Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it!

Self care is hard

So my last two months have been absolutely crazy. I have spoken at the Tasmanian Youth Conference in Launceston. Presented at the 16th International Mental Health Conference on the Gold Coast. I have also completed four weeks of my final field placement for my Master of Social Work and taught three classes a week in the Bachelor and Grad Dip Youth Studies program at Eastern College Australia. To top it of two of my children have had birthdays and half a dozen other extended family members decided to have them as well. I confess, my self care has gone right out the window.

Self Care SeminarI have a self care plan. I review it every three months. Even still I have been overcome by events. My sleep patterns are shot. I am living off coffee and even that has started to wear off. I generally feel pretty wrecked. This all because I wasn’t ready for the tsunami of events that have come my way. I knew they were coming and I smiled and watched them come. I didn’t enact my self care plan. I was an idiot!

Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! I knew I was going to have a few crazy months and I penciled in the idea of having my quarterly retreat and then never did anything about it. I knew I needed to recharge the batteries before heading into this period of my life… but I put it off. Now I am paying for it. No self care strategy works unless you put it in to action. My strategy calls for a period of rest and reflection before long stints of work which never happened. Did I mention I’m and idiot!!! Self care is my baby. I would speak about it until I am blue in the face.  Yet even poor little old me is lost without my plan and its implementation.

Don’t forget to implement your plan! Self care is hard if you don’t plan for it! Its impossible if you don’t work your plan.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Is it time to take a holiday?

I am wrecked! It has been a long semester so far. Dozens of youth work students pushing hard to finish their qualifications and dozens more just beginning. Mixed in with this a number of our clients have been defunded by the federal government and many are considering closure and mergers. Our individual supervision clients are struggling with the insecurity of the youth sector and wondering what the future will hold. Amongst all of this our staff are looking at having an extended holiday.

When the world is falling apart around you sometimes the best thing to do is get away. Vicarious trauma affects us all differently. For me I slowly get less excited about waking up in the morning until I can’t think of anything but the negatives. For others it is the sense that their job and clients are just crap. Whatever your go to downfall when push comes to shove we all come crashing down. Thats why our employers give us holidays!

One of the biggest issues we find when working with youth workers is that they don’t use their holidays. Many of our clients have at least a years holidays accrued if not more and when asked have no intention of using them in the next three months. The main excuse I hear is that our clients need us. The fact that 100% of them were doing life fine before we got involved in their lives never enters the picture. It is like, if we weren’t there all our young people would die or end up in prison. So we run ourselves into the ground and give them sub standard service along the way.

Your given the holidays so that you can rest and rejuvenate. If you do not use them in the year you are given them you are asking for trouble. rest and reflection are keys to longevity in a career that so easily could sap you of your care.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Youth work in the silly season

Surviving is key to the silly season.

December One. The beginning of the silly season. The first day of the run to the end of the year. ‘Every year I dread this time. Yeah there is the awesome Christmas parties and friends and the end of the year. The flip side however is that it is also really busy. It is also the time of year that really hits home for a lot of our clientele just how much their lives are not the same as others. Their short on cash, their family doesn’t look like someone else’s, their future doesn’t look like they thought it would and everything looks bleak. During this time of year many of the young people I had worked with came to crisis.

silly seasonThe dichotomy between the joyous and the pain of the silly season which we as youth workers are stuck between is mind-blowing. It is often this time of year that we see a rise in family violence, crime and suicide. It is all of this and more which makes our days busy. We find that from clock on to clock off we are aware of the suffering of our young people. It is also this time of year that many youth workers are also struggling. As our young people suffer so do we. It is vicarious trauma.

[Tweet “The dichotomy between the joyous and the pain of the season which we as youth workers are stuck between is mind-blowing”]

So in the beginning of this silly season I ask you to consider two things. First, remember that this time for your clients may be one of the hardest. They may need extra support from you during this time just to deal with the fact that the silly season brings forward a lot of raw emotions. Second, I ask you to think about how you and your colleagues are coping. What are you doing to look after your self care? How are you looking out for each other? Perhaps only a couple of drinks at the Christmas party this year!

If we can look out for ourselves and look out for our young people just a little more emphatically over the coming month then perhaps we can limit the effects of trauma and vicarious trauma which comes during the festive season.

Lets look out for each other!

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Youth worker self-care: Meditation

Self care and meditationSelf care through meditation

I was recently looking for a little something new to add to my self-care repertoire. I was feeling a little drab in my own self care practice and as I reviewed my self care plan I noticed that lately much of my plan was practical skills based focused. I had not been doing any existential self reflective work. As I was pondering this one day I was challenged by a podcast I was listening to. In this particular podcast there was a discussion of the need for people to set goals and that meditation is one of the goals set by entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur I was intrigued and after doing a little research I set a goal to meditate.
Here are a few of the reasons I decided to check out meditation:
  • It increases the synchronicity in your life
  • It helps living in the present moment
  • It increases self-actualisation.
  • Provides peace of mind, happiness
  • Decrease in potential mental illness
  • React more quickly and more effectively to a stressful event.
  • Helps with focus & concentration
  • Increases serotonin level, influences mood and behaviour.
  • Greater Orderliness of Brain Functioning
  • Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
  • Enhances the immune system.
  • Reduces activity of viruses and emotional distress
  • Helps in chronic diseases like allergies, arthritis etc.
  • Leads to a deeper level of physical relaxation.
  • It increases blood flow and slows the heart rate.

As a youth worker, these are all skills I could use more of everyday. Meditation is one of those skills I have tried before but never implemented as a long term ritual. After looking into the benefits of meditation I can’t believe I let it go without a bit more of a fight. Meditation fit within all areas of our self care plan and affects all areas immensely. Meditation is great.

Join us on Facebook for more thoughts.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Youth worker self care over Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the youth service agency there were youth workers running around like headless chickens because they had young people who needed support.
It is a story I hear every year. youth workers who are missing out on holidays and family time because they are working to support young people who arent having that great a time either. Whether in residential services, rehabilitation and detox, street outreach or the local drop-in thousands of our colleagues will be working through the Christmas period. I myself have had my  fair share of working Christmas’s and I know how hard it can be to be away from friends and family at this time.
So here are a few tips to bring some holiday cheer to those of us who are still working:
  1. Have a special Christmas lunch. Do something different even if it is getting a cooked chook from your local supermarket and eating it out of the bag (as I did in 2006 with a great colleague at the time). If you have a few young people around it will make them feel like someone cares.
  2. Have the Christmas carols playing in the background. Now im not saying that you should have the wiggles christmas CD playing but find some good Christmas carols and let them rip. Good carols performed well are quite soothing.
  3. Find some time for you. Even if it is nicking out for a coffee for 15 minutes on a break take some time to reflect on the joy of the season and the year gone by.
  4. Say high to friends and family, even if it is a short phone call.
  5. Remember that the work you are doing is going to bring joy to a lot of young people in a season that often brings them a lot of sadness.
If you do these five things you will have a cracking Christmas even though you are at work.
P.S. once the Cristmas season is over, get a break away even if its just a long weekend… Prices are usually cheaper then anyway. 

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Implimenting self care in your youth work organisation.

Self care in your organisation

At a number of conference we have presented at this year we have been asked by managers about how to implement our self care strategy with their staff and more widely in their organisation. As we have spoken with these managers we have come away with more of an understanding of the needs and difficulties they have in supporting staff to look after themselves.
We often hear that some workers do not want to look after themselves, that the organisations policies are vague about self care and most of all we hear that people just do not know where to start. It is a big job to change the values of an organisation. However as a wise man once said every journey begins with a single step.

When we have advise managers where to start we often state that it should happen in one-on-one meeting with their staff to go over the process we use for individuals. After they have met with all of their staff a team meeting is the next place to push the idea. However we have found that this often only works if your manager drives the process.

In 2014 we are launching a new service for organisations to help implement self care as a whole of organisation process. This can begin at a team level however the goal is to implement self care planning across the whole organisation. We look at policies and procedures, we provide a step by step coaching plan for the manager who wants to impliment this and we work with organisations to implement self care into performance management documentation as a way of holding everyone accountable for staff care.

We are currently putting together a white paper outlining why we believe this to be the biggest issue for youth work organisations at the moment and provide a more detailed outline of how we can support you to implement a whole of organisation self care strategy.

If you would like a copy for yourself, your manager or your organisation emails us today.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Self care is a workplace health and safety issue

Self care is an OHS issueSelf care is an OHS issue

Over the past few months I have been reading as many articles as I could get my hands on looking at self care in the human services. One thing that keeps coming up in the literature is the issue of work stress leading to staff leaving the sector. Staff who at one stage loved their job and the sector who because of the vicarious trauma and minimal managerial support have burnt out. It is just not good enough for a sector that claims to care about people.
So why do we let this happen??? Some say it is the stigma of burning out that makes individuals fear asking for help. Others say that the organisations fear opening a Pandora’s Box of legal and ethical issues. One thing is for sure, as an issue, workplace stress does not get the time it needs at OH&S committee meetings. It is an area which can save organisations thousands of dollars if dealt with properly. Money saved in lost productivity, new hires and costly legal bills as well as higher insurance costs.
As a sector we need to surpass our fears and make self care the ethical issue it is. We need to have workplace stress as a standing item at team meetings, in supervision sessions and in organisational OH&S committees. We currently lose almost a quarter of our staff every year through turnover, if we continue to ignore this massive elephant in the room this number will only grow. In a sector that is struggling to recruit staff shouldn’t we be concerned about keeping those we already have.
What is one thing you can do to place workplace stress on the OH&S agenda?

You can also leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

The youth sector must promote self care

Promoting self care

One of my best mates in youth work said to me today that  he had been speaking to a bunch of people about the work of Ultimate Youth Worker recently. He stated that he was surprised when almost all of them stated that they didn’t think there was an issue with self care within the sector. When my friend spoke of burnout rates and levels of psychological stress in our sector they could begin to see the issue.

If managers and organisations really understood the negative effects and the cost to the organisation then self care would be the first thing on their agenda rather than the last. If organisations saw the revolving door that spat out their staff you think they would try to stop it. We can no longer ignore the fact that our sector is allowing staff to become psychologically damaged just to meet KPI’s.

Throughout our research we have been shocked at how many individuals, managers, organisations and peak bodies who at best pay lip service and at worst see self care as for the weak. Over the past few months I have been privileged to speak with and train a number of Tasmanians in self care. The most fantastic thing about this is that in the Youth Ethics Framework for Tasmania they state categorically that self care is a ethical requirement.

Self care being promoted in TasmaniaWe need more groups like the Youth Network of Tasmania to stand up and shout that self care is a requirement for exceptional youth work.

What are you doing to set the self care agenda???

You can also leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker. (Sign up here)

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Good self care in youth work

Self care is an ethical requirement

I have heard, over the past year or so, more excuses as to why youth workers can’t commit to self care than I care to recall. These excuses ranged from a lack of time and money to not knowing where to start and lack of support from management. Many of these excuses are baseless and push focus away from the workers who should have been more involved in their own care. However there are a number which have a base in dodgy policy and even worse practice.
First amongst my pet peeves is the youth worker who believes that they can trod through their work without supervision, professional development and support and still provide exceptional support to their clients. YOU CAN’T! It is one thing that it is not given to you as a youth worker, it is completely incompetent to not actively seek it out in your own time on your own dime. It is an ethical requirement that youth workers perform at their best, Which means youth workers need to have training and support to deal with the load that we carry. It is an ethical requirement for ultimate youth workers.
Self care is an ethical requirement
The second and even more repulsive is when managers put ticking boxes above the health and wellbeing of their staff. Over the years I have worked in a number of different organisations and have seen great managers and woeful ones. The ones who put the funding agreements above their staff have revolving doors which spit those staff out when they are all used up. They rarely send staff to professional development that is worth going to and don’t know how to supervise their staff apart from the administrative graces of checking their case load is up to scratch. These managers vehemently defend the ethical need to reach targets and quash those who speak of self care being just as ethically required.
Good self care is an ethical requirement not something that can be forgotten. Exceptional youth workers need great support and training. There is no excuse for lacking self care.

 Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

 If you haven’t yet, sign up for our newsletter to find out all the goings on at Ultimate Youth Worker. (Sign up here)

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube

Youth work organisations shirk their responsibility

Organisations must care for their staff

This morning I got to have breakfast with one of my amazing mates. Over the healthiest option I could care to find (a double shot latte and a three stack of pancakes and maple syrup) we discussed the ins and outs of the youth sector. Particularly we spoke about the stress that comes with the job. We also spoke of the ability that some roles have to help youth workers burnout. anecdotally we believed that the average youth worker lasts two years and if you are in a role like resi-care you are lucky to last six months.
 
After we had chewed the fat for a while mainly bitching about how hardly done by we are as youth workers our attention turned to the organisations who employ us. There is a duty of care that organisations owe to their staff which we at Ultimate Youth Worker believe is being allowed to lapse. Many years ago unions fought for the eight hour work day. In my career I have never worked an eight hour day. Sleepover shifts circumvent OH&S legislation. Staff are exposed to vicarious trauma and poorly debriefed. Youth workers are forced to work within bureaucratic frameworks that require more work and less reflection
Self care is an organisational responsibility
The average youth worker drowns in bureaucracy and its worse if they don’t look after their self care

Many of the staff that we come across at Ultimate Youth Worker want to do their job to the best of their ability and they all say that they could use more support from their managers. Most managers we meet would love to support their staff but are drowning in paperwork and their own lack of support to be able to help anyone. Then when all hell breaks loose we crucify the staff and managers for not doing their job right. If there is not time to reflect and maintain self care what do we expect!!!

Organisations that value their staff develop them as much as they develop their young people. Managers carve out time for professional development, supervision and the overall welfare of their staff. Organisations actively develop policy and procedures to support their staff to do their job effectively and without to much vicarious trauma. Organisations REQUIRE professional development of their staff and demand that their managers support their staff as whole people not just staff.   
 
We don’t get paid enough to do the job and get treated like crap. Organisations need to take responsibility for their staff wellbeing, for sustainability of the sector and for their own reputation. Funding bodies are not immune from their responsibility either!

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestYouTube