Yesterday I mentioned “shadow sides” to being a social worker. This isn’t just limited to social workers, this can include law enforcement, other helping professionals. There is actually a technical term for this-secondary trauma.
It is impossible to do this kind of work without being impacted in some way. These shadow sides are about that impact.
You can become cynical.
You can become self-righteous.
You can fear the world.
You can start to take on this trauma for yourself.
Over the past year, the intensity of the work I do has increased. I’ve noticed signs when I need to deal with secondary trauma. Overanalyzing, excessive cleaning, these are signs for me.
The work I do is meaningful. I have to work hard at preventing it from consuming my life though. On the surface, as a helping professional, taking care of myself seems a bit selfish. But I realize that I am useless to clients or people in my real world, if I don’t take care of myself.
I have a working list of strategies to help me. This is critical to helping me establish that boundary with my work world. When I haven’t established that boundary, it seeps into my real life. It prevents me from being the person I want to be.
Some of these tools may seem odd, such as chewing mint gum (has to be mint), and some seem to make sense, like running. I had a revelation after a training class about a month ago. A revelation about why running is such a powerful tool for me. Naturally, exercise reduces stress. But I realized something else about it. The sound of running is healing. No, not my heaving breaths. It’s the sound of my feet on the pavement or trail.
I run without headphones. That could probably be another post about rogue bike riders.
At the training class, we were discussing how rhythmic drumming actually helps the brain cope with trauma (emotional trauma). Rock music is also on my list of strategies, preferably Van Halen…Sammy Hagar Van Halen. On my next run after that training class, I noticed the sound of my feet on the pavement and it clicked. And going for a long run, over an hour of listening to that rhythmic drumming on the path, is good therapy.
Most folks don’t work in a helping profession, but it is still important to take care of ourselves. Renewing the spirit is necessary. It brings us closer to the person we want to be.
This post is part of my series:
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