Bridges out of Poverty – resource recommendation

Bridges over Poverty, blog post, resources for compassion fatigue and trauma exposure

review by Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC., RP

Bridges out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities – a great resource to develop more compassionate and effective tools to support individuals who live in underprivileged communities.


If you work with folks who live in poverty, these challenges are often multigenerational, complex and very difficult to overcome. Whether your clients are inner-city dwellers with its host of challenges or are individuals trying to make ends meet in remote communities with a lack of basic public amenities and transportation services, this book is a fantastic resource.

Bridges out of Poverty, written by Dr. Ruby Payne, is both a book and an entire community-building program to enhance service providers’ understanding of the complicated layers and resiliency of those who live in chronic poverty.

I was introduced to the book several years ago by a lovely workshop participant from Nebraska who has been involved in bringing the program to his community. I read it from cover to cover as soon as I received it.

Ruby Payne does not only provide a template to assist people living in poverty gain better access to the supports they need, she also invites the reader to reflect on the admirable strengths, resourcefulness and resiliency of folks who have had to struggle to have even the most basic resources: shelter, food, jobs, transportation and much needed health care.

Those of you who have heard me speak in the past know that I am a firm believer that the key to compassion satisfaction and improved quality of care for everyone begins with developing a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of those we serve. This book is a great place to start.


Sources: 

Payne, R. K., DeVol, P. E., Smith, T. D., (2001) Bridges out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities. Houston: AHA! Process.

Reducing Unnecessary Trauma Exposure in Service Providers

by Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC., RP

Many years ago, when my dear friend Robin Cameron and I developed our very first compassion fatigue workshop, we came across the term “limited disclosure” in Laurie Anne Pearlman and Karen Saakvitne’s book Trauma and the Therapist.

The authors, who were well ahead of the curve on all matters related to VT and Compassion fatigue solutions, suggested that we, as professionals, should consider taking a careful look at “how much detail about the violence or abuse [we] want to share [with one another].” (Pearlman, personal communication)

This concept of “limited disclosure” rang so true to us that we immediately integrated it in our training. We called it Low-Impact Debriefing in a cheeky nod to the aerobics craze of the 80s and also because it formed the acronym L.I.D. The idea of low impact debriefing is twofold: to be able to share the information that we need to, while at the same time not having a highly negative impact on the listener. We were not suggesting that we should keep a lid on difficult things but wanted to suggest that we should all perhaps take a careful inventory of how much graphic information we need to be sharing when debriefing difficult stories or consulting on cases with colleagues. Perhaps a better analogy is that of a pressure cooker that lets the steam out little by little rather than in one giant burst with potentially negative consequences.

Over the past decade, my team has received many invitations to present at trauma trainings: child abuse symposia, conferences for parents of murdered children, workshops for sex crimes investigators, courses on the Dark Net and cybercrime, and many similar other conferences. We are often struck by the extremely graphic details that are almost invariably shared during these events: gruesome photos shown on a giant screen during a lunch time keynote, detailed descriptions of a murder or assault on a child, minute details about the smells, sounds and sights of a crime scene and even, at times, graphic audio and video footage. Some of these scenes can be very difficult to forget.

When is Trauma Exposure Gratuitous and When it is Necessary?

I think that we can all agree that many media outlets share an excessive amount of potentially disturbing images in their coverage (and in fictional shows, but that’s for another post). I remember listening to CBC news radio on my headset a few years ago while I was out for a run, and suddenly, without warning, the host played an actual audio of a child being victimized. I remember tearing the earpieces away from me and thinking “WTF just happened? Why was this necessary during a midday radio show? And I that instance, I don’t think that the now overused customary warning “content may be disturbing to some” was enough to justify airing that footage.

I am also well aware that at times, graphic details are essential to a trauma training – if you are a forensic examiner or an investigator of any sort, you must be able to recognise and differentiate between an accidental injury and one that has been deliberately caused by another person, or you may need to learn how to assess a crime scene and the related details that are present. You may need to learn how to interview a criminal in order to develop better investigative or clinical skills. Sometimes, we need videos, photos and details in order to do our job properly.

But here is my question to you: how much detail is too much? Even at a trauma conference, are all details required at all times? Is it enough to give people a warning at the start of our talks “this may disturb you” or do we all have a responsibility to reassess what we are sharing and how much detail is enough?

We were recently asked to create a brand-new course called “The Things We Can’t Unsee: Reducing the Impact of Secondary Trauma Exposure” which we have had the privilege of offering to legal professionals, child abuse investigators and victim service providers across North America this year. The response has been extremely positive and has led to some powerful discussions and reflection among participants. A good place start addressing this issue is to perform a personal “trauma audit” for ourselves and see how much extraneous trauma stories we are sharing with one another. To go further, please read The four steps to Low Impact Debriefing as discussed in my book (Click here).

“I’m not bothered by these stories”

Now, I have been in the field long enough to know that some of you will say “I have been exposed to thousands of stories, they don’t bother me anymore” and perhaps this is true. We all have a different level of sensitivity to difficult images and traumatic details based on a whole host of personal factors. But it would be interesting to be able to measure our stress hormones and see whether that is actually true, or to be able to perform a brain scan and see how our limbic system responds to repeated exposure. As psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford so eloquently explained in his testimonials a few years ago, after 30 years of exposure to gruesome images, he also thought that he was immune, until, one day, he was not: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Tough+forensic+John+Bradford+opens+about+PTSD/9152171/story.html

To Learn More:

 

Sources:

Mathieu, F. (2012) The Compassion Fatigue Workbook: Creative Tools for Transforming Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma. New York: Routledge.

Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K.W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 383-384.

 

The Edge of Compassion – Françoise Mathieu giving a TEDTalk for TEDxQueensU

For the past 15 years, Secondary Trauma specialist and compassion fatigue educator Françoise Mathieu has been exploring tools to help all of us navigate the challenges of sustaining compassion and empathy towards others – both as individuals and professionals.

This talk explores ways to find the right balance between caring for others while staying healthy and empathic. Françoise is a Registered Psychotherapist and a compassion fatigue specialist. Her experience stems from over 20+ years as a mental health professional, working as a crisis counsellor and trauma specialist in university counselling, military, law enforcement and other community mental health environments.

Françoise is co-executive director of TEND, whose aim is to offer consulting and training to helpers on topics related to secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, burnout, self-care, wellness and organizational health. Since 2001, Françoise has given hundreds of seminars on compassion fatigue and secondary trauma across North America to thousands of helping professionals in the fields of health care, child welfare, the criminal justice system and other similar high stress, trauma exposed professions.

Françoise is the author of “The Compassion Fatigue Workbook” which was published by Routledge in 2012 as well as several articles and publications.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.


 

compassion-fatigue-workbook-francoise-mathieu

“Françoise Mathieu’s writing is wonderful: she speaks from the heart, practitioner to practitioner, about the stressors and strains of human service work, particularly those that come from prolonged regular work with traumatized patients and clients. This is a book you help write by yourself and about yourself. That’s why it is the workbook for trauma work.” – Charles R. Figley, Tulane University, Louisiana, USA, and author of Treating Compassion Fatigue

.

Balancing our Work and Life while Staying Well – Five Essential Tools

By Françoise Mathieu

This post was initially published on the Oregon OEA Choice Trust website: http://oeachoice.com/5-essential-tools-for-balancing-your-work-and-life-while-staying-well/

I grew up in a family of educators. My parents moved from Montreal to the high arctic in the early 1960s and worked in a variety of schools in very remote Inuit communities for the following decades. Over the years, my father was a teacher and then became school principal, then superintendent and eventually director general of an entire region. He travelled extensively for work, visiting numerous villages for a third of each year, dealing with labour disputes, financial cutbacks and the complex societal challenges facing First Nations communities. My mother co-developed one of the very first teacher training program for Inuit women in Canada.

Needless to say, my parents were very dedicated and hard-working. Education reform and the challenges of the work was daily conversation in our household. Working as educators in small communities presented many challenges and rewards: our house was often the informal hotel, food bank and shelter, and villagers would frequently knock on our door for advice or support.

Are you living in the community that you serve?

If you live and work in the same community, you may have experienced something similar: you go to the grocery store on a Saturday in your sweatpants, and a parent accosts you for advice on their child’s problematic learning difficulties. You go to a party and are immediately grilled on your thoughts about educational policies or the best ways to beat the SATS.

How do you find balance between work and your private life?

I would say, in hindsight, that my parents were frequently completely exhausted at night, and did not know a thing about work-life balance. Being from the War Generation, born in the 1940s, their cohort had not learned about the importance of balance and self-care. For them, you worked until you fell down, and then you got up again and worked some more. They had very little time for themselves. This was the norm among the educators that I knew.

Burnout Research

So how can we find balance working in the education field? How do we learn to set limits so that we can bring our best selves to work and yet not burn out? How do we juggle the competing demands of our home lives and careers?

Notions of self-care are fairly new to the education field. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that researchers started investigating the concept of work-related burnout among mental health professionals and nurses.  Compassion fatigue, the emotional and physical exhaustion that can lead to a shift in our ability to experience empathy for others is a concept that emerged in the 1990s and lead to the growth of an entirely new field exploring provider wellness.

Here’s what we now know: we cannot expect to work in highly demanding and frequently under-resourced environments without taking some active steps to maintain our emotional and physical health. Some workplaces have implemented some very successful workplace wellness initiatives and we have featured them in our article “Beyond Kale and pedicures” (https://www.tendacademy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/BEYOND-KALE-AND-PEDICURES-Article.pdf)

The good news is that we now have over 25 years of research that map out what works and steps that we can each take to stay well. I have written extensively on this topic in my book The Compassion Fatigue Workbook and related articles.

Here are my top five favourites:

What works? 5 Key steps

Step one: Take stock

Cheryl Richardson wrote an outstanding book called Take Time for your Life in 1990 which provides a great self-assessment checklist called “What’s draining you?”. Richardson invites readers to identify the main drains on their energy: relationships, environment, body mind and spirit, work and money. Completing this checklist allows you to decide where to begin. Which of these areas is causing you the most stress at the moment? Which area shows the most possibility of improvement?

Step two: Identify your warning signs

How do you know you’re headed for trouble? What are your most recurrent physical warning signs? What about emotional reactions? Have you noticed some predictable behavioural patterns that show up when you’re overloaded? Learning to recognise your top three warning signs can help you catch things early before you become too depleted.

Step three: Pick your battles at work

The field of education is complex, and frequently under-resourced. Some of us deal with these realities more successfully than others. If you work with a colleague or a team that is frequently negative or engage in constant office gossip or naysaying, consider making more strategic alliances in the workplace. Venting once in a while is fine, daily gripe sessions bring nothing constructive to the workplace.

Step four: develop a community of support

Research has shown that social support is one of the best strategies to address compassion fatigue and burnout. Who are your accountability partners? Who do you spend time with at work and at home? Can they be there to help you stay on target with your self-care goals?

Step five: Reassess where you are at regularly

I recently wrote a new year’s resolution blog post on my website: www.tendacademy.ca where I discuss my lack of enthusiasm for new year’s resolutions. Rather than making big commitments once a year, I prefer to have weekly tweaks and adjustments. On Sundays, each week, I take gentle stock: how am I doing? What needs more attention? What needs tweaking?

Conclusion

My parents excelled in their careers, but it took a significant toll on their health and their personal lives. I look back on their work with admiration but also see a cautionary tale of working without balance. We know better now. Where will you start?

Favourite podcasts to Unwind and Reset

I travel a lot for work and find that flights or train rides are an ideal time to catch up on readings, emails and to-do lists. But sometimes I need to completely switch off from trauma work and take a real break, and for that, podcasts are fantastic. I tend to find that watching movies or TV shows doesn’t leave me particularly refreshed or restored, but podcasts always seem to do the trick. They are also great for long car rides or when I am cooking a big batch of food for the week.

In a recent post (link here) I provided a list of my favourite books to manage stress, secondary trauma and burnout. Today, I wanted to offer some podcast recommendations here. Feel free to add your top choices in the comments section below!

If you are not familiar with what podcasts are, they are basically radio shows/special interest topics that you can download to your devices and listen to them even while offline. Many of them are free and you can subscribe to them through your app store, Itunes, Spotify or companies like Audible. I mostly use the app store on my phone for these and almost all of the ones that I listen to are free. I signed up and now I get them delivered into my podcast app automatically.

Now, podcast choices are very personal and not everyone has the same tastes, so it is important to try several of them out. Do you like history? Food? Design? Sports? Crime stories? (now, not too many crime stories, friends! Remember to protect yourself from unneeded trauma exposure during your leisure times).

My Top 5 faves:

  • Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell (2 seasons). Fascinating exploration of unexplored aspects of a past event that everyone remembers. I listened to the entire first series during a long drive, and had to finish it in my friend’s driveway before going in. I couldn’t stop.
  • 99% Invisible: Short shows on the intersection between social science and urban design. This one is hard to describe, just check it out. I particularly liked the one on “Unpleasant design” and how spaces are sometimes deliberately built to discourage loitering, sleeping or skateboarding. I notice that now every time that I try to get comfortable in an airport chair that has deliberately been designed to prevent us from lying down. Thanks a lot.

 

  • This American Life TAL is a very famous podcast, and the topics are all human interest and vary each week. When I don’t like it, I just skip to the next one. There was a riveting account of the experience of being a refugee trying to gain entry into the US. Some stories are more disturbing than others so choose wisely.

 

  • Hardcore History by Dan Carlin My husband and son are huge fans of these epic multi-hour explorations of historical events. I loved “The Wrath of the Khans” and the show on the protestant reform. In fact, I weeded my entire garden listening to that last one. Strange, but true.

 

  • Death, Sex and Money Yep, doesn’t get much better than those three topics.

 

Good Reads for Helpers

If you’ve met me before, you will know that I am a huge believer in bibliotherapy, the transformative power of books – at least for those who enjoy reading. (I will have other suggestions in a future post for the rest of you.)

I was once told, at the end of a two-day compassion fatigue training that I had “recommended too many books” – Impossible, I say!

When I had a private practice, I had a shelf full of my top ten reads which I would lend to clients until I realised that the return rate was, ahem, random at best. So, instead, I started compiling lists of recommended readings which I continue to share in my workshops and trainings.

On these cold winter days, snuggling up with a good read and learning new strategies to combat compassion fatigue and general stress sounds like a healthy way to beat the winter blues.

My favourite books to help professionals stay healthy and compassionate:

 

Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma

Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky (2009) 

The Compassion Fatigue Workbook by Françoise Mathieu (2012) (available here)

 

Organizational Health

Is work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress (2013) by David Posen 

Building Resilient Teams by Patricia Fisher (2016) (available here)

 

Trauma and the Body 

Bouncing back: rewiring your brain for maximum happiness by Linda Graham (2013)

 Childhood Disrupted: How your Biography Becomes your Biology by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, (2015).

 The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, (2014).

The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease by Robert Scaer, (2014).

 

Stress/Immune System

When the Body Says No by Gabor Maté

Resilience, Balance & Meaning Workbook by Patricia Fisher (available at here)

 

Work/Life Balance

Take Time for Your Life: a 7 Step Program for Creating the Life you Want by Cheryl Richardson (1999)

 Self Care/Stress Reduction

 Little book of stress relief by David Posen

 Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter by Elaine St James

 

Developing An Action Plan

via GIPHY

New Year – New you Part 4 – Developing an action plan

Part one: New Year – New You  link here

Part two: Taming the Inner Critic link here

Part three: link here

One of my favourite books on making lifestyle changes is Take time for your life by Cheryl Richardson. Written quite some time ago, it remains, to my mind, one of the best life coaching books out there.

Cheryl Richardson invites us to take stock of all the drains on our energy: financial, emotional, spiritual, physical, clutter, etc. and helps us map out an actionable plan.

Another good book is Finding your own north star by Martha Beck.

Both of these authors invite us to reflect on our priorities and assess whether our daily decisions reflect what matters to us most.

So, where can you begin?

Who do you need in your corner? Do you have an accountability partner?

What obstacles do you anticipate?

If your goals don’t pan out at first, what is your plan to remain compassionate towards yourself and reassess your goals and adjust them?

I have always found it easier to focus on manageable changes in my life. I may not be able to pay off my mortgage in a year, but I can certainly commit to not buying lunch three days a week and put that money aside in a savings account.

It can also be helpful to create a support system with a few friends who share your goals and you can offer each other moral support when things get challenging. I know for a fact that I only get up to go to my 6am workout five times a week because I really enjoy my gym friends and we encourage each other to show up each day. If I don’t show up, I get a text that says “come tomorrow!” and so I do.

In conclusion, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I do think that we can all make small realistic changes that can have a powerful cumulative impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. The key is to decide where to begin and be prepared to make many course corrections along the way.

More resources: The Compassion Fatigue Workbook, TEND Resources.

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

Part one: link here

Part two: link here

 I learned a long time ago that self-blame and the inner critic are not my friends, and that beating myself up for what I did or did not do last week, last month, or even last year won’t help make me feel better.

So, when I’ve given myself some loving support and quelled the critic, I open my laptop and take control back, moving forward.  I don’t spend a lot of time on what happened in the past months that lead me to fall off the wagon, I look ahead and make some real plans to get back on track. This is not the same as making massive commitments that I won’t follow through on. These are called “Micro-movements”.

The author SARK has a great book called Make your Creative Dreams Real on the topic of micro-movements, which we at TEND sometimes also call 1% changes. These are very small, realistic and achievable steps.

I tend to take inventory (gently, with self-compassion) weekly. This may or may not work for you but let me share what I do:

Sundays are my “reset” day for the week that just passed and the one to come.  For example, this is the day where, in my house, we meal plan for the week. We pick 2-3 easy meals that can be done in 30 minutes or less for busy nights, or we make a big batch of something healthy that will keep us going for 3 meals during the hectic work week.

I make a grocery list, and go get what we need. If we opted for big batch, Sunday afternoon is spent cooking this up while listening to a great podcast or some music.

On Sundays, I also do a gentle check in with my physical health and finances:

Exercise:

Have I been able to exercise (long walks count, no need for sweaty Crossfit sessions here) at least 3-4 times in the past week? There is great literature on the benefits of 45-minute walks per day and lifting weights to help bone mass and ongoing strength as we age. Have I done at least 2 sessions of heavy weights? Mobility is also very important – staying flexible and strong to keep our hips and knees going. There is also some great new research on the benefits of shorter intense workouts. For some good reads on this topic check out the “7 minute workout” and the books Younger Next Year and The Telomere effect.

 If I am travelling a lot, I don’t get nearly as much exercise as I would like. In those cases, I move on and just plan to do more the weeks that I am home. Sometimes sleeping in is the best idea vs dragging myself, sleep-deprived, to an early workout.

Eating

Have I been eating enough greens? Too much caffeine or sugar? I don’t linger on the week that was passed, I just make plans to add some healthy things to my diet. I know what works for my body and what makes me feel bloated and uncomfortable. When I travel, it is harder to get enough fruit and vegetables so I try to increase those when I am home. I also don’t have forbidden foods because that is known to increase the likelihood of bingeing. But I ramp up the good healthy stuff on my plate.

If you didn’t have a chance to listen to our great conversation with Dr. Deb Thompson of “Your Nourished Life” in December, have a listen now. Link Here. Deb is a psychologist and expert in weight wellness. Her website and facebook page are full of compassionate, realistic and healthy approaches to achieving weight wellness. Learn more about Dr. Deb Thompson here. Deb has a totally new way to look at our relationship with food and our body.

Finances

Many helping professionals have told me that they are not particularly good with money management. If that is your case, I highly recommend reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s book Debt-free forever. It is a simple, step-by-step series of tools to get a handle on your finances.

Numbing out

Now for the most important one – numbing out. Many of us who work in highly demanding and stressful fields also tend to feel emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day. Watching a show or two, playing a game of solitaire or enjoying a bit of online browsing might be a nice way to reset when our brain is full and we just don’t have the energy to do any heavy lifting intellectually. However, we all know the difference between a nice restorative break and numbing out, don’t we? One delicious glass of wine with dinner is the not the same as reaching for the bottle when we walk in from work. When watching two episodes of your favourite show turns into a 5 hour Netflix marathon, it is clear that we are using it to self-medicate from stress or overload.

Can you take a gentle inventory of your favourite unwinding activity? How do you know when it has morphed into avoidance and self-medication? I invite you to monitor your pattern for a week or two and see whether this is helping you reset or whether it has become a problematic behavior.

Next week: Developing an action plan

Taming the Inner Critic

 Part two – Taming the Inner Critic

To read week one go here: https://www.tendacademy.ca/newyearnewyou/

Ah, the inner critic… You know, that angry, negative voice that most of us carry within us. The one that is hurling insults and blame at us and saying things like “what’s wrong with you? You’ve been here before, how can you have allowed this to happen YET again?” a well-honed voice that knows exactly what to say to make you feel like you have failed in your new commitments to do better.

 When I feel overwhelmed and unhappy with my physical, emotional or financial health, I start by taking a deep breath.

Really, try it now. Take a nice long deep breath.

Next, I start paying attention to my inner-critic and try to have a detached compassionate look at what is going on.

I acknowledge the inner critic and I try to park it to the side: “I hear you, old friend, there you are, good old faithful negative voice, you!”

If that doesn’t work and I feel really overwhelmed by the negative voice, I call or text a friend, someone who knows me well and who will lovingly provide me with support. Someone who has been around long enough to know my patterns and can be a strong sounding board. This person doesn’t need to solve anything, they just need to be able to listen, with love.

If that doesn’t work, and I’m really feeling distressed and paralyzed, I call a trusted therapist and get some additional support.

Over time, I have found some strategies that have helped me stay on top of my stuff.  One of them is reflection and processing work. Getting a better understanding of my family history, the triggers and strengths and a sense of the lifelong patterns of my life.  If you had a difficult childhood, and this is a continuous struggle for you, I highly recommend that you read Donna Nakazawa’s book “Childhood Disrupted” which is full of tools to manage difficult emotions for those who had adverse childhood events.

The tool that I use daily is called self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff is the author of a book and series of resources on Self-Compassion, and I highly recommend that you check it out (http://self-compassion.org).

The key aim of self-compassion is to learn ways to soothe ourselves when we are overwhelmed and self-blaming. The fact is that sometimes we make mistakes, maybe even really screw up, and other times what is happening to us is truly outside of our control. Neff offers some powerful words of wisdom and some guided meditation tools on her website.

Helping professionals tend to be pleasers, doers and often perfectionists. It makes us great at our jobs but also puts us at risk for overcommitting ourselves, burnout, exhaustion and self-neglect. We need to find ways to manage our own energy before we can be of service to others. A good starting place is to make self-care resolutions that are realistic and achievable.

Next Week: Take stock

Week four: Develop an action plan

New Year – New You?

 

If you stop using that new gym membership by February – you are not alone

Week One

As I have written before, (“Beyond Kale and Pedicures”  link here) we are a very enthusiastic self-help culture. Many of us love the feeling of fresh starts and make frequent commitments to better lifestyle choices and behaviors.

Making resolutions brings temporary relief to whatever mess we feel we’re in (financial, weight, exercise, TV, sugar, alcohol – insert your favorite struggle here) until we fall off the wagon. And, as the data shows, we fall off the wagon a lot!

Fitness centers count on this very human flaw of ours: They know that only 33% of all of the memberships they sell will convert into regular users. Put it this way: if everyone who buys a membership actually used the gym, fitness centers would be completely over capacity, every day!  And that never happens, right? Gyms have a few peak hours, of course, after work or on weekends (and especially in January), where you may have to line up for a machine or have to sign-up for a particularly popular class, but over the year this all works itself out since sixty-seven per cent of all paying members never use the place.

Yet many people keep on paying their dues, either because they are locked into a year-long commitment, or because having the membership alleviates their guilt. Somehow having that gym card in our wallets provides the ongoing promise to ourselves that next week, (next week for sure!) we will go and recoup that investment.

But many of us don’t.

That is also why there is a thriving multi-billion dollar self-improvement industry that keeps on pumping out new wisdom and tips every January: We buy new books and follow “lifestyle” gurus, we spend more money on organizers and products that will make us look younger, thinner or bigger, stronger and richer.

We all start out with the best of intentions, of course. But then, then our real life becomes challenging again – a loved one gets ill, deadlines pile up and we can’t make it to the workouts, or we get sick and are too tired to keep cooking healthy foods … then we stop completely and feel guilty about it. By March, that new treadmill in your basement becomes a drying rack for your kid’s hockey equipment, and that juicer starts collecting dust above your fridge. Then, as a result of this  so-called failure, we self-blame which leads to more eating/spending/inertia/nine hour Netflix binges or whatever is your Achilles heel.

You know what I mean?

How can we break that cycle?

To celebrate the start of 2018, I would like to share some of my favorite strategies in the coming weeks. I will also mention some great resources that I have used for years to stay well and to stop committing to resolutions that set me up for failure.

If you are interested in reading more on self-care, please have a look at The Compassion Fatigue Workbook  (link here) where I discuss self-assessment strategies in depth.

Warmly,

Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC., RP

Specialist in High-Stress Workplaces
Co-Executive Director, TEND

Next blog post: Taming the inner critic

Week three: Take stock

Week four: Develop an action plan