A self-care plan to revive a weary spirit
RACHEL DOHERTY
Social worker, teacher and the founder of Tweens2teen
If you’re a youth worker or school chaplain and feel overwhelmed, it’s time to have a look at your self-care plan. If you don’t have one, then it’s time to get one.
Let’s face it, we only get one shot at this life. If your job is to make other people’s lives better, it’s important not to wear yourself out in the process.

Self-care is about maintaining a balance between work, rest and play. It’s about having ways to sort through the thoughts and feelings that come with your job.

If self-care is something you haven’t really heard about, then have a look at my article on what self-care is.

“Be you. Love you. All ways, always.”
ALEXANDRA ELLE
Strategies to manage self-care as a youth worker so you can stay in the game long term.

When you work in the helping professions or serve in ministry, most relationships are one way. You give to others without receiving that care back. If you have a stressful job, either with a big workload or some challenging crises, your well of energy can drain faster than a leaky bucket.

If you don’t listen to your body, you’ll run that bucket dry, and that’s what we call burnout. It needs more than just self-care to manage, so if you think you might have let things go too long, have a look at my article on burnout.

 

When it comes to self-care, there are six things you can do to keep your practice fresh:

1. Reflect on how you’ve done things

Check your programs and services fit with your purpose and meet specific needs. Look back at your work and think about what tools you’ve used and the words you’ve said. Could you have done things a different way? Is anything getting stale?

Read this article for a reflection process that can help you with this.

2. Make time to learn new skills and knowledge

Enrol in a course, sign up for some professional development or read articles online. There are heaps of learning activities out there that you can fit into even the busiest schedule. Don’t see training as a one-off, but make it a regular habit.

3. Try something new

Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Incorporate new knowledge and skills into your practice. Give yourself permission to try things, make mistakes and learn from them. Meet up with others and find out what they’re doing that seems to be working well.

Have a look at my article on planning principles you can use to take your youth work to the next level.

4. Keep your life in balance

Work-life balance isn’t something you can have without sacrificing the quality of your life or the comforts of it. Try and eat well and get enough exercise for both your physical and mental health. Get a checkup each year from your doctor to make sure you’re looking after your body and on track for a healthy life.

Check out my article about 6 steps you can take to improve your work-life balance.

5. Unpack your practice on a regular basis

Book yourself in for professional supervision at least every term. It will help you debrief the tough stuff and keep a clear picture of where you’re going. Supervision shouldn’t be a counselling session. It should be a focussed reflective process looking at your skills, knowledge and thoughts, then your feelings if needed.

To learn more, read my articles explaining what supervision is and what to look for in a supervisor.

6. Take regular breaks

Switch off your emails on your phone on the weekends. Even take a break from your phone. Make time for a holiday or two each year. If you think you’re developing the signs of burnout, negotiate some special leave to get on top of it. It costs a lot more money to replace and train new staff, so most employers want to look after you, not lose you.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Making the most of a break

Whether you have a few days to revive, or a few weeks, the principles stay the same. This means you have to give yourself permission to set aside time for four stages if you want to be at your best when you go back to work.

The four stages you need to include in any break from work are:

1. Rest

Be lazy. Give yourself permission to sleep in, go to bed early or have a nap during the day. Do them all if you like!

Our bodies need to stop now and then and do nothing, so ignore any guilt that might be telling you to be busy. If you have kids or other responsibilities, rest in short batches when you have help.

2. Recover

Do things you haven’t had time to do lately. It might feel insignificant like cleaning up your house or working in the yard. It might be catching up with a couple of friends over coffee.

It’s what gives your life meaning and a sense of peace and connection.

3. Rejig

Once you have some more perspective, work out what you could change going forward. How could you keep your newfound sense of balance and control? Are there some things you need to say no to? Others you might have to work on bowing out of?

Look again at the strategies in my article on self-care if you need some new ideas. Identify a couple of tweaks that could make life more livable.

4. Refresh

Finish up your break by doing some things just for fun. Fill up that bucket of joy so that you head back to work with a smile on your face and a skip in your step.

All these stages need an equal share. You can’t skip one. If you’re wanting to have an enduring presence in youth work, you need to make self-care as much a part of life as having breakfast or exercise.

Have you got a self-care plan that works for you? If you’re needing help to work out one, then send me a message and get in touch.

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