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.
Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast – 001 A 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.
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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.
I 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.
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.
- 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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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.
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.
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!
Tidy up. Your desk, the games locker, your resources they all need a spruice up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Say high to friends and family, even if it is a short phone call.
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.