Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nurturing Self

Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

• Skipping breakfast to get to work on time (after oversleeping because so tired)
• Skipping lunch (too much to do, have to help that one client who needs extra help)
• Getting home, very hungry, and thus overeating after not having breakfast or lunch
• Spending a bit of extra time with that bottle of wine (or two or three…)
• Needing extra cigarettes to get through the stressful day
• Not going pee because you’re too busy seeing/talking to clients
• Not taking breaks
• Dreaming about work
• Talking about work a lot
• Difficulty relaxing in the evening
• Taking work home

If you answered yes to….well…any of these, then it might be helpful to take a look at your work/life balance. (Okay. I’m one to talk: I recently gave a patient my cell number and spent time on the phone with her outside regular work hours and I rarely take lunch.) It can be hard to strike a balance between life and work when your primary function is to take care of other people and often even put their needs before your own. This can be especially challenging when we work in a sometimes hostile environment (say, external hostility from protesters), and it can be super hard to explain our jobs to people in our lives. “How was your day?” is such a benign question, but I often ask myself, “Seriously? You really want to open THAT can of worms and know how my day REALLY was?”

Maybe you feel similarly from time to time. Here are some things that have helped me, and things I know that have helped others, too:

• Eat breakfast. Seriously. It really does help!
• Drink coffee!
• Take your breaks and your lunches, even if it seems impossible to do so. Take them.
• Have interests and hobbies outside work and indulge in them. Write, read, hike, run, go to the gym, play music, spend time with your friends, your children.
• Have something at home, after work, that is really important to you to focus on that is completely non-work related (I think this is easier for parents, as often their children can be the distraction).
• Spend personal time doing non-abortiony things! Really!
• Have friends from Abortionland so they can understand you.
• Have friends outside Abortionland so you don’t have to talk about Abortionland all the time.
• Shop.
• Go on holiday.
• Go to movies.
• Take a day off. And do something fun.
• Get rest.
• And sometimes, indulge in a few bottles of wine, or a few margaritas with your Abortionland friends.
• Cry.
• Take long baths.

Basically, just remember you, when you’re in the middle of remembering everyone else. Nurture yourself. Personally, I'd like to be right here. Any other suggestions?


  1. OH MAN! As Queen of Compassion Fatigue, I'd like to say YES YES YES AND YES!!!!!! to these ideas!! You can't help anyone if you can't help yourself!

    I'd like to add, if possible, seek a counselor or therapist. Besides the fact that we all have personal issues to sort out, it can also be very helpful for talking about a tough case or whatnot.

    Do what makes you feel good. For example, I ate a cupcake this afternoon. :) Yummers.

    <3 you

  2. *sigh* you speak the truth; too bad it can be difficult!

    i second mr. banana grabber's idea on talking with a counselor.

  3. And to all abortion providers, on National Appreciation for Abortion Providers Day, Thank you for making choice a reality.

    And thanks for taking care of yourself. As a flight nurse in the Air Force, I learned that if you don't take care of yourself, you are of no value to anyone. So, make yourself a priority for the benefit of yourself and all those to whom you are so valiantly, compassionately driven to serve. Thank you!

  4. I bake, then proceed to eat baked goods while watching TV on the internet.

  5. I volunteer at an animal shelter one morning a week. I have to kick my ass out of bed most times, but it really does make me feel less stressed and it's nice to be able to help nonverbally!

  6. Thanks for this article. I want to strongly recommend "Trauma Stewardship" by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. This book helped me change directions after my work in the reproductive rights movement was really stressing me OUT. She helps you understand better the causes and signs of compassion fatigue. I learned the concept of self care and am working to begin a daily practice (right now I'm at weekly, taking baby steps).

    Please, please check it out. Laura is wonderful.

  7. Acupuncture! Reiki! Kind bud (in moderation)

  8. Oh god, "Not going to pee" -- hell yes. Isn't that insane? On several occasions I've gone entire workdays without getting up to have a drink of water or use the bathroom (and eating a snack from home at my desk). Long-term those are NOT good ideas! I did get a lot better about it over time, though -- partly because I realized the importance of self-care, and partly because I got more efficient/effective at the parts of my job that had been keeping me busybusybusy.

    To be honest, I think everyone's different, and we don't all necessarily struggle with the same effects of putting too much into our work. In my case, it tends to be more physical stuff -- not eating right or not peeing regularly because I felt tied to my desk or the flow of clinic was just nonstop -- and less mental/emotional stress. On the other hand, I can get LOTS of mental/emotional stress when an officeplace situation is bad, just like it might be at any other (non-abortiony, non-hectic, etc) job.

    Wheee...so much to say, I'm going to save some of it for a post of my own!

  9. Not getting to go pee - check.
    Driving my husband crazy by talking about work all the time - check.
    Overeating after work - check.
    Oversleeping because I'm so emotionally exhausted - check.

    It's nice to have the feeling that I'm not alone in this kind of stress. But it would be nice if none of us had to feel this way because of our demanding work.

    One thing that has also helped me lately (besides finally eating breakfast) is taking vitamins. Especially vitamin B, which is really great for energy. It helps so much!


This is not a debate forum -- there are hundreds of other sites for that. This is a safe space for abortion care providers and one that respects the full spectrum of reproductive choices; comments that are not in that spirit will either wind up in the spam filter or languish in the moderation queue.