A five step guide to self care

Self Care

In my experience, “self care” in the Youth Work industry can be used as a “buzz word” or just a box to tick on your supervision notes. In my first year as a youth worker that was exactly how I thought. But after a while I began to experience mental health issues as a consequence of not looking after myself. This is when I started to take self-care more seriously. I have benefited enormously from putting time and effort in to my self-care and that’s why I have created this guide. With more than 20 articles in the Ultimate Youth Worker archives dedicated to self-care, I have found some of my favourites and compiled a five step guide on how to stay on top of your self-care.

Step 1. Make a plan.

Step one is nice and easy; settle in to a cosy chair somewhere with a beautiful view, find a pen and paper, get yourself a nice warm cup ‘o tea and listen to the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001.

In the podcast Aaron & Kat talk about how to live a balanced life. They go through a step-by-step process of how to create your very own “self-care stool”, each leg of the stool representing an integral element of life that needs to be tended to in order to live a balanced life and reduce vicarious trauma. If one leg of the stool is weak or off-balance, then the whole stool is unstable.

It’s no coincidence that the first step in this self-care guide is the topic of our first ever podcast!

If we think in terms of first-aid, the very first thing you are taught is to prioritise personal safety over everything else, even the casualty. The same applies for Youth Work. You can’t provide best care to another person without caring for yourself properly first.

Take the first step, listen to the podcast below and create your self-care plan.

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A Balanced Life

Step 2. Take action.

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers

In response to my self-care plan, step two for me was finding out how I could keep myself composed during times of stress and how I could deal with the aftermath of stressful situations at work. The answer was meditation (as well as adequate follow-up and supervision of course). But it wasn’t just one short meditation course, it was several courses backed up with a consistent daily practice. Hard work and effort, but the reward was well worth it.

Meditation worked for me because I found calm in the process and the results were fruitful. But not everyone finds meditation helpful. In that case, start to put your self-care plan in to action and find out what will help you fulfil the different elements of your self-care stool.

In the article below, Aaron talks about the many benefits of meditation and expresses his regret of giving it up too easily when he first tried it.

Youth worker self-care: Meditation

Step 3. Know when to seek help.

Step three is about recognising when you need to seek the help of others. In your self-care plan you would have listed a few people who are responsible for keeping you accountable. We work in a tough industry, we are often verbally and sometimes physically abused, we see and hear things that can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and we are really good at brushing it aside as “part of the job”. Vicarious trauma is a real threat to the longevity of Youth Workers and we need to make a concerted effort to seek help when we are showing signs of burn out.

This may involve sitting down for a chat with a mentor, a friend or a partner. It could even mean using your employee assistance program to see a Psychologist. Find someone who can assist you with finding your centre and then work together to put a plan in place to minimise the likelihood of burn out in the future.

In Aaron’s story below he talks of some of the signs and symptoms he was experiencing that led to him seeking help.

I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!

Step 4. Is it time to take a holiday?

Circumstances can sometimes get in the way of taking holidays, but when it starts to effect the quality of your work then you need to prioritise a break. After one year as a full-time residential care worker where I was picking up extra casual shifts and taking every personal development opportunity possible, I was burning out pretty fast. It was time to bite the bullet and take a break.

How are you going to recharge your batteries enough so that you can come back refreshed and more prepared to deal with the job? For me it was in my self-care plan, spend time in nature. This, coupled with meditation and having a clear mind from not being at work for a while gave me a strong platform to return to work and give my all to the people I was working for. So, it is time for you to take a holiday?

Is it time to take a holiday?

Step 5. Accountability, Accountability, Accountability!

Ive said it three times because it’s one of the underlying and most important principles of self-care. As discussed in the podcast in step one, having someone to keep you on track and accountable for your self-care is the best way to do it successfully. Your self-care stool relies on it. Sit down with a friend and do your self-care plans together, then set a date for a review and do that together as well. Good luck!

To read more articles and insights in to self-care from the Ultimate Youth Worker team, click the link below.

http://ultimateyouthworker.com.au/tag/self-care/

Visit the link below to read more about different self-care methods. Feel free to print out the document and place it on your workplace noticeboard.

Ten self-care tips for Youth Workers

Jessy Hall

Jessy is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ultimate Youth Worker. Jessy has been working as a youth worker since 2014 in a variety of different roles. His passion for youth work began whilst volunteering on a YMCA program for young indigenous leaders, after being inspired by the strength and passion of the young people on this program he immediately began his studies at Chisholm Institute of TAFE where he completed a Diploma of Youth Work. Since then, Jessy has expanded his knowledge and skills in the field by working in residential care facilities, being part of an Australian first evidence based foster care program (TFCO) and partaking in various trainings in youth mental health and other relevant areas to his work. Jessy currently lives in Melbourne but is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and drive around Australia in a four wheel drive with his partner. He plans to work along the way and explore the different opportunities available for youth workers in Australia. Jessy has dreams to one day start his own organisation dedicated to developing the next generation of socially engaged and passionate young people.

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Keeping motivation in youth work

Life is tough, and so is youth work. Keeping motivation can be difficult. From the outside most people only see the coffees, conversations and if everything goes well a young person who appears to be well rounded. What they don’t see is the hours of paperwork, the phone calls, the parent meetings, the heartache and tears. When all of this gets mixed together with the trauma our young people experience and the lack of structured support from our organisations we come up against vicarious trauma. When this happens it is really hard to stay motivated.

This content is for Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Monthly Membership) and Ultimate Youth Worker Network (Yearly membership) members only.
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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.

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The Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A Balanced Life

Ultimate Youth Worker PodcastA Balanced Life

In this weeks Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast we explore the need for youth workers to have a self care plan. Youth work can be highly stressful. Because we care, we take on a lot. Vicarious trauma is a regular event on our calendar. Around 24% of youth workers leave the sector every year.

In today’s episode Aaron takes us on a journey towards developing our very own self care plan.

Leave us a comment about what you think!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dealing with the down time: Youth worker patience.

If you are in anyway like me you spend most of your working days going flat out. You run from meeting to meeting, to counselling session, to games, to report writing and at the end of the day you crash only to wake up again and do it over. But when those elusive moments of nothing pop up in our diary we find it boring and hard to stay awake. Here are a few things I do when I have nothing to do:

  1. Read. Keep up to date with the sector through journals, blogs etc. It is really important for us to stay abreast of all the goings on in our sector. Sign up to newsletters and blogs of your industry groups as well. Your inbox will always have something interesting to read.
  2. Network. When you have an empty lunch date then meet with a colleague. I try to have at least one lunch meeting or coffee with a colleaague per week and when I have a spare moment it makes it easy to catch up with a member of my network.
  3. Plan. Whether it is your self care or the next step in a project, use this time to make your goals clear. We all whinge when we don’t get planning time!
  4. Tidy up. Your desk, the games locker, your resources they all need a spruice up.
  5. Take the gravy. Take the moment to relish in the fact that the world has not ended and you have time to just sit. It is not every day you have time to do something out of the box. Perhaps you have a project you have been dying to pitch to your boss… use the time to reflect.
Above all remember that it is not going to last forever and you sometimes need to idle before racing down the track.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Managers need support to do their job: youth work depends on it.

For youth workers to be the best they can be, they need well trained and supported management. We need to have managers who have skills in supervision, people management and an understanding of youth work. They need to have organisational support from CEO’s and Board members to develop their staff and themselves.

At a recent seminar in Tasmania I spoke with a number of managers and executives who agreed intrinsically that youth workers need better supervision and support. They believed that organisations had a responsibility ethically to provide a safe and supportive environment to staff. They all saw that the fear from staff and organisational leaders was destroying cohesive service delivery and support. Yet when it was put to the group that they needed to do something about it the room went silent.

Managers need the support of their staff and their organisations to implement great youth work practices. Get behind them.

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.

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