Most of us are saturated with messages regarding the importance of eating “right” and exercising. Often these wellness messages come across as critical and judgmental, making us feel there is one more area of our lives overburdened with things we don’t have time to do. This can end up creating more stress instead of alleviating it!
Research tells us that witnessing the grief, losses, and trauma of others can have a cumulative effect, and can result in changes in our relationships to ourselves, our loved ones, and our lives.
However, we also know that taking care of ourselves through solid wellness practices is critical for everyone, and is essential to our living full, healthy, and vibrant lives. Further, we know that some professions, such as Funeral Service, carry a unique array of emotional and psychological challenges. These challenges make intentional self-care particularly vital to prevent burn-out and even secondary trauma. Research tells us that witnessing the grief, losses, and trauma of others can have a cumulative effect, and can result in changes in our relationships to ourselves, our loved ones, and our lives. This can even cause trauma symptoms as if we had experienced the trauma first hand.
But research also reveals that along with Post-traumatic Stress, traumatic events and losses can also help us experience Post-traumatic Growth. The same experiences that accompany this type of work often push us to grapple with profound existential questions related to the meaning of life, our sense of purpose, and what we value most, and this can enrich our lives and connect us to the preciousness of each moment.
It is possible for our work to be good for us!
It is also possible for self-care and wellness practices to be fun and a source of joy and respite in our lives. The key lies in approach and perspective. Do we look at self-care as one more annoying list of things to do, reminding us that we are not measuring up? Or do we let ourselves know that we are enough, and deserve to pay attention to how we feel?
Helpful Ideas for Approaching Self-Care:
- Begin to notice how you feel after eating, and eat more of the foods that make you feel good and energized.
- Notice how you feel about the amounts you eat, and eat to the point of feeling great while avoiding eating to the point of feeling sluggish or even pained.
- Reflect on how you feel when you move, and then exercise in ways that bring you joy, rather than feelings of punishment.
- Choose a form of exercise that you love – you can choose to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill, or if that’s not something you love, then run in nature, dance, play tennis or basketball with friends, or plan walking meetings. If you love the gym, decide that you matter enough to give yourself the time to go. If you love nature trails, plan them into your life.
With our ever-increasing to do list, scheduling self-care can feel daunting, but when we understand that our success at everything else is predicated on the cognitive flexibility and acuity that comes from exercise and our overall health, and when we understand that we serve others better when we serve and take good care of ourselves, we can start to create habits and priorities that support our flourishing and thriving.
Evidence for Nurturing Relationships
Research also reveals that nurturing relationships and circles of connection can deepen our happiness, mitigating the negative effects of stress and enhancing our immune function and longevity.
- When we are attending to the needs of others during times of crisis it can be easy to put our own needs on the back burner and not take the time to sleep sufficiently, nourish our bodies, relax, exercise, play, and connect with our loved ones. The challenge lies in the reality that the times that we are most stressed or challenged and need to be the most present are exactly the times that we most need intentional research-based wellness self-care practices.
- When we are well-rested and nourished, when our relationships are well-nurtured and our bodies have experienced recent exercise and opportunities for relaxation, we are at our best and can serve others in the way we truly intend.
On February 29th OGR Young Professionals will be exploring the best research-based strategies to prevent burnout and secondary trauma and create lives that we love in which we can connect to what we value most, and effectively make daily choices that move us in the direction of our goals and dreams. Hope you can join us!
By Dr. Martha Ramos Duffer