Recently in one of my classes the professor lectured on compassion fatigue. She informed our class that as MSW’s we are one of the more vulnerable groups to compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is different than burnout. Burnout heavily involves not recieving the support you need from the agency you work at. Compassion fatigue however, comes from working with clients have experienced trauma. Sitting and listening to others share their trauma over and over again can often lead to the practiticioner experiencing secondary trauma.
My professor passed out an evaluation that measured our compassion satisfaction, our burnout, and our compassion fatigue. I did not do as well on the compassion fatigue as I thought I would have. I did not do too badly either. I do see how it is possible though, because one of my primary jobs at my internship is to do intakes. The intake is the first step our homeless clients have to take to recieve services at my agency. During the intake there are certain questions I have to ask, but I also always ask the clients to share their stories with me. “What has brought you here?” “Tell me about yourself?” My purpose is not to simply gather information from these persons and then direct them to the appropriate services. No, the homeless population is one of the most vunerable populations and they deserve to come to a place where they are welcomed, feel safe, and feel like they matter. Therefore their stories matter to me. Over and over again I listen to stories of struggle and some days I can feel it really weighing my soul down. Thus the need for a self-care plan.
My professor made the point that if we do not take care of ourselves then we will be in no position to help others take care of themselves. So we made lists in small groups. The list I made is liable to change throughout the year, but here is what I have so far:
– Spend time with God. Whether it be through worship, reading, praying, church, listening, meditating, writing, devotions by myself or with Phil- all these things must remain my top priority. Last semester I was not very good at many of these things and it was pretty hard. Over break though Phillip and I had an awesome time of reconnecting with God and learning together how to make him/her more a part of every day. God is the reason I am alive, married, involved in relationships, and studying towards my MSW. If I am not living in the center of who he/she is then I am not really living.
– Spend time with Phillip. We have been married a little over three months now and I honestly have say it has been the best time of my life. Marriage is the best and hardest thing I have ever done. Spending time with Phillip is my second highest priority, and it is incredibly needed. He makes sure I know I am loved, he appreciates me, he challenges me, he makes me laugh, and he simply is my partner in all things. I believe that when God brings two people together in marriage it is a sign that God’s plan for them can no longer be fulfilled with them each by themselves. I cannot do any of this any longer without Phillip.
– Exercise. Phillip and I have begun training for the 10k. We run three nights a week and it really all the time we have to squeeze in for it. I have come to look forward to this time so much because it gives me a goal and outlet apart from my studies. I have also begun starting off my weeks with Monday morning yoga and so far it has been both a challenge and incredibly relaxing.
-Spend time with friends. Phillip and I are so blessed with our friendships. I cannot say enough about being in relationship with people who are likeminded or very different from me. Whether it is hanging out in coffee shops, in each others homes, playing a game, having a glass of wine, being at church together, or simply talking on the phone- it is great.
– Spend time doing my homework. My professors give us a ridiculous amount of reading, yet I really want to do it all. The more prepared I am for class the less stressed out I am. Doing this with excellence helps my soul because I then know that I am living in integrity of what I am called to do.
– Spend time pursuing other interests- writing with Phillip (thus the blog), running, crafting, making a collage with Phillip for our hallway, cooking on the weekends, travelling as much as possible, reading for pleasure if it is possible, becoming educated on adoption, participating in small groups, recycling as much as possible, finding ways to be more simple.
– Cut things out: TV (ours does not even work, but not watching TV shows on DVD), watching movies often at home, spending money on clothing, eating less sugar, eating less cheese.
So for now that is all I have… I pray you have a blessed day. That you may be on the path ordained for you by God. I pray for holiness in all our lives that we may live worthy of our calling. I pray for an end to the wars. I pray for an end to the wars in our ghettos. I pray for an end to the war on the poor. I pray for hope and joy in the midst of the maddness. Amen.