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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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?

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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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Vicarious trauma and youth workers: a recipe for disaster.

Today I was reflecting on my career and the major traumatic events that I have seen. I was speaking to a class of school chaplains looking at trauma and abuse. As I was reflecting it dawned on me how many truly traumatised people I have come across. On average two suicides a year, more sexually abused young people than I care to recall, many drug and alcohol abusers and self harmers to name a few.  
 
When I got home I started to think of the many times I have struggled with the traumas of others. This vicarious trauma has almost taken me out of action on a number of occasions, mostly because of a lack of training and supervision. The biggest issue however, is that I care. When a traumatic event happens I actually give a crap. And this is the problem with our profession. Those who give a crap will always be at the mercy of vicarious trauma if they are not supervised and supported.
 
Today my class of chaplains looked at what trauma is, how it affects people and how to support people through trauma. What was lacking in the training was how as workers we deal with the vicarious trauma when it affects us. As a sector we need to develop a philosophy of self care that starts in the training rooms and lecture halls and follows us through to the end of our careers.

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 101: Have a plan

Why is self care so important???

In a couple of words ‘Vicarious Trauma’. Within the work we do as youth workers we hear astonishing stories of things going wrong in our young peoples lives. We hear the stories of physical abuse at the hands of parent, sexual abuse at the hands of supposedly caring adults, of emotional abuse by families and school kids and we hear of the ongoing traumas that come with the adolescent storm and stress. These traumas affect everyone of our young people differently… and they also affect us. This is vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma affects our self care.Self care
Vicarious trauma affects most people slowly. It is the indifference at one of those stories of abuse. It is when a young person becomes just another client rather than a person in need. It is when you get home and yell at your wife because it is a Thursday. It can creep up on you and tear you to shreds. I worked as a family worker a few years back. My eldest daughter was about two and I was working with a young family who also had a two year old. That little girl and my own daughter had similar features and mannerisms and when her story of sexual abuse came to the fore I started to fold. My Wife (a Psychologist) saw me starting to fold and told me in her gentle and loving manner to get myself in order.
As a smart and well educated youth worker I did what I thought best and spoke to my supervisor about my struggles. My Supervisor was a caring social worker who in her best social work speak told me to not worry about it. I attempted to explain the gravity the situation was having on me to no avail. Her supervision was about as useful as a pair of board shorts in the arctic. I went to one of my mentors and he sympathised with my situation. He asked me one question that has always stuck in my mind. “do you have a self car plan”?
I had no idea what a self care plan looked like. I had never even hear of such a thing. First we looked at what a balanced life should entail. We then looked at how balanced my life was at the time. NOT VERY. We then looked at what activities I liked doing in these categories:
  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Emotional
  4. And, Spiritual
We wrote a list of five things in each category that I would enjoy doing and that would help me to gain some balance. In the Physical category I had things like Hiking, going to the gym and having an awesome meal. In the Mental category I had ideas like reading a good book, doing sudoku and doing some studies. Emotional had spending time with my family, enjoying some time with my mates and seeing an external supervisor. Spiritual had go to church, pray and find my centre. Once that had been done the rest was pretty easy. Whenever I felt the pressure of the job getting to me I would choose an activity to do and i would touch base with my mentor to let him know what I had done.
Self care is pretty simple when you plan for it. What three activities could you do to take your mind off the stress of the world? Who are three people you can check in with on a regular basis to vent? If your boss sucks at supporting you through the stress your not alone. Touch base with us if you need someone. But don’t let another day go by without starting to plan for your care. If you are not on top of it how can you care for anyone else.

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

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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