By Lou Lacey
Health care and emotional wellness can seem like contradictory terms.
In health care, we aim for perfection. After all, when we are less than perfect, the results can be disastrous. The problem is, of course, that we are human beings, not robots, and we don’t always make it to that high mark. And then, rightly so, we try to find the cause of the misstep.
Often, the patients and families we work with don’t have words of appreciation for our efforts. Many are in crisis, and they don’t have the ability to express gratitude. Lost somewhere in the process is the celebration of all that goes so beautifully right. We lose sight of all the patients we have touched, changed, and saved along the way. And that can lead to “compassion fatigue.” The trick, then, is to find a way to stay connected to knowing that all our hard work makes the world a better place. This is “compassion satisfaction.” So, here are some thoughts about how to maintain that certainty:
- Keep a mental inventory of your successes. Better yet, write them down so you can read and remember them when fatigue hits; the connections you have made with your patients, the stories that have meant so much to you.
- Most of us have a deep need to connect with others and to talk about the matters of our hearts. Find someone you can vent to who will simply listen to you; someone who doesn’t try to fix your “problem” or judge your reactions. Rather, they are just present in the face of your worries.
- Self-care looks different for everyone. What helps me does not necessarily make you feel better. It’s not all bubble-baths and manicures. And don’t forget that the fix is sometimes easy. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you hungry? I don’t know about you, but when I haven’t taken care of those things, the day can look dark. Know in advance what you need in your toolbox for self-care before you hit the crisis point. When you are feeling burned out is not the time to figure out what works for you.
- Know this: you have chosen to live your life dedicated to the health and healing of others. You are smart enough and ambitious enough that you could have chosen any number of career paths, but you have committed yourself to a cause that is larger than yourself. And that is a spectacular thing.
- So be proud. Be so very proud of yourself.
Lou Lacey, LPC serves as the Emotional Wellness Director at Children’s of Alabama.