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Rainy Days and Mondays

Isn't it funny how an obvious statement can resonate in our being, whispering to our inner ear..."Hey, that's true!"

Hmmmmmm

And this obvious truth has been around for centuries. There is a similar allusion to the same concept in the Bible. The gist is, "Can a man take fire into his bosom and not get burned."

And that's what we do. We helpers. We caregivers. We therapists. We social workers.

We take fire into our bosoms. Well, not literally. We take on other's trauma into our minds, and sometimes our hearts.

Bless everyone who has the calling to help others! I sing the praises of those who diligently seek to help others navigate their trauma and find peace.

But don't for one second, think you escape all the caring, the listening, the walking by the side of those in pain....without tiny pieces of that pain entering your own psyche.

My call to action for those new to the field....Walk into this career with your eyes wide open! Know that giving of yourself comes at a cost. But also know that there are things you can do daily to counter the trauma bits flying around you. Even things you can do to build up your resilience and offer up a measure of protection. And some are so simple. Let's look at a few of those tools.

  1. Take Care of Yourself: I am not going to go into all of the self care ideas and programs because it has been done over and over again. But I do want to lend credence to the fact that self care is not only a good way to address secondary trauma but also can be one of the preventative measures that builds resilience.

  2. Build Your Support Team: Those in the helping profession often see themselves as the supporters and don't think to create their own support group. We can be quite hypocritical that way. But building up your support tribe can really make a difference in surviving secondary trauma. This team can be a formal support group (As I have seen developed for secondary trauma) or just a group of colleagues who understand what you deal with day in and day out and who can listen without judgement when you need to talk it out. But the only way an informal support group works is that if every member takes turns venting and not just supporting the same stressed person every time.

  3. Get Physical! I don't mean run a marathon. Frankly, I couldn't run a block unless a mean dog was chasing me. But there are other ways to get physical. I have one of my support people who likes to walk outside with me. I get exercise at my pace, but also get to experience nature which has been shown to boost endorphins and lower stress. Some people dance: hip-hop, waltzing, two-step (it doesn't matter). Some people bowl, some golf and some walk in the air conditioned mall. The point is to be moving and enjoying the time.

  4. Practice Gratefulness: When we are listening to the crises of others, we sometimes forget all the good things in our own lives. There is a mound of evidence that being grateful for the good things in our lives can help us pull out of negativity and depressive thought patterns. I try to list three things every night before bed for which I am truly thankful. This practice has helped me to reprogram my brain when it wants to dissolve into the pity party of life.

There is another tool that I have seen work over a hundred times with my own trauma clients and can be used for secondary trauma as well as primary trauma. But this tease is all you get for now. Look for next week's blog where we delve into a powerful antidote for negativity and secondary stress.

There it is. Today's challenge: You cannot escape from listening to the trauma of others. It is what you do and why you make a difference in the world. But the challenge for most of us is how do we help others find their way without losing ours? Acknowledging the issue is the first step. Then put into place, the tools that work for you!


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