our house at the same time (“they are all interconnected, you see” he explained to me). The process was a little hairy: we were assembling storage cabinets at 9pm after having taken kids to hockey or soccer, helped them with homework (aka plasticine bison), cooked a (usually) nutritious meal and cleaned the dishes. Whew. My partner is a night owl and he starts hitting his stride at around 9:30pm, just as I am winding down…way down. For last two weeks, he has been bouncing out of his office just around that time, holding a piece of paper triumphantly in his hands: “I’ve got it! The perfect design for [fill in the blank] room.” He is wonderfully creative and I am delighted with the results, but the process made my head spin a bit. I had to bite my tongue and take an allen key and smile and get to work.

Being a morning person, I did take my revenge in the mornings, standing at the foot of the bed at 730am, asking him a million questions in a very perky voice, fully dressed and showered, having a) done an hour of work b) gone for a run c) taken the ikea boxes to the recycling depo and d) done the groceries. Even though we have been together for nearly 20 years, this diurnal/nocturnal mismatch in our relationship always catches me by surprise: “You want to discuss what? But it’s past 9pm, I have no opinion whatsoever about that. None. I am basically asleep. Yes, I know, I am walking around, but I’m not actually here, not at all.” My poor hubby.

Things started out rather quickly on the work front too. Right before going on vacation, I was offered a very interesting contract with a very tight timeline, and this is what I have been working on for most of the month so far. The contract involves carrying out a full organizational health assessment of a unit in a hospital. I have had the opportunity to interview many staff members, speaking to nurses, physicians and allied health professionals to find out what is challenging and rewarding about their work in the unit. Given that I am normally doing large group presentations, I don’t often get the chance to sit down to talk one on one with helpers and it was wonderful to have a chance to do this.

My training schedule is pretty full in the coming months. This week I will be offering three days of compassion fatigue training in Markham. This training is organized by Safeguards and will be offered again in London, Ontario in March 2010. These workshops are open to any helping professional wishing to register. Next week I will be in Ottawa and Cornwall, working with victim services and with corrections Canada.

And for those of you who are wondering (hi mom) how I am looking after myself with such a busy schedule, I am making sure to eat really healthy foods, run regularly, go to bed early, take naps, read books unrelated to work, watch movies, spend time with kids (laughing mostly) and go out for dinner with friends.

Soon, this busy first month of the year will end, and I will have a very organized home and enough leftover plasticine to make a full herd of bisons!

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Skating on a very frozen lake. Photo by Françoise Mathieu 2009

Happy New Year to you! I am back at work after two great weeks off. I had a chance to skate all over a beautiful lake in the Laurentians (after much safety testing, I should add), go ice fishing for the very first time -not entirely my cup of tea, but I have a seriously hooked (no pun intended) 9 year old and he was completely over the moon. He stayed out there for hours in the frigid cold and came in only when forced to. I don’t really get it, but there you go. I also had a chance to catch up with friends and family, read books and eat a ton of shortbread. Yum.

I wanted to tell you about some upcoming events that may be of interest to you.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course With Sandy Williams – OTTAWA

Wednesdays February 24th to April 14th 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Full Day: Saturday April 10th 9:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Fourth Avenue Baptist Church (at Bank)

An 8-week program designed to support you to cope more effectively with stress through mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, to the present moment, with acceptance. This practice is beneficial as it can help you to gain a deeper understanding into your feelings, thoughts and beliefs. People come to the program seeking relief from family, work and financial stress, sleep disturbances, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, pain and illness. Others choose to participate because they want a better way to cope with the often out of control pace of their lives. The program is for anyone who would like to learn to relate consciously and compassionately to the challenges of everyday life. The group meets weekly for 2 1/2 hours with a full day session after the 7th week.

Cost: $425.00 (Includes 2 compact discs and handouts) Supplementary health insurance may apply.

Sandy Williams, MSW, RSW is a social worker leading Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs in the community. She has participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction professional training with Jon Kabat-Zinn. She believes that our difficulties are “workable” and the practice of mindfulness supports us to take responsibility for our well- being and to do something for ourselves that no others can.

For information call Sandy at 613-371-0795 or email:

CAST Canada: Addiction & Trauma – Consumer Panel: Workshop for General Helping Professionals

Friday, February 19th, 2010, 9:00 a.m – 4:00 p.m.
Barrie, ON ( Holiday Inn, Fairview Rd.)
Cost: $140 + gst Before February 28th ~ lunch not provided ~

For the past 4 years CAST Canada has held more than 60 Addiction & Trauma Consumer Panel workshops. Over 2,000 frontline workers have worked directly with CAST Canada volunteer consumers to identify unique, relevant ideas around what worked ( and what didn’t ) in helping relationships. The learnings from this process will be available to you.

Who Should Attend?
You are a frontline worker or any general helping professional where your clients often have addiction and/or trauma issues. The day is popular with shelter, housing support, O.W. , ODSP, all outreach and Children’s Aid workers, therapists, counselors, correctional and probation officers, professors, teachers, guidance counselors, EAP professionals, all hospital staff.

You will:
– Witness moving, open testimonials from consumers who have been helped by professionals
– Participate in highly interactive discussion
– Receive solid, safe and effective tools
– Interact with and learn from peers from other sectors and other areas

Some Themes:
“Role of Relapse” – Learn to discuss this volatile topic
“Nature of Cravings” – Simple to deliver, productive, builds relationship & empowers the client
“How do I ask? ” – Asking hard questions around suspected substance abuse or trauma
“Roles, Goals & Boundaries” – Critical insights, easy implementation

Details and registration: CAST Canada Webpage

*The day is intended for ‘general’ helping professionals as opposed to addiction or trauma workers who find the tools and insight helpful but the introduction and background basic

Self Care and the teeny wrench

The concept of Self care is a funny thing, particularly for people such as us Westerners who live in such an achievement-oriented society. I don’t believe that you can take a diploma in self care, post the certificate on your wall and voila, you’re done, onward and forward…

You see, in my opinion, we are never “done” with self care, it’s not like painting our living room or some other chore on our to-do list, in fact, I would say it’s more akin to making sure you eat more vegetables every day. Gobbling down three pounds of broccoli on Monday does not mean you have met your needs for folacin and all the other lovely nutritional requirements for the week does it now? (Alas)

No, self care, in my mind, is something that we continually have to check in with, have conversations with and tweak. Hence, the lovely image I carry with me about self care is a teeny tiny wrench. I tinker with self care as lovingly as the guy who works on his 1983 Fiat Spider (that’s a car for those of you who aren’t fans) and who never really wants it to be fixed. In fact, that’s not really his goal at all. He just loves the process.

The Ideal Schedule

I think of my work schedule that way. Every week on Sundays, I sit at my laptop with a nice big latte and take a look at the upcoming week. My first question is: where can I fit in physical exercise? (I’ll write more on this later), and so I take my daytimer and write in exercise time everywhere that I possibly can (the goal is to get out for a run/fitness class at least three times during the work week). The second thing that I do is look at scheduling something fun and restorative. Something to look forward to. This can be a small as “rent such and such movie on Thursday night” or “plan dinner party” or going to book club, scrapbooking club or curling. It has to be something restorative that you self-define as fun. For some of us, working as helpers mean that we need to be “off” duty to unwind and the most appealing fun and restorative activity is to watch a seinfeld rerun in our pjs with the phone off the hook. That’s ok.

The second process with my work schedule is to look at the coming few weeks or even the next couple of months and pre-book some down time, plan ahead that if I’m going to be travelling or presenting a workshop on a Thursday, I need to have blocked off the Wednesday to prepare the workshop, get photocopies made, review my material, pre-cook a few meals for the kids, etc. This may seem totally obvious to some of you, but I know some people who are continually surprised and overwhelmed by the weeks they face. I have a friend who often says “I have a week to week planner, so I often say yes to something without looking at the following week and then when I do peek at the coming week, I realise I’ve booked myself to go out of town three times in 7 days and then I feel unbelievably stressed and overwhelmed.”

Collect Ideas from others
A friend just emailed me to say that she has finally figured out how to fit in a run in her schedule every other day. My immediate reply back to her was “good for you! How did you manage to fit that in? What is your best time or what strategy did you use to make that happen?” When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a journalist, (or so I thought until I found out what it’s really about). What I really loved was researching and collecting information (hence my first Degree in history). When my first born was about to begin school, you would have found me in the playground, interviewing friends with older children about their best strategies for making lunches, homework, best times for swimming lessons etc. This was not driven by anxiety or apprehension on my part, but rather a total curiosity about what others do to make things run more efficiently (the quest being, let’s remember, optimal self care, which is never truly attainable).

Now that I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of helping professionals in my consulting and counselling work, I have a veritable treasure trove of ideas for the ideal schedule.