Being honest about one’s mental wellbeing and adopting strategies to maintain your mental health not only ensures accountability to one’s own values, morals and personal code of ethics, but also ensures you live a happy healthy life with those around you. Historically people have sought this support through their faith (mentoring or confession through religious leaders), through social-venting (meeting peers or friends at pubs or coffee-shops), or through social clubs. Each of these avenues for support are valid and have their place. However, social experiences do not compare to being able to talk about emotions in a safe, professional and confidential environment facilitated by trained mental health professionals. In this space a client can develop an awareness of and allow oneself to feel the emotions associated with their experiences (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012; Butler, 2015).
“Psychological distress is associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance use and personality disorders, and also with academic failure, job difficulties, and diverse social outcomes later in life” (Verger, et al., 2009). If not addressed, psychological distress can cause people to become physically unwell, adding the potential for other mental ill- health issues (Spinks, 2004; Robotham & Julian, 2006). Certainly, societal awareness of the importance of addressing mental health has increased due to sport and celebrity personalities disclosing mental ill-health issues in the media (Butler, 2015; Smith, 2015; Zarley, 2016 ).
An evaluation tool used by Mental Health practitioners, ‘My self-reflection and reflective practice’ (see Appendix 1 – Self-care PROQOUL), is a useful guide to assessing mental wellbeing (whereby a score below 23 in three separate categories is acceptable, above 23 begins to be of concern [Note, other versions exist for clients which can be used by mental health practitioners in assessment of one’s mental wellbeing]). Completing a self-reflection worksheet with the help of mental health clinicians can help people to do a reality check, ground themselves, and identify areas of self-care they need to work on. Another reflective practice strategy is to adopt a practice of reflective journaling to specifically address one’s thoughts. Reflecting upon the evidence for and against troubling thoughts, reflecting upon our actions or the ways we have dealt with situations, and identifying our personal self-care strategies through reflective journaling are helpful ways to identify opportunities for learning, growth and improvement (Lomax & Jones, 2014).
Rogerian-humanistic methods embraced by Breathe Counsellors consider “for a person to ‘grow’ they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self- disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood)” (McLeod, 2014; Hill, 2017). Importantly, within this safe environment one can receive an unbiased or alternative point of view regarding situations, and learning, growth and self-improvement can occur. Equally significant, in the professional therapeutic environment opportunities for personal self-care (for example, those found in Appendix 2) can be developed and a space of non-judgemental care and accountability can be held. Seeking professional support in a safe, sensitive and positive environment is therefore essential to personal wellbeing and growth.
PROFESSIONAL QUALITY OF LIFE SCALE (PROQOL) COMPASSION SATISFACTION AND COMPASSION FATIGUE (PROQOL) VERSION 5 (2009)
When you [help] people you have direct contact with their lives. As you may have found, your compassion for those you [help] can affect you in positive and negative ways. Below are some questions about your experiences, both positive and negative, as a [helper]. Consider each of the following questions about you and your current work situation. Select the number that honestly reflects how frequently you experienced these things in the last 30 days.
1=Never 2=Rarely 3=Sometimes 4=Often 5=Very Often
1. I am happy.
2. I am preoccupied with more than one person I [help].
3. I get satisfaction from being able to [help] people.
4. I feel connected to others.
5. I jump or am startled by unexpected sounds.
6. I feel invigorated after working with those I [help].
7. I find it difficult to separate my personal life from my life as a [helper].
8. I am not as productive at work because I am losing sleep over traumatic experiences of a person I [help].
9. I think that I might have been affected by the traumatic stress of those I [help].
10. I feel trapped by my job as a [helper].
11. Because of my [helping], I have felt "on edge" about various things.
12. I like my work as a [helper].
13. I feel depressed because of the traumatic experiences of the people I [help].
14. I feel as though I am experiencing the trauma of someone I have [helped].
15. I have beliefs that sustain me.
16. I am pleased with how I am able to keep up with [helping] techniques and protocols. 17. I am the person I always wanted to be.
18. My work makes me feel satisfied.
19. I feel worn out because of my work as a [helper].
20. I have happy thoughts and feelings about those I [help] and how I could help them.
21. I feel overwhelmed because my case [work] load seems endless.
22. I believe I can make a difference through my work.
23. I avoid certain activities or situations because they remind me of frightening experiences of the people I [help].
24. I am proud of what I can do to [help].
25. As a result of my [helping], I have intrusive, frightening thoughts.
26. I feel "bogged down" by the system.
27. I have thoughts that I am a "success" as a [helper].
28. I can't recall important parts of my work with trauma victims.
29. I am a very caring person.
30. I am happy that I chose to do this work.
Some Self-Care ideas to do with friends or as a family:
- Do some baking, and put some cookies or a cake or some bread in the oven and enjoy thearomas throughout your home;
- Make special flavoured popcorn (like Oreo, Salt & Vinegar or Carmel popcorn) and thenwatch a funny family movie together;
- What about a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie marathon;
- Drawing colourful pictures, tracing family members and giving each other clothes, oroutlining hopscotch with chalk on the driveway or out the back is always fun;
- 1000+ piece puzzles are always a fun challenge;
- Be artistic with Mindfulness colouring;
- Fill some picture frames with collage of pictures of family or friends;
- Try a minimalist approach and declutter the house as a family;
- Make some homemade putty, goo, or bubble solution & play;
- Food fight – these are always fun, or hang a water melon with thick twine and play hit the(watermelon) piñata;
- Prepare a scavenger hunt around your house (give clues on post it notes, picture clues,colour scavenger hunt, alphabet scavenger hunt, etc.);
- Recycle & re-create things from around the home (jars or tins);
- Have a fancy dinner where you all get dressed up, use a tablecloth and candles, and put onfancy music (jazz or opera or something you wouldn’t normally listen too) while you eat;
- Why not take a walk down memory lane and look through old family photobooks, scrapbooks, and pictures, then relive your family adventures;
- Make an obstacle course from anything from around the house (furniture, rope, crepe paper, string, cushions, bricks);
- Make paper airplanes and have a competition to see whose goes the farthest;
- Have an indoor or backyard picnic with fish & chips on an outdoor rug on the floor;
- You could start a herb garden or plant some flowering plant seedlings, then document their growth.
- You could create some make-believe family adventures by dressing up or pretending you’redoing different activities, then video or take pictures of your backyard or indoor adventures (e.g. all the family pretends your climbing a rock cliff, take a photo, then super-pose this over a rock-cliff background);
- Film your own cooking show;
- You could get prepared for family and friends birthdays, and make birthday and Christmascards for everyone this year;
- Or you could write a letter to a niece or nephew, cousin or friend you haven’t seen in a long time;
- Oh my, how about making a new world out of Lego and pretend your in Lego Masterschampionship;
- A nice calm down activity at night time just before bedtime could be to read a book together and take turns to read each page;
- Do you remember the last time you built a pillow and blanket fort;
- Or went camping (in your own back yard);
- Finally, a day of board games – could you ask for any more fun!
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