Podcast 031: Self-Care 201 – The Wheel of Life.

Wheel of Life

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Self Care 201’ Aaron chats with us about how we can take our self care journey to the next level. We have run self care training using our balanced life framework for eight years and in almost every session some says something along the lines of this is too basic and we want something more. We usually ask them if they are implementing all the steps we talk about in the level one training and if they have been doing it for at least two years. Most people tell us that they have given it a go and that they had dropped the ball. It is important to get the basics right before moving on to the next level otherwise you will have the same trouble at this level. For the rare youth worker who has got the basics down we send them along to look at the ‘Wheel of life’


In Youth Work, we often speak about having a “toolbox” to help us become a more rounded person and provide the best possible service to our young people. This could be in the form of a literal box of “tools” always sitting in your work vehicle. Such as toys, books or sports equipment that you can pull out at any time to de-escalate or engage a young person you’re working with. Other items that enhance our toolbox are things that encourage us to grow and learn, such as “self-care cards”, which can be useful to start conversations in supervision or with other colleagues.

We’re no strangers to self-care activities here at Ultimate Youth Worker and you’ve probably spent some time reading one of our many past articles on the topic. Today we are stepping it up a notch and introducing you to the ‘wheel of life’.

Wheel of life

The wheel of life is very similar to our first ever podcast on self-care, where we talk about the self-care stool. However, we are taking it to another level this time and working on eight areas of life that we want to improve.

Wheel of Life

This is the wheel of life. Well, one version of it. There are many different wheels that have existed over the years, some people even suggesting the original wheel of life was created by the Buddha to teach his followers the eight-fold path to enlightenment. The modern day purpose of the wheel of life is the same, whether you call it enlightenment, wholeness, balance or even flow. When a wheel is not balanced, it will struggle to move freely and with ease… See it is all about balance.


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Wheel of life

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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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Podcast 030: Self Care in Youth Work

Self Care in Youth Work

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Self Care in Youth Work’ Aaron chats with Ex-Student Panel about self care in youth work. How do youth work practitioners leave work at work? Do relationships, boundaries and practices change when we engage in self care? What supports do youth workers need to be effective at self care? What happens when things go pear shaped?


Self Care in Youth Work

Youth work is all about relationships. We pride ourselves on being able to create and maintain positive relationships with young people where they can grow into the people they want to be. We focus so much of our attention on supporting young people by carrying their baggage while they scale their own developmental mountains. We are like Sherpas. This means we have to make sure we look out for ourselves so we can provide the best possible support (we need to be able to carry that load) to our young people.

If we don’t look after ourselves ultimately we can do more damage to our young people. Walking into the room burned out, frustrated, and with low tolerance to the difficulties life throws at us is not what our young people need from us. In order to give our best, we need to be at our best. This takes training and persistence. Self-care is not sexy. It is a long and difficult process that has its rewards in the journey and at the top of the mountain.

SO what have four youth workers learnt about self care in the day-in day-out struggles of the job after a few years in the field? How do they leave work at work and look out for their own self care?


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Before you go…

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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A place that refreshes

A place that refreshes

Where do you go when you are grasping at life and need a huge jolt of self care? What is the place that brings joy to your soul? When we teach self care at Ultimate Youth Worker we ask people to think about a place where they feel safe and that rejuvenates them. A place that refreshes. For some students it comes to them easily. A beach, a coffee shop, the forrest, their grandma’s house. For others they struggle with the concept.

a place that refreshes

When I am having a struggle or I am trying to get my thoughts together I dream of the bush. Not just any old piece of bushland though. I dream of Mount Disappointment State Forrest about an hour North of Melbourne, Victoria.

When I was a teenager I spent many of my school breaks in and around Mount Disappointment, hiking and camping. I spent long hours walking through the bracken ferns. I stopped to listen to wombats foraging and echidnas looking for a tasty ant to snack on. I slept under the stars and smelt the rains. As I write this I can remember it all as if I was right there. Its beauty, its danger, its comfort and its awe.

Go to your happy place

Mount Disappointment is a place that refreshes me. I do not get to go there as often as I would like these days (I have five kids under 10!!!). However, it lives in my heart. It is my happy place. It brings joy to my heart.

Do you have a place that refills your tank? A place that builds you up? A place that refreshes you? Some of you might disregard this post as a bit airy fairy, I know I used too. In 2010 while going through a really rough point in my career a mentor of mine asked me this question. I laughed at him and called him a tree hugger. He forced me to think it through and then spend a few days in the bush. I felt renewed. My soul was at ease.

Share with us where your soul is at ease! Pictures please.

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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A five step guide to self care

Self Care

Guide to 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 look for a guide to 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 to self care. With more dozens of articles in the Ultimate Youth Worker archives dedicated to self-care, I have found some of my favourites and compiled a five step guide to self care to help you 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 into self-care from the Ultimate Youth Worker team, click the link below.

https://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

MotivationMotivation is key

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.

At first you find that all the tasks in your day begin to seem mundane. You start to think you have heard your clients stories before. You are bored by tasks you used to enjoy. Your clients become just another number. Then all of a sudden you are looking at the job boards thinking of your next position. I have worked with dozens of youth workers in just this position over the years. They come to me for advice on how to address their job search as they just need to move on. The first thing I alway address is the reason for wanting to leave.

Youth Work MotivationI wish I could catch these youth workers six months earlier. Planning for your care is so much easier than trying to cobble together a career when you have lost all motivation. You see motivation is hard to regain, but it is pretty easy to maintain.

Here are a few of our go to motivation maintenance techniques that we believe will help any youth worker stay fully motivated for the work ahead:

  1. Know why you became a youth worker. Your values, philosophy and frameworks of youth work are intrinsic to your motivation. If you do not know why you became a youth worker, or what your motivations were to start then it is hard to focus when times get tough.
  2. Get supervision. We harp on about supervision because we know its worth. We don’t just mean the task supervision that you might get at the moment. We mean supervision that asks you to be critically reflective, to look at you as a person as well as you as a practitioner. You need a place to wrestle with the challenges of the job and how they affect you as a person.
  3. Have a life outside of work. Most of the people I know that have lost motivation or burnt out in youth work have lost their ability to live a full life. Their blinders are on and all they can see or think about is work. Get a hobby, catch up with friends and family, take a holiday… Live life outside of work.
  4. Stay up to date with the sector. Get involved with your peak bodies and networks, read journals and books, study, sign up to blogs and newsletters. Be involved with the sector not just your little patch. It helps breed a wider and deeper perspective.

If you do these four things you will find that when the dark days come… and they will, you will have a strong foundation from which to stand with motivation.

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

Podcast 001: A Balanced Life

Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast
To support the podcast, donate here!

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. Unfortunately, self care is not as big an agenda item.

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

Self care is easy

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 you’re 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.

To support the podcast, donate here!

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.

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.

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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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