It is important to remind ourselves about self-care during our busy lives. We can easily get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily responsibilities, that we forget about our own health – physical, mental, and/or emotional. Self-care is especially necessary when your work life requires you to assist others with their own well-being, be it their mental health, or other issues they are facing. Dealing with other’s traumatic events or difficulties in life can lead to a condition called “vicarious trauma”. We, as service providers, can experience vicarious trauma in many different forms, and it can be difficult to recognize or accept that we may be suffering from this condition. Some signs to look for would be feelings of sadness, grief, irritability, and/or mood swings. Early identification and self-awareness around the symptoms of vicarious trauma can go a long way to warding off struggles with both our mental and physical health.
The symptoms of vicarious trauma can heighten if you have also experienced personal trauma – or “direct” trauma, referring to something you have dealt with in your own personal life.
These symptoms could show up in the form of:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings
- Greater sensitivity to violence
- Somatic symptoms
- Sleep difficulties
- Intrusive imagery
- Sexual difficulties
- Difficulty managing boundaries with clients
If you find yourself experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms it’s time to look at some self care! Ideas for self-care activities could include:
- Give yourself time to unwind at the end of the day – read a book, take a bath, go for a walk.
- Find someone you can talk to about work
- Leave work-related problems at work – maintain a good work/life balance
- Eat well and exercise!
- Get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep
- Seek professional counselling (I would put this point last)
- Set up a weekly meeting with your staff/coworkers to debrief about clients, challenges, and concerns.
Our personal well-being must be a priority in order to best serve the clients we work with. If you think you could use a “tune-up” and are interested in counselling and don’t know where to start, Employment Assistance Programs, Interior Health Mental Health, or your family doctor can be great resources to taking the first step to addressing your personal stress.
In addition, follow these two links from Tend Academy to learn more about vicarious trauma: