Mind Matters — Self Care

Recently I have been teaching Psychological First Aid to those who volunteer after disasters occur. Basically, psychological first aid is “a compassionate and supportive presence designed to mitigate acute distress and assess [needs].” (Everly and Flynn)

However, in order to be a compassionate and supportive presence, volunteers need to learn the fundamentals of self care. As do we all!

So let’s explore self care and stress management in general here. Karen Saakvitne and Laurie Pearlman address self care in their book Transforming the Pain. Awareness, balance and connection are the key themes—the ABC’s if you will.

Do you have awareness of your limits, your emotions, your needs? Do you have balance among the realms of your life? In other words, do you engage in play time as well as work time? Do you rest? Do you have connection to your inner life, to others, to something larger than yourself? This means are you able to be reflective? Do you feel connected to others and others are connected to you? Do you connect with something larger than you? That might be God, or a Higher Power, but it could also be nature or music or art. You could ask yourself these questions as they relate to your professional life, your organizational life, your personal life.

So here is a mini questionnaire to peruse adapted from Saakvitne and Pearlman’s work.

Remember what the flight attendant always reminds us: you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put it on the child or the elderly person next to you. If you’re not able to breathe, you won’t be able to help anyone else breathe either. Indeed self care is analogous to that oxygen mask. We need it so we can care for others.