Professional care givers whether as doctors, nurses or mental health counselors are human beings like anyone else. They have needs and limits. Many times, these limits are stretched. Care professionals will put others before their own health and over work or become emotionally drained carrying the pain of others. This not healthy for them long term nor is it good for the care of the patient. It is essential and important for caregivers to understand their limits and the benefits of rest. Alan Wolfelt lists numerous ways caregiver fatigue can be detrimental to health as well as ways to alleviate the heavy burden. We will review a few of his suggestions in the blog below
First and foremost, self care is important because professionals owe it to themselves and their families to have happy lives. There must be a a life outside the office or the hospital. One must live a life that includes family vacations, dining, massages, hobbies, or parties or whatever is most fulfilling in life. While the profession is important, it is only one aspect of one’s life.
This naturally leads to the need to find rest and respite from the draining work. For those who see death at the hospital, or for those who help the mentally drained, the weight can sometimes become over bearing for a true kind heart. One who shows empathy with the grieving, takes upon some of that stress and feels its impact. It is important to allow oneself to refresh and recharge from these things. On numerous occasions , caregivers can transfer the pain of others to one’s own family, where heartburn seems to be a heart attack, or a migraine may be seem to be a tumor. It is natural to feel the grief of others and attribute to possibly one’s own life. It is key to stay spiritual and thankful.
Finally, if one is to truly help others, then one must be mentally healthy. It is important sometimes to find a clear mind to avoid the pitfalls of just showing up. Sometimes, over worked professionals are not only as sharp as they should but it can also make them more callous to the needs of others. It can push caregivers away from the pain by acting like experts and only professional, preventing one from helping those who truly need aid and help.
Hence it is important to find joy in the little things. It is important to live one’s other side of life at home and with family. It is important to see the joy in life in whatever comes one’s way or what one loves to do. If it is going to a winery one day, or a retreat, or simply watching a favorite show, these things can help recharge and give excitement to life.
While performing tasks at work, it is important to also remember to work smart but not hard. Specific goals should be set for personal and professional development. Another way to work smarter, is to not multitask but deal with one thing at a time. Another helpful hint is to plan tomorrow’s projects at the end of the previous day. More hints include, protecting oneself from interruptions, take a break when it is needed and delegate tasks when possible. Support systems can play a key role in staying ahead and energized as well.
Wolfert lists a helpful Manifesto for bereavement caregivers. Here are a few key points.
One deserves to lead a whole and joyful life. One’s work does not define oneself. Oneself is not the only one who can help others. One must develop healthy eating, sleeping and exercising habits. Overinvolvement can lead to neglect of oneself. One must maintain certain boundaries when helping others. Oneself is not perfect and should not expect oneself to be. One must practice good time management. One must set limits to lessen stress. One must listen to one’s inner voice when fatigue is sensed. One must express one’s true self in work and play. Oneself is a spiritual being and has spiritual needs.
These ideals can help any healthcare professional, mental health or bereavement counselor better care for others. Those in charge of support groups, or those licensed in counseling, all need to realize that while their leadership and guidance is important, it is also important that their own health is monitored. One must remember, like in a plane, one is instructed in an emergency to put the air mask on oneself first, before putting it on another. The reason is simple. One cannot help others, if one is able and ready.
If you would like to learn more about AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification, then please review AIHCP’s site and programs. The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
Source: “The Understanding Your Grief Support Group Guide: Starting and Leading a Bereavement Support Group” by Alan Wolfert, PhD