I used to be a counselor/advocate for a crisis hotline. As a counselor/advocate, I employed several strategies with the callers and with myself. Many people called the hotline for various reasons from childhood trauma to domestic violence, to suicide. All of these things were under the umbrella of what I was trained for. Self-care was talked about immensely during my training because as a counselor/advocate, we heard stories that could (and would) keep us up at night.
We had to utilize self-care to help us deal with some of the stories because, well, if you are a compassionate and emphatic person, which you probably are if you’re a counselor/advocate in any capacity, these stories can get to you. My job was to help alleviate some of that burden for them and I enjoyed it very much. However, I also had to utilize these same strategies for myself so that I wouldn’t get too bogged down with negative thoughts and feelings that would prevent me from doing my job.
So, I’m going to share 6 ways to utilize self-care. I used these strategies for myself then and I still find them helpful today.
- Breathe – Taking a deep breath while in the middle of a very stressful moment can really help to calm your nerves. With the callers, I would practice breathing exercises to calm them down. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and let it out slowly. We would do this together on the phone and many of the callers found this to be very helpful.
- Go to Your Safe Place – Do you have a special place in your mind where you feel safe? Is it a beach on a tropical island, or a cabin in the woods? Is it an imaginary place like Neverland or a lush green forest where unicorns reside? Any place that you can put yourself for a few minutes. Don’t just imagine that you are there. Close your eyes and smell the air. Listen to the sounds. Feel the soft breeze on your skin. Really delve deep, as deep as you can get to help you feel safe and happy. This is my favorite strategy to use with the callers and with myself. It really does wonders for anyone who needs to de-stress.
- What’s Your Hobby? – While I used this strategy with callers who were trying to get their lives back from whatever tragedy they had survived, this is very useful in everyday situations as well. It’s important to not let life get so busy for us that we don’t have time to enjoy ourselves. Not making time is what leads to high stress, anxiety, and depression. Let’s not let it get that far. Remember what you enjoy. I love going hiking! I try to go on a hike at least once a week. This allows me the time I need to de-stress, sort out my thoughts, and take in the incredible natural beauty all around me. I find it so peaceful to be out in nature. Make time for your hobbies. They are very important.
- Make some hot tea, draw up a bath, and listen to some relaxing music– Another one of my favorites here is doing this. Now, sometimes I found myself doing this because I heard a particularly rough tale and needed to de-stress right away. This can help you too. If you have had a particularly bad day and your brain just feels fried and you are frazzled, the tea, the bath, and the music (along with scented candles) are a perfect combination for helping a person relax and achieve some amount of Zen, even if it is only temporary.
- Read a book by candlelight, scented candlelight – I have often found that reading a good [fiction] book while engulfed in scented candle aromas, fills you with positive memories and positive thoughts and keeps your mind occupied. It’s calming and just oozes positivity.
- Tai Chi or Yoga – I talk about Tai Chi on my own blog. I am a huge advocate for Tai Chi and Yoga. Meditation is good for the soul but if you’re like me and simply can’t turn off the thoughts in your head while sitting on the ground, try one or both of these things. They really help with concentrating on your breathing and that is the whole point. If you count your breaths, you aren’t thinking and therefore, you are clearing your mind. Give it a try.
There are many more strategies that can be used but these are my favorites that have proven to be helpful to the survivor and to myself. It might take a few tries to see any changes in yourself but if you keep at it, you will see a difference.