Work, Self-Care And Health

Working closely with people who have histories of trauma and abuse takes its toll on those who help them. I know because yesterday I got a headache from listen to the responses of my client as I did ASI (Addiction Severity Index). Her mother and stepfather repeatedly abused her and her sisters mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually. This is called secondary trauma when we mental health professionals are affected by listening to it. I left the session feeling tired and frankly I think my low energy could be from suppressing the anger I felt come up in me in response to my inner question of, “how could parents be so awful to their own children?”

This containment of emotions is needed as a professional but not beneficial to my own health. Sessions like this is why I workout and spend quiet time every day. Without an active self-care program, I would be a mess and burn out quickly. As I have gotten older and more tuned-in, I am a better counselor but I also feel more of the emotional disarray of my clients. When my work is intense like this, I find myself needing more quiet time and being less socially engaged. The challenge for me is that I need the stimulation of healthy ideas and people but I feel less inclined to make them happen.

Since moving to Boulder and getting back involved in direct service, I have noticed I have been valuing my quiet time more than interactions with others. My wife is a quiet supportive person and I am deeply grateful for her and my dog Pax only wants to play and exchange affection and that is a gift that keeps on giving.

For health purposes I need to break out of old patterns and explore new avenues for expression. Today after work I start a summer golf league and I am really excited about that because it is physical, mental and just fun for me. This will help with the emotions that can get clogged up inside because I can whack things hard and play to release tension. Golf is great teacher because I can’t be attached to results (or it won’t be as fun) and humility is a constant lesson. I will play for the pure joy of it.

I write this blog because I want to make more of a difference in the world and because I feel it is part of my essential expression as a social artist that wants to leave the world a better place. This writing also helps keep me healthy. I get to explore ideas and let the creativity flow which seems to nourish me in a number of positive ways.

What do you do to take care of yourself? What patterns need to change for you to bring you greater health and success?