At Waymakers, we think of ourselves as caregivers. We advocate, we stand up, we advise, we counsel, and we most certainly care. But how do caregivers take care of themselves, when they are so used to putting others first? We’ve put together some tips and ideas from our team of caregivers on how to practice effective self care. These approaches, in addition to choosing healthy food to fuel us and getting outside to relax and recharge, help us as we navigate our daily work.
One way that we maintain balance and mental strength in our challenging roles as caregivers is by celebrating wins. We focus on the positive and meaningful reasons why we do what we do, and we stay mentally tough in our personal lives by staying positive during our working hours. Addressing a challenge like caring for a teen who has run away from home, or helping a victim of violence connect with the resources he or she needs to seek justice includes a lot of emotional caregiving. One way that we take care of ourselves is by keeping our eye on the prize of the positive outcome we are working towards together. We train ourselves to strive towards those wins: that moment when a teen from our shelter is ready to reunite with his or her family, that call when the verdict is in and the victim of violence knows that justice will be served. No matter your version of caretaking, this method of working towards that positive outcome will help protect your personal mental health, so that you can carry that positivity through to your work and into your daily life.
Connect with people who energize you.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need people. Surrounding ourselves with positive people is one of the most effective ways that the many different types of caregivers at Waymakers take care of ourselves. From working in roles that face a mix of emergency, violence and turmoil on a daily basis, we know how important it is to seek out those positive interactions each day, to find balance and mental strength. The popular book Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman explains that everyone has a “love tank” to fill each day, and we believe that love tanks can be filled by everyone from your romantic partner, to your children, to a childhood friend who you keep in touch with via text message. Whoever those positive people are in your life, make sure to seek them out each day. Caregivers give so much of themselves to others, and in our line of work that giving can also include a lot of difficult topics, situations and emergencies, all happening to real people. So, while it might be easiest to pop on the TV when you get home after a long day of caring for others to zone out, sometimes the only way to find that balance is through a positive interaction with a real person of your own. Whether this comes in the form of a cup of tea with your spouse of a lighthearted phone call with a friend, connecting with those special people that energize you is one of the best forms of self care available.
Lighten up your entertainment choices.
At Waymakers, we define and redefine mental toughness on a daily basis. It is all around us in the work that we do, and the people that we serve in the community constantly inspire us with their own mental toughness. Our work is fueled by their good work, but we have to fuel our lives with something different. Waymakers is made up of the most dedicated caregivers and advocates, and with that passion comes deep levels of interest in our field. We are always searching for ways to improve the services that we provide to our community. While there is certainly a place for industry research and continuous learning, we have to make room for peaceful and lighthearted content, as a part of our self-care regime. Many of us find it healthy to offset the serious nature of our work with light, peaceful entertainment that helps take our minds to an entirely different place. Whether this is a silly movie night with family, an exercise class with a friend, or a walk around the neighborhood with our pups, we make sure to bring levity into our days as a way to balance the heavier subject matter of our daily work. Down time is an ideal moment to explore additional passions beyond what you have for your work, and you will find that you have more energy to take on the challenges of caregiving. Making space for this type of peaceful and light-hearted self care will only improve your ability to bring your whole self to your job.