With the “holiday season” now behind us, we’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the past year, give thanks, and appreciate the people in our midst and our many blessings. Yet for most of us, the past few weeks were probably accompanied by an extra-long “to do” list, a flurry of additional activities and gatherings, and a level of stress that is decidedly out of sync with “the most wonderful time of the year.”
For many, there was time spent relaxing and with family and loved ones, celebrating and reinvigorating our personal connections. There was also the potential opportunity to breathe, celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments, and recharge. Given all our efforts to promote messages of student health, safety, and wellbeing, we often fall short of taking our own advice on preserving a sound body, mind, and spirit. This is particularly important for people providing services to troubled students or those who have experienced trauma who are prone to “compassion fatigue” or “secondary traumatic stress.”
Self-care has come into the common vernacular, and with that, a host of resources, technology-enabled tools, products, and apps have emerged to help support our care for mind, body, and spirit. In support of this movement, research continues to demonstrate the deleterious effects of our modern lifestyle, and the beneficial effect of measures—even seemingly small ones—to maintain a sense of wellbeing and a healthier lifestyle.
A great place to start for resources is the Self-care Starter Kit from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Typical self-care activities include:
- Healthy eating: This is likely something you have already managed to incorporate, but these tips may be helpful for those struggling in the food category.
- Physical fitness: With mounting evidence that sitting for prolonged periods is unhealthy, and exercise is beneficial to our minds, new evidence suggests that relatively small amounts of exercise can have a beneficial impact on health.
- Stress reduction: While stress seems a constant, practical stress management strategies can help how we respond. The author states, “Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.”
- Time management: A seeming lack of time for accomplishing all that is before us also appears constant. The key, however, is how we create systems and adopt strategies to manage our time most effectively.
- Mindfulness, relaxation and deep breathing: You may already practice some of this, but if you’re wondering what the mindfulness movement is all about, take the time to hear it from the master Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Avoiding compassion fatigue: These 12 Top Self-care Tips from compassion fatigue specialist Francoise Mathieu offer great practical recommendations to avoid—or at least limit—compassion fatigue.
As you start the new year, consider these self-care practices “gifts to yourself.” And if these gifts feel good and you see their beneficial effects, consider making a habit of them by incorporating them into your daily routine as your new year’s resolution—an ongoing gift to yourself to last throughout 2016. Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.