Julie Anne shared a very personal post with us a while ago. When she talked to me about her struggle with letting it go, I told her that I started a personal story in October 2018 that I also found difficult to share. I can’t place why I struggled with the words, but I’m hoping that letting this go will help you to think about what self-care looks like to you, what barriers you have for taking care of yourself, and ways you can encourage others to practice self-care.
In August 2018, while sitting in my monthly victim advocate training meeting at the police station, I found myself getting agitated and anxious. The discussion revolved around a new back-up call system that was to be implemented due to holes in our 24/7 schedule which resulted in officers not having victim assistance. I couldn’t imagine placing myself on a call back-up response schedule for any day of the week except for the weekends, and at that point, I desperately needed my weekends. I was overwhelmed with stress at work, my youngest starting his last year of high school, a fall sport commitment, and home life struggles.
That night I walked out of the meeting angry and I didn’t like that one bit. I had been with this program for three years and I loved everything about it. It was my passion, and now I found it paralyzing. And then I remembered the one thing that was mentioned at almost every meeting that I had neglected – self-care. Work and family couldn’t stop, but a brief respite in volunteering could. I called the next day and as soon as the words, “I need a break” came out of my mouth the response back was, “Yes! How long do you need?” You see, they understood the importance of self-care because not only do victim advocates deal with heavy crisis issues, but the police department wants volunteers who can stay for a long time.
I took three months off and I wasn’t expecting to feel different immediately. Work was still stressful, I still had a kid that I had to stay on top of to graduate, and I still wanted to be as involved in my son’s last year of water polo (no soccer mom for me!) as I possibly could. But, knowing that I had one less responsibility for a while made it seem more doable.
I had one setback during this time when we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog (Owen, the SSB Watch Dog). Despite this and the busyness of fall, when it was time to sign up for volunteer shifts again in December, I recognized that I wasn’t as overwhelmed and anxious about the work.
During my respite I took time to really think about how I got to the point of feeling so anxious and overwhelmed about volunteering. I desperately did not want to give it up because it meant so much to me. Which led me to facing my life-long problem of not being able to say “no” to things that take up emotional energy or time that I don’t have available. I also had to fully own that between work, volunteering, and the on-going church abuse stories that we deal with here, compassion fatigue was setting in. The three months off helped re-set me, made me put much-needed boundaries in place, and helped me to make a commitment to say “no” when I needed to.
I also thought about how fortunate I was to have people who supported me. From the police department who said they were thankful that I was practicing what was being taught, to Julie Anne who said not to worry about the blog, and to my co-workers and family who let me talk and cry things out. Which led me to think about when I talk to victims about self care.
Self-care is a topic that I sometimes bring up with victims. It doesn’t happen all the time because my response is during a time of crisis that can go in so many different directions. However, if enough time has passed and a victim is grounded, simple acts of self-care may be discussed. I could see where a victim might not have support people who can listen and encourage her to take care of herself. Perhaps she has the welfare of her children, parents, or pets to be concerned about. Self-care can be difficult and may be the last thing on a victim’s mind when simply trying to survive. I learned not to throw out discussing self-care just because I need to talk about it during a call, but to really make it a meaningful discussion.
I also came to realize how important it is to have systems in place to support and provide care to victims. The county I volunteer in is good about focusing on victims – from State laws that are beginning to change in favor of victims, to the District Attorney, to the police and sheriffs departments, to the non-profit advocacy centers. If a victim wants help, there is a village that will surround and support them. We are very fortunate here. There are so many places where victims cannot find this kind of support.
I hope this encourages everyone to really think about self-care. What does that look like to you? Do you find it hard to take care of yourself? What are the barriers? What is one small change you can make toward self-care? How can you encourage someone else to practice self-care?
If you are a victim advocate, this is especially important so compassion fatigue doesn’t kick in. If you are a victim, survival can be trying, and one small act of self-kindness may help you get through the day. If you are overwhelmed with what life is bringing, acknowledge that feeling and take care of yourself. No matter how big or small your act of self-care is, acknowledge that taking care of yourself is important for your well-being and for the care you provide others. Most of all, self-care is important because you are important. Never forget that.
16 thoughts on “Kathi’s Personal Story on the Challenges and Benefits of Self-Care”
“Yes! How long do you need?” – so refreshing for you to hear that and so gracious. Many of us grew up in a boundaryless environment where asking for a break was just the prologue to hearing how much we are needed and how horrible things will be for everyone else so that we can be lazy, and other guilt-manipulation tactics.
I had to step away from a volunteer position at my new church and they did ask if there was anything they could do to change the position so it wasn’t as draining, but that was it – no guilt for stepping away.
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Kathi, thank you so much for sharing your story and stressing the self-care.
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Mark – I, too, spent many countless hours volunteering in different capacities at church. I think the hardest part of saying “no” there was that it was so obvious that no one else would step up to help if I needed a break.
Two self care practices that I find helpful:
When standing in front of the mirror, pause to smile at myself and say, “I
Love you today.
Friends and others who share in times of weariness seems to soften the
lines on their faces when I remind them to “be gentle” with their self.
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Mark, after reading this post and your comment, I was thinking about my new church. I noticed in the volunteer positions that they most they will ever have you work is once a month. They don’t want it to be a burden (child care, praise and worship team, church set-up). I love that they say that up front.
Right on, Kathi, thank you!
JA/Kathi, I think that’s the goal, but medium-sized churches are going to struggle to find people with the right experience/training to handle some of these positions, and don’t have enough budget to hire someone.
The weekly role I stepped down from only had four consistent volunteers, which was about once per month, and I think they’ve tried really hard to find occasional volunteers so that no one is filling the role more than about monthly.
The other piece of that is that there is a lot of grace for volunteers. From my experience, no one expects flawless performances week to week and that is pretty freeing.
Something worth noting is that if you visit the Mayo Clinic’s website, each disease described has a section called “self-care”; things you can do to improve your relationship to whatever disease. Diet, exercise, chocolate, whatever….it can be huge.
One interesting thing regarding stress–I’m in a phone/web seminar by my insurance company right now actually–is the utility of deep breathing to stimulate vagus nerve/relaxation response. You might joke you’re doing Lamaze on yourself.
(I was in the ER once with my daughter when she broke her leg, and was trying to help her breathe deeply to block the pain and realized I was basically doing Lamaze with my daughter….it worked for a while, but what really helped was when the doctor set her fracture!)
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One side note on volunteers; my best experience getting volunteers was when, through various teaching, the pastor did not “guilt” people into volunteering, but helped people understand that when people worked in the nursery, young mothers got to attend services and hear the Word of God preached. We had 2/3 of the adults in the church working the nursery in a fairly young church, and that when we were starting to do background checks. Frequency of service was about once every six weeks.
Bike Bubba – It’s interesting that you mention breathing. We recently revamped our county resource book that we give to victims. On the back cover we have a square with arrows that if needed, we can guide a victim in a breathing exercise. This is handy when an officer is trying to understand the full picture of the story and the victim needs to have some grounding to tell it. Like a broken leg, it doesn’t fix the problem, but it can help provide some calming when the person recognizes that one thing they can control and feel is their breathing.
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Good for you. I’ve been doing breathing exercises pretty much since I was diagnosed with asthma at age ten during the Carter administration. Obviously, on a broader note, count me as a huge fan of a LOT of self-care tactics for precisely the reason you mention–it works to a degree, and it gives people something they can control.
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I read your post several days ago, pondering your words often, as you have recognized that self care is so important to your well being in being able to function in various capacities to various individuals and groups of people. And also, being truthful with yourself (not lying to yourself) is crucial in functioning in a healthy way in honoring our LORD, who actually breathed His Breathe of life in you…..and each individual created since the beginning of time. What a miracle!
Thank-YOU so much for your personal testimony and keeping it “real,” thus ministering to average folks like meself, who try so desperately in pleasing people in this world, and yet, never seem to measure up. The religious c’hurch folks that surround me, say “self care is being “SELFISH,” however, as I watch their lives in action, their fruits shout out “I must take good take of myself and you had better recognize my complementary importance in your life, THEREFORE, you must take good care of me as well.” Bah, humbug!
Appreciate the fact that you and Julie Anne are “being human” on this ministry site, keeping life experiences in perspective!
Blessings to you, Kathi, and Julie Anne.
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Hi Katy – Thank you for your kind words. I hear what you’re saying about the church folks who surround you and their response. And yes, they sadly are often the ones who need to practice self-care the most. I wish people would recognize that self-care isn’t selfish because the better we take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of others. I think of someone caring for an ill loved one. It’s already an overwhelming physical and emotional situation – if there is no one to assist and the burden is solely on one person, then the quality of care diminishes.
Katy, if you need it, I give you permission to stop feeling the need to people please. Believe me, I get where you’re coming from there! I lived this way too long and it’s exhausting. It doesn’t mean you stop caring for people and their needs, but that you don’t have the pressure to meet their expectations (or what you perceive their expectations are). If you are able to let go – I’ll be honest here – you will probably feel guilty at first, but then it becomes so freeing!
Please do take care of yourself. You are worth it!
Kathi, your kind words are so appreciated as well as the work of the Holy Spirit living inside of you. He is so merciful and faithful in that He moves people’s souls in ministering to those of us who are in need of hearing a good word once in awhile. In this case, your “good words” provide wise counsel as well as powerful encouragement that I will most certainly take to heart and try to emulate in my life.
Thank-You so much Kathi, for your ministering soul! May our LORD Bless and Keep you always.
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One of the reasons I love yoga is the emphasis on breathing and the techniques can easily be moved from class to work, home, etc. I have toyed with the idea of going to meditation as well but I’m not sure I want to be with my thoughts that long. I sometimes struggle through a few minutes of savasana!
Lea – I, too, love yoga for the breathing (as well as the stretching). I’m so glad to hear that someone else struggles with savasana. For me it’s more of a attitude of “well, that’s done.” I fully understand what you’re saying, though, about being along with your thoughts.