Put your own life jacket on first: why taking care of yourself first is not selfish
By Mike James | 17th March 2021 | General, Advice
If you were to cut the typical therapist in half, you’d soon see that their DNA is riddled with compassion, sincerity, empathy, and an inherent desire to help.
We are the givers of not only of our knowledge, expertise, and experience, but also of our time, emotions, and energy.
As we do this, we advocate to our patients to take good care of themselves, not only physically in order to aid rehabilitation and recovery, but to also consider the psychosocial aspects of their injury, pain, and general wellbeing.
But we have a dirty little secret that we don’t often like to admit or accept….
Some of us aren’t particularly good at practising what we preach. There are of course therapists that are exceptionally good at doing this. However I’m sure most of us, myself included, would confess to occasionally letting work, caseloads, running a department or business, CPD, and a host of the other daily responsibilities push taking care of ourselves, both with regards our physical and mental health and wellbeing into the background.
In our service to others, self can often be the sacrifice. Now some of you may think of this as a touch dramatic, and I hope more do than don’t, because that probably means that you are less affected by this than others. So please keep doing whatever it is that you do to stay on top of things and finding that balance we all strive for and deserve.
The global pandemic hasn’t created new issues, they’ve been there a long time, however they may have been exacerbated for many as the amplitude of the stressors and stress of life and work have been increased in the current climate.
Some read books, exercise, meditate, meet friends, dance, listen to music, start a hobby for example, whilst for others, its actually NOT doing things that help, time off social media is a classic example.
This blogs remit isn’t to offer or even signpost you to the specifics of what you should do, when you should do it or who you should seek support and help from.
We wholeheartedly understand and agree that just like rehabilitation and treatment for patients, then it’s an individual and bespoke process that will differ from therapist to therapist.
In fact, it may even differ for the same individual at different times in our lives and careers.
Both here at Sports Injury Fix and personally, we and I have seen and chatted with more and more therapists who have emptied their cups yet continue to try and pour from those same cups.
The concept of self-preservation is something I think is often misunderstood. It is not a selfish act to look after yourself first, it is not something that is detrimental to your patients to take time to prioritise your own wellbeing before theirs. It is in fact quite the opposite, it's fundamentally important that you do it in order to help your patients to the best of your ability.
There is a specific and necessary reason that we are instructed to put our own life jackets and / or oxygen masks first. As a dad then it goes against all my natural instincts to think that I would do this before helping my sons, but I get why I can’t help them in the way I want to unless I take care of myself first.
Its difficult and challenging to make the change to do this, especially when people are needing your help. Imagine how tough that choice would be if you added the pressure of your kids screaming for your help as you put yours on!?.
It’s extremely difficult and testing and that’s why you cannot force people to start doing this.
You can simply raise awareness, offer any support as required, and that is the simple aim of this blog.
Not only do we promote this self-preservation and vigilance whilst we continue to navigate the pandemic, but as the COVID clouds lift, then please do keep it at the forefront of your thoughts.
The world, our industry and our patients have never been more accepting of change, so maybe it’s the opportunity you need to review and possibly revise the areas in your life that can make the difference.
We live in difficult and challenging times with much ongoing uncertainty. However, you can rely and be certain on the benefits of taking care of yourself, as well as those who are counting on you.
You matter, so take care of yourself.
If you would like to learn more about self care for therapists then why not attend our Wellbeing Workshop held over three Thursday evenings in April. Book your ticket here.