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The Vital Lesson of Self-Care: A Social Worker's Journey

Updated: Sep 11, 2023


I once believed I had it all figured out. Armed with intellectual knowledge and my role as a Social Worker, I confidently presented to staff and clients about carer stress, burnout, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue—whatever term you prefer. I could enumerate the signs, symptoms, and preventative measures with ease. I told myself that because I knew all this, I was somehow immune to it. I thought I was ahead of the game, that I could will it away, rationalize it, and stay ahead.


But life had other plans. Signs of burnout started appearing, like whispered warnings that I chose to ignore. I pushed myself relentlessly, convinced that I could combat it and keep moving forward. I didn't listen to my heart and soul; I let my head rule. Then one day, it all came crashing down. On my way to work, I had a panic attack, bursting into tears over the smallest of things. It felt sudden, but it had been brewing all along.


The progression was relentless, and I had to confront it. I had to pay attention to what I was feeling, admit that I needed help and support, and accept that I couldn't will this away. I found myself in a state of numbness, isolation, and exhaustion, unable to think clearly or take a single step forward. My memory failed me, and I felt disconnected from myself and others. It was nothing like what I had anticipated.


Leaving my home became a dreaded chore, and I spiraled into self-destructive habits that deepened my despair. I neglected exercise and healthy eating, engaging in self-sabotage that exacerbated my mood. Seeking help became my lifeline, and it wasn't just one thing that turned the tide but a combination of factors.


Time played a crucial role. I had to give myself permission to pause without feeling guilty. As a self-proclaimed high achiever accustomed to a frenetic pace, stopping was a challenge in itself.


Counseling became a vital part of my recovery. I was committed to doing the work required to rediscover my authentic self beneath the layers of conditioning.


Reiki, a practice I had embraced daily before my ten-year tenure in a hospital, regained its significance. Working in such a dense and emotionally charged environment had taken me away from self-care and spirituality. I resumed my routine, using salt in the shower to cleanse myself of the weighted energy that felt like a fog that clung to me.


Feng Shui emerged as another essential self-care component. I discovered that my well-being was closely tied to the organization of my home environment. Scientifically, we know that cortisol levels can fluctuate depending on our surroundings. A calm and organized home became my sanctuary and vision board.


Your story underscores the vital importance of self-care. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way: never skip it, and never feel selfish about taking the time you need. I struggled with this, but now I cherish the simple acts of a bath, a walk, or watching a sunset—whatever lights up my soul. Self-care is not a luxury; it's a necessity.


Be kind to yourself and listen to the signs, there is no immunity from not taking care, it catches up with you, so don't let it get to the point I did. You are so worthy of care and support, just like those you provide care and support to.

With kindness

Julie

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