Importance of self-care with high-stress

I work with the public; I have the opportunity to see people at very vulnerable times in their lives, and sometimes it isn't pretty and mostly emotionally and physically exhausting. Despite the frustration and stress it induces, I stay, likely you do too, even when I have had enough, and feel spent and burned out. It sounds dysfunctional, doesn't it? It is a strange mix of addiction, trauma bonding, and passion. I often work long hours. Sometimes I stay in the car after work and need to have a good ugly cry after a long shift of witnessing vulnerability and trauma, feeling helpless to do more.

After reading that, it may seem hard to believe that I actually do honor my mental health; I value and respect what I offer and the job I am privileged to do, but I also appreciate my well-being and try to stay mindful of prioritizing my needs or work-life balance.

Sometimes in high-stress jobs with a lot at stake and busy lives outside of work, it is easy to get pulled into the daily grind of doing for others, burning the candle at both ends, and forgetting to 'tune in' to ourselves. We are 'fine,' and it is fine, until it isn't. 

If you wake from a long bender of emotional trauma, dragging your tired body, drinking too much soda or cocktails, and neglecting care of yourself, here are some ideas to real yourself back in.

Some ideas to regain balance whenever you feel yourself spiraling towards panic, anger, or a frenzy of emotions out of nowhere, feeling apathetic, withdrawing, and headed toward potential depression.

  • Indulge in your favorite TV shows. This go-to remedy has worked for many people when they feel drained. It's mindless... comforting; you may resonate with the characters. It's a simple yet effective temporary solution, much like applying a Band-Aid. Not long-term, but suitable for a moment. 
  • Work out, exercise a little or a lot but get the blood pumping. It releases the feel-good hormones that you need to recoup. Do you have a gym membership? If so, then go! If not, then consider it, a gym is an excellent way to force yourself to leave the house and stay in a place where you can focus on yourself for a minute. Not interested in leaving the house - how about jumping jacks? too much? How about wall pilates? check it out. 
  • Dedicate a day to self-care activities. Schedule a massage, enjoyed a long bath, keep a journal, and savor your favorite snacks or meals. Spend time outdoors - a 15-minute walk in the neighborhood or a drive to a beautiful location to walk and picnic (I can smell the fresh air already!).  Go fishing. Golf? No energy to leave the house? No problem, how about a sunny window or a patio? A vibrant space filled with sunlight or a room with a rich color that uplifts the mood. 
  • Practice meditation or deep breathing. Meditating is wonderful! However, suppose it is not part of your routine. In that case, it may be frustrating without a guided meditation - download a guided meditation of various time lengths, get an app, or ask Alexa to play a reflection or a guided meditation. Meditation takes effort to build into your life. One day, it is just second nature, and the benefits are undeniable; it promotes mindfulness, helps manage stress, reduces negative emotions, and curbs anxiety. Still too much? Ok, then do some rounds of deep breathing, for example - a technique where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat. (some people to 7 seconds)
  • Seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. Sometimes you need to talk to someone out of your regular support group. The therapist may have some ideas or thoughts you hadn't thought of, or perhaps it will feel liberating to let go of all that pent-up negative angst. If you don't have a therapist, consider contacting a Family Counseling Service.
  • I mentioned this briefly above but journal. I cannot encourage this enough. It sounds corny and not enough. But journaling is a fantastic tool to keep your mental health in check - to categorize or prioritize the moment. The simple act of writing down feelings/emotions/actions of others - no grammar, just raw word vomit. That is it. Tuck it away and move on. Not ignored, just tabled for your sanity until you are ready to give it attention. 
  • Learn to say no. This is perhaps the most beneficial yet challenging aspect of self-care for many people. Initially, you may find it hard to say no when asked to work extra or start a project at work or home. Many people with high-stress jobs tend to be ambitious in some way and, likely, naturally want to be part of everything. However, this will lead to burnout. Do what serves you, and you will help others better.
Your experience in this journey will have a lot to do with how you prioritize your needs. We mustn't underestimate the value of self-care for maintaining mental health. It allows us to help others effectively while being healthy, happy individuals who can fulfill various roles as a parent, spouse, child, sibling, and friend, and will be more likely to find satisfaction in your life's work and overall journey.

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