Supporting Yourself

“Too often in the helping fields, we focus on the immediate tasks at  hand and the intense human needs before us, rather than thinking of how we must take care of ourselves if ourself, the healing agent, is to thrive for the decades of our work” (Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison, 2011).

As a bereavement specialist it is important you know how to care for yourself and take time out to recharge your batteries. There are many ways to prevent burnout and restore ease rather than stress.  True self-care involves looking after all aspects of our being including physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.

  • Eat healthy, fresh food with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Eat regularly (eg breakfast, lunch, dinner).
  • Find a pleasurable exercise routine.
  • Get regular medical care for prevention and health.
  • Take time off when sick.
  • Have a massages, acupuncture or beauty treatment.
  • Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun!
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Wear clothes you like.
  • Take vacations, day trips or mini-vacations.
  • Make time away from telephones.
  • Notice your inner experiences: listen to your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings without judgement.
  • Let go of perfectionism: do something silly or be simply imperfect.
  • Talk with friends and have a buddy support system.
  • Practise receiving from others.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Be curious about life.
  • Do relaxation exercises, get a relaxation CD that you like.
  • Have personal psychotherapy or counselling.
  • Read literature unrelated to work that you find uplifting.
  • Do something at which you are not expert or in charge.
  • Decrease stress in your life by removing the clutter.
  • Make to-do lists and prioritise them giving yourself plenty of time.
  • Let others know different aspects of you.
  • Say NO to extra responsibilities.
  • Be kind to yourself, engage in self-nurturing, self-mothering.
  • Spend time with others whose company you enjoy.
  • Stay in contact with important people in your life.
  • Give yourself affirmations, praise and love.
  • Find ways to increase your sense of self-esteem.
  • Acknowledging strength, positive points.
  • Boundaries: learn to feel OK about saying NO and putting yourself first.
  • Change thought processes that are not self-affirming.
  • Avoid negative people or negative communication.
  • Re-read favourite books, review favorite movies.
  • Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships and places.
  • Allow yourself to cry.
  • Find things to make you laugh.
  • Express your outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests.
  • Contribute to causes in which you believe.
  • Play with children, animals or grown-ups.
  • Make time for self-reflection
  • Practise acceptance and kindness for self and others
  • Spend time with and in nature
  • Find a spiritual connection or community
  • Be open to inspiration from teachers and people you admire
  • Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)
  • Cherish your optimism and hope
  • Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
  • Practice forgiveness for self and others
  • Identify what is meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
  • Meditate, sing or pray
  • Be open to Not Knowing and experiences of awe

Details of courses helping with topics such as dealing with stress, listening, mindfulness etc are posted in our Education and Training section.

Further reading 

Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in those who treat the traumatised Figley, C (1995)

Treating Compassion Fatigue Figley, C. (2001)

Burnout: the high cost of success Fredenberger, H (1980)

Full catastrophe living; how to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2001)

When professionals weep  Katz, R. & Johnson, T. (2006)

Help for the Helper: The Psychophysiology of Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma  Rothschild, B. and Rand, M. (2006)

 Heal thy self. Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine  Santorelli, S. (1999)

The resilient practitioner Skovholt, T & Trotter-Mathison, M. (2009) 

Overcoming secondary stress in medical and nursing practice : a guide to professional resilience and personal well-being  Wicks, R. (2006)