If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incompleteJack Kornfield
Working in a hospice is one of the most rewarding, emotional, challenging and growth-filled careers you can have.
It can also bring negative and positive stress.
During my early hospice life, I was having a stressful moment and realised I was so busy being a caring counsellor for others that I had no room left to show care for myself.
The importance of self care
I realised because I wasn’t showing myself care, I wasn’t showing care and compassion to my colleagues. I pretended I was, but truth be told, I didn’t have the capacity to show interest in or care for them.
Looking for ideas to look after myself, and reduce my stress levels, I noticed that my stationery drawer carried everything I needed.
If you, a family member or a friend are finding life stressful I hope you find something useful in this list.
Stationery drawer essentials
Create spaces (holes) in your day to stop and breathe. Walk up the road at lunchtime or during a study break. Or focus on a favourite object in your room for 30 seconds.
We all need to recharge our batteries. What makes you feel alive? Is it sitting reading a book? People watching in a cafe? Laughing with family and friends? Whatever it is put it in your weekly diary. And don’t cancel it.
Sometimes we need to cut things off (and dare I say people) that deliberately sabotage our well being. Only you know what or who those are, so ask yourself what or who doesn’t help you when you’re stressed? What can you do to reduce stress?
Paper clips, bull dog clips and staplers
Sometimes when we’re stressed everything seems scattered. Do you have a trusted friend or family member that you can gather things up with who will just listen?
Remember who you are! What are your values? What do you personally believe in? How do you want to live your life? Are you living how you’d like to? If not, why not? And what does it look like when you are?
How colourful is your life? Where can you add in some creativity and fun? What does that look like for you? Drudgery and dreariness drains you physically and emotionally – add some colour.
If you’re someone who says yes to everything regardless of how overloaded you are, remember it’s okay to say no, not yet, not now, let’s have a rain check. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person or friend. It’s also okay to start saying yes if your first response is usually ‘Oh I don’t know, I don’t think so….’ Commit to going out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you.
Book for personal growth
Learn something new. Remind yourself that you don’t know it all and you’re not meant to either.
Remind yourself to look after you. Take two minutes to ask yourself, when did I last have fun with friends and family? When did I last go for a walk? When did I last NOT eat takeaways? Put reminder notes around your house and in your diary for the things that bring you joy and use to-do lists or calendars to help you manage your workload or your study time.
We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. All mistakes can be overcome and you’re allowed to forgive yourself. You’re even allowed NOT to be perfect. Be a human being in all your humanness. And embrace everything that makes you unique.
Originally from New Zealand, Cathy has both personal and professional experience of hospice care and is qualified as a counsellor. In her role at St Catherine’s Hospice she leads a team of counsellors, spiritual care, and welfare advisers who support local people facing the end of their life. As well as leading her team she gives counselling to local people affected death and bereavement.