Self-care for the Helping Professional

Growing up, one of my favorite songs was Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” Being a helper at heart, I loved the concept and tried being all things to everyone: available, present and doing it with grace and a smile. Those were the days of vinyl and I played that record over and over until it was worn, warped and scratched.

As I start to think about self-care for the helper that memory is a perfect analogy. Just as I wore out my album, we as helpers can wear ourselves out. Repeatedly putting the needs of others before our own can lead to a lack of “me time,” which can, in turn, create stress and resentment and prevent us from being our best selves.

Self-care isn’t a one-time thing you add to your “to-do” list and check it off. If it were, it would never get done. It can go against our nature, but taking time for self is not selfish. To help others we need to ensure we nurture our mind, body and soul.

The best way to do this is to implement self-care habits every day. It’s the constant repetition of many tiny habits, which together soothe you and help you make sure you’re at your best—emotionally, physically and mentally.

The following are just a few ideas you can set in place to nourish yourself :

  1. Move

Getting active increases feelings of happiness. Find a form of physical activity that works for you. Enjoy a Saturday morning hike, go on a bike ride, or dance like no one’s watching as you do chores. (FYI Chaka’s a good one for your playlist J.)

  1. Unplug

Turn off email notifications on your phone or simply turn your phone off for a couple of hours, take a break from Instagram and Facebook and allow yourself to focus on the beauty of the moment.

  1. Journal

Write out your thoughts and check in on your emotions. Or do a daily gratitude’s list.

  1. Laugh

Read the comics, watch a favorite movie or show, or grab some friends and see a live comedy show.

  1. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments

Be your own cheerleader. Pat yourself on the back for all the good you do.

  1. Make Time for Fun

Have a date night with a significant other or friends, read a book, or find a hobby.

  1. Be Realistic

Feel good about what you accomplish every day, instead of expecting more or looking to what you haven’t done.

  1. Sleep

Sleep is needed for the body to recuperate. Sleep affects metabolism and influences our ability to learn and our memory.

If you don’t take time to rest and direct your energy and focus elsewhere, you can end up like my beloved record. Self-care is non-negotiable.

Deirdre Washington is manager for prevention education at Harbor, Inc. in Toledo, OH and an Emerge Solutions board member. She can be reached at 

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