A Day of Reflection
Author: Diane Magill
Today has been a day of reflection for me, as like many of you I attended the memorial service to say goodbye to Erwin Beier. As I sat through the service I found myself thinking about the many memories I have of working with Erwin, the way he greeted me each time I saw him, the way he responded to others, some of the very funny things he had said over the years, the way he liked to tease and his beautiful smile, sparkling eyes and gentle approach. I also couldn't help but reflect on so many of the individuals and staff I have worked with over the years that have also passed and all of the wonderful memories I hold so dearly of each and every one of them. Although it is very sad to think about these people being gone, it is these memories that I cherish and that brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.
I also took some time today to reflect on how change and loss such as these impact us as staff and what we can do for ourselves. As someone working in a human service field we often are so busy taking care of others we forget to take care of ourselves. It is very important that we do something to care for ourselves each and every day even if it is small. As Human Service workers we need to have what we call resiliency. Resiliency means coping well with problems, stress, and other difficult situations. Problems and stress are a normal part of life and also a normal part of our work. Situations like accidents or illness, unexpected life changes, and conflict happen to everyone.
Resiliency is what helps you look at the situation realistically, take action when you can make changes, let go of things you can't change, and recognize the helpful supports in your life. Your resiliency toolkit might include skills like problem-solving, assertiveness, balancing obligations and expectations, and developing support networks.
Each of us likely already has many of these skills in our own tool kits and all we need to do is reflect and build on them. Set aside time to think about the resiliency tools you already have. This might include skills like structured problem-solving or people who can help you during difficult situations. Remember to include strategies that have worked for you in the past. Keep your list on hand and use it as a reminder when you need help. It's also a good way to see where you might want to build new skills or supports.
Aside from building our resiliency skills we also need to take care of ourselves in other ways. Make time just to be with important people in your life. Make time for simply having fun and enjoying each other's company, and time for serious conversations.
Reflect on your own emotions and build your skills to manage them. Find out what makes you happy, sad, joyful or frustrated. What calms you down? Learn ways to deal with your moods. Share joyful news with a friend, and find support when you feel sad. Physical exercise can help you deal with your frustrations or anxiety. Keep a stack of your favorite funny cartoons, stories, or videos for times when you need to laugh. And don't forget the power of music to lift you up or calm you down.
Set aside quiet, quality time to be totally alone. Try a breathing exercise: count your breaths from one to four, and then start at one again. Or do something you love to do, like dancing, going to a baseball game, building a bird house, going for a hike, or whatever works for you!
I am sure each of us, if we take time to reflect and think about it, can find those things that help us to take care of ourselves, now make sure you take time to engage in them. I know I will end today thinking about Erwin and others who hold a special place in my heart and although these memories might bring some tears they will also remind me of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to have all of these people as part of my life. I know I will also reflect on how I am taking care of myself and hope that all of you will be doing the same.