Do you take care of others for a living? Read me!
To my community of fitness & wellness coaches, nurses, therapists, and others who take care of others for a living, Thank you for doing what you do! You've decided to dedicate your work to taking care of others and that is no simple feat but SO needed. It takes a special person to hold space for another, be empathetic, giving, and express genuine concern on a daily basis. It can also be very draining because you have to be on all the time. You don't get to have bad days when you're clients and patients aren't well and need you. You are probably also a more sensitive person by nature - it's the strength that you bring to your work but it's also what makes you more susceptible to stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and burn out.
I want to help! Because I want you out in the world doing the incredible work you do. You also need support in your life to help manage your energy so you can show up for others. Recently I got to sit in on a virtual meeting with fitness coaches, nurses, and wellness coaches and chat about stress, how it shows up, and what helps in taking care of the self. It was an amazing experience with one common takeaway, "I'm so glad I'm not alone!"
Of course you're not alone but stress and anxiety can feel lonely. When you're over-worked and overwhelmed the easiest thing to do is shut down, withdraw, or retreat. When really the best thing you could do is reach out to your network and feel supported. But when you feel like you're the only one that gets bogged down by your work it's hard to speak up. To help you also not feel alone, here's a summary of the conversation. Thank you to those who participated! Each answer is a summary from a handful of people. Individual points are bulleted.
What keeps you up at night?
- Thinking about what I did and didn’t do the day of and then start making lists on her phone while in bed – its' mentally exhausting.
- Wishing we had an on/off switch
- Not always just about work – it’s LIFE, constant cycle of what am I missing, what did I do right, need to do better, what actually went well.
- We don’t actually compartmentalize like we think we do, rather everything gets bottled up into a feeling of overwhelm.
- Constant evaluation – checking things off the list but then just keep adding more to the list.
Whats your biggest struggle right now?
- Taking care of others [takes] a different breed. Taking that path that goes against the grain is hard. Wanting to always give more is hard. We all have moments of feeling like, "I have it all figured out" and then moments of really having no clue what works well. We need to own our process. The real question is - How do we give back and still take care of ourselves and be the example? It's not about having it all figured out and perfect but it’s about really owning it.
- Sometimes you find yourself asking “Who am I to help people and be a leader by example??” But a good reminder is this - It’s not about you. You're job is to be the light! You have to own it and do your job without questioning it but it requires balance.
- Realizing I was really low in spiritual, family, and love because I was giving so much to my work. These are primary pieces to my life and I didn’t even know I was lacking here. Too much emphasis on one place doesn’t create more equality elsewhere. To counter this I had to make goals for the lowest categories and have to have physical reminders around me all the time so that I don’t neglect it. It does take work.
How do you manage your energy?
- Giving space for work/life balance. Not taking clients after a certain time.
- Allow yourself to go into shut off mode
- Not working at home, home is for home!
- Over planning – making sure balance is made a priority. I want to plan out every second of the day but then am always disappointed at the end of the day. There needs to be time for flow and play.
- Regime works but also having ‘no plan’ time so you can shut down
- Set a time for work hours and work within those hours only
- Delegating and jumping on the ‘no’ train. Give yourself permission to take things OFF your plate and give things to others to handle for you, it’s ok to not do it all because you can’t. Saying YES all the time means not being able to give your whole heart to something
How do you know you're stressed out or anxious?
- Get really quiet instead of being cheery and social. It’s a sign and an indirect way of telling people that I’m stressed out and to leave me alone.
- Withdraw – we have to be ON all the time and we have to shut off once in awhile and can’t feel guilty about that. I am a happy/go-lucky person and when others see that you’re not being yourself but it’s part of your process. Being light isn’t always going to happen.
- Remove myself from the situation or feel like a hermit
- Wine and chocolate and ice cream :)
- Can’t ask for help, get stuck
- Everything gets amplified – negative emotions such as anger, irritability, losing it over something trivial or meaningless. Blinders go up to life. No bandwidth to deal with things outside of trivial things.
What support would you like?
- This is a dream, but if everyone around me understood how difficult my job actually is. There are so many details I am managing, and if someone could acknowledge how much time my work requires that would feel like support.
- No one can read your mind but I need them too! I just need a high-five or, "hey, you’re doing a great job!" Perception becomes reality and it’s the sum of the parts that make it work and it takes everyone but if you are the only feeling the pressure then you need to communicate it. But when you don’t you withdraw and go into the self where it makes everything worse. We need to communicate our needs and how to get them met. It's about knowing how you function best and then asking for that to happen.
- The value of acknowledgment goes really far and recognition
- Support when you work for yourself or alone – finding people in the same industry that can get together and just vent and find support around our goals and needs.
Does any of this sound familiar? I bet! Because it all hit home for me too. It sounds to me like we need more down time, to figure out what balance looks like so we can make it happen, AND not feel guilty about that. And having people who support us to mirror back that we're doing a good job is very important. Recognition and feeling heard are huge because sometimes when you're totally exhausted and just don't think you can give anything more its like a re-charge.
To help with this I've created a new journal program called 14 Days of Balance. It's almost ready - stayed tuned for all the details and to be invited to get it day one. It's 14 days of a self-guided journal practice about bringing your life into balance. You'll journal about your needs, what support looks like, and what areas of your life deserve more energy. If you're not a journal writer don't fret! I make it very easy to experience the full benefits of using a journal in as little as 10 minutes a day.
14 Days of Balance will be available Friday, August 1st. Thank you to everyone for your insight! And thank you for taking care of others - you rock!