The use of language is a powerful thing. The words we use can create negative or positive thoughts and feelings. I have always hated the word ‘should’, to me it is heavily value laden with the expectations of others. We then take on board and often beat ourselves up for not achieving what they and we expect. I try very hard to banish that word from my vocabulary and instead may say things like ‘I will try to…’ or ‘Ideally I would like to be able to….’ of course dependent upon the situation at hand.
We had a Journal Club at work today with some of the Social Workers on the team and two Social Work students. The Journal article we had all read was in relation to self-care. This is often something that we know we need to do to protect ourselves from burnout but is frequently something that Social Workers don’t do terrifically well. I have always – from day one – when I have a student under my care that I am training, insisted that my students identify and practice good self-care strategies. I found it ironic that the fieldwork educators (my Social Work colleagues) who had direct responsibility for the students did not attend citing workload as the reason! One thing I have said to all my students is this. ‘The time when you need to practice self-care is the time when you feel you don’t have time to do so!’
What is 30 minutes of your time out of a day to step back, regroup and spend time with your peers? While we were talking, a few ‘shouldisms’ came out. My colleagues all talking about what they ‘should’ do. I encouraged them to reframe their comments in a more positive way, rather than expressing perhaps a failure to do whatever they were ‘shoulding’ about!
I feel in life it is important to be kind to ourselves. To not put unsurmountable challenges in front of ourselves and feel we have failed when we have not been successful in achieving them. This is not just in my life as a Social Worker, but also as a person with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s fills our lives with challenges that we cannot avoid. However, there are times when we need to take stock and accept that we need to perhaps review our capabilities and have realistic expectations of ourselves. We need to listen to our bodies – and sometimes to those who love and support us – and realise that maybe we need to change our thinking. Maybe we can no longer do things that we wish we could or we need to modify things and do them in a different way.
Self-care can be anything that renews your energies and lifts your spirits. To give yourself permission to stop, think and consider how to move forward safely in a positive way. Some things that I find helpful are the following:
- Each day after our morning meeting, no matter my workload I have a 10 minute coffee break. This is my time to get my head together and plan my day without distractions.
- When feeling stressed, find an activity that takes your mind away from what is stressing you. This could be anything from a crossword, or Wordle or Words with Friends or reading a book. Anything that calms and centres you.
- Going for a walk – especially near water for me – calms and settles me when stressed.
- Find someone that you can talk things through with and work out a way to move forward and maybe do things differently.
- In life there are situations that ‘push your buttons’. It is important to be aware of these and this is something I also talk to my students about. It is also vitally important to tell someone when a situation occurs that pushes your buttons. It could be memories suddenly welling up about my parents’ journey with Parkinsons’. When these happen I do my best to acknowledge that their journey was exactly that. Their journeys were quite different from each other’s and so too will my journey be different from theirs.
- I feel it is important to remove yourself from the situation – even for 10 minutes – and regroup, find someone you can talk to and then look for solutions together. This way you may avoid a downward spiral of stress and ultimately burnout.
We all need strategies in life for when things knock us out of kilter. When the unexpected – or sometimes even the expected – suddenly happens and we have to find a way to deal with it.
So for me, I do two things.
- I banish the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary.
- I ensure I practice self-care every day in some small way.
I would encourage others on this journey to think about the messages we give ourselves and whether they are helpful or detrimental in the main. Remember the best person to look after you is you.
Be kind to yourself.
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