Self-Care Tips for Mental Health Support Workers
It’s easy to overlook your own wellbeing when your job is to empower others, but self-care is vital to providing the best possible support. After all, you cannot serve from an empty vessel.
Here are some tips for recharging your batteries and performing at your peak as an NDIS worker.
Meditation has long been used to manage stress, foster mindfulness, and increase patience – important benefits for a long and happy career regardless of the industry.
It may sound a bit ‘out there’ to the uninitiated, but the effects of this practice on emotional and physical health are very real. A plethora of scientific studies have confirmed its ability to enhance mood, mitigate anxiety, and even build kindness and compassion.
Meditation can be done just about anywhere. Simply sit or lie in a comfortable position and concentrate on your breath as it flows in and out. The key is to focus on the present. It’s okay if you find your mind wandering to past or future concerns (in fact, it’s inevitable), just be sure to steer your attention back to your breath when you recognise it happening. Once you’ve reached five or ten minutes, take stock of how your environment and the sensations within your body as you resume your day.
Listen to Relaxing Music
As anyone who enjoys a good boogie can attest, music has a powerful ability to impact our mental state. It can provide an uplifting boost at the gym, and it’s equally effective when it comes to winding down.
Researchers at Stanford University articulated this when they said: “…listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication”.
The University of Nevada came to a similar conclusion. Discussing the interaction between slower songs and tranquillity, they claimed: “Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronise with the beat causing alpha brainwaves (frequencies from 8 – 14 hertz or cycles per second). This alpha brainwave is what is present when we are relaxed and conscious.”
So what music is the most soothing? Light jazz combined with rain or nature sounds is a winner, as are Native American, Celtic, and Indian melodies. The most important thing is that you enjoy it. Music that you find irritating will be just that.
Take Care of Your Diet
It’s no secret that diet plays a critical role in your overall wellbeing. Eating healthy foods not only fuels your body with the nutrients it needs to seize the day, it also directly promotes concentration, memory, optimism, and positive self-image.
Many of these benefits may actually originate from the gut. Though some questions still remain about the exact mechanism by which it operates, we do know that a nourished gut microbiome is able to effectively regulate the production of feel good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. In fact, it’s thought that as much as 90% of serotonin is produced by this system.
Of course, there are negative consequences that come with hyper-fixating on nutrition. For this reason, many choose to adopt the 80:20 approach – eating healthily 80% of the time while indulging in tasty, yet admittedly less healthy food 20% of the time.
Spend Time With Your Pet
Cuddling up to a furry friend is a great way to unwind after a long day. They may require their share of care and attention, but the companionship and unconditional love they provide in return is invaluable.
On discussing the power of pets, The US National Institutes of Health stated: “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood”.
Dogs can be particularly beneficial because they encourage owners to take regular walks. Research has shown that dog owners more likely report regular physical activity patterns, a healthy diet and ideal blood sugar levels compared to those who do not own dogs.
Get Out in Nature
Born in the high-stress environment of 1980s Japan, Shinrin-yoku (or ‘forest bathing’) has been widely adopted throughout Asia, Europe, the United States, and most recently, Australia, for its therapeutic effect on the mind and body.
It involves immersing yourself in nature and soaking in all of its abundant beauty. No actual water is required, though a quietly flowing stream or cascading waterfall certainly doesn’t hurt.
Beginners should aim to find a place that’s pleasant, easy to traverse, and close to home. Be aware of your surroundings and your senses as you walk unhurried along the path. It’s important to take your time as you observe all the motions and sounds around you. If you begin to feel distracted or worried, come to a complete halt and reset. Let all the little intricacies of the environment make an impression upon your mind as you navigate the trail. Simple, right?
Make Time for Yourself
Just because your job is to help others doesn’t mean you should neglect your own interests. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Allowing time to pursue hobbies outside of your career helps you feel even more fulfilled, while presenting a vital opportunity to make new friends. Whether it’s sport, cooking, art, music, fishing, yoga, or travelling, these activities equip you with skills that can serve you well in other facets of life.
Remember, you don’t have to be flawless on your first attempt, and it’s perfectly fine to ditch what isn’t working for something new.
Don’t be Afraid to Reach Out to Others
Even the most rock-solid of support workers are human too. If you find yourself struggling with any aspect of life, be sure to reach out to a friend, family member, colleague, or mental health professional for an open and honest conversation.
Interested in Becoming an NDIS Support Worker?
We’re always on the lookout for compassionate and dedicated people to join our team of support workers. If you’re interested in a highly rewarding career at Urzi Psychology, find out more and apply via our website.
Looking For a Caring NDIS Support Worker?
Unlike many practices, Urzi Psychology is capable of connecting NDIS participants with a support worker with next to no wait time.
Our team of personable and caring staff are backed by a 24/7 clinical supervision network, who provide guidance and assistance for working with those of more complex needs. Participants get the benefit of not just the support worker, but also the clinical professionals behind the worker.
This collaborative approach helps our clients function more effectively in their everyday lives. By offering support services based on their unique values, characteristics, and circumstances, we deliver the results they want.