Client Care Promotes Staff Wellness
Staff wellness may seem unrelated to providing quality care for the people we support, but there is an integral linkage. The main concept for us as an agency—and as individuals—is to promote wellness widely; this, of course, includes ourselves. This is an unending process that involves fits and starts.
The main way to do this is a life-long and ceaseless development of empathy. Life includes suffering, but that needn’t be the whole of it. Thus, we take up this task of being healers. We’ve chosen one of the most vulnerable populations to serve. They can be challenging, not just emotionally, but as we know, there can be a physical threat as well.
How can we improve our self-care?
Self-care is an individualized process that has commonalities across the board. There are many ways to conceptualize it, but here’s my way:
1. Physical Health
A regular self-check about how you’re doing physically. What can you do to improve important health areas like fatigue, diet, sleep, or exercise?
2. Mental Health
How you’re doing regarding anxiety, mood, socialization, and emotional management.
3. Your Relationship to the Work We Do
What we do can be very stressful, but it needn’t be. I will expand on this below.
Coping with our work
This is a good thing to consciously do regardless of the type of work you do. It is especially important when you’re caring for others who have many hardships, and this is true for our work. The clients we serve, as you know, are often born with difficulties in understanding, managing, and manipulating the world around them. If that were not enough, they experience abuse and other traumas at a higher rate than the average person. Further still, they experience discrimination and microaggressions based on their disability. As such, it is important for us to explore our biases relative to the population we serve at InVision. It may be uncomfortable, but it will improve your ability to work with others and lower stress.
It is vital that we examine ourselves thoroughly. This assists our overall wellness and our work with the people we support. As noted above, this includes examining our preconceived notions about people with intellectual disability, and it should include an inspection of our beliefs about gender, sexuality, race, national origin, age, economic status, and any other differentiating factors.
Some of these areas can be controversial; however, we are to treat the people we support with respect. So, we need to address our biases through reflection and exploration outside of work. The people we support may also have rarer identities—ones that we may not accept or like—and this could include political affiliation; religious or spiritual identity; how the person we support perceives or speaks about a particular group of people; the person’s favorite sports team; etc. Just about anything could trigger a negative reaction.
To best serve our clients, we must work through this material. In doing so, we’ll also improve ourselves and reduce our stress. At times, we may need to agree to disagree while keeping an open mind to the possibility of personal change. This is something we ask the people we support to do. To do this, we often need support, whether it be a friend, supervisor, coworker, clergy member, relative, or all of the above.
It can be difficult, embarrassing, or even scary to share your views and feelings with another person, but this is how we grow. Despite hearing phrasing like “boys don’t cry” or “don’t show weakness,” we must work to dismantle these traditional and outdated ideas. I believe that sharing your feelings is a courageous act and hiding them can be indicative of fear. It is important to remember that whether we speak them or not, people can often tell how we are feeling. In these fundamental ways, we are all the same, which is especially important to remember when working with the people we support. When it gets down to it, our differences are superficial. Therefore, connecting with others, especially when they seem so very different from us, heals and enriches both parties.