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Guest Blogger: Holly J. Bean, LCPC, CRC, CTRS

Topic: Practicing Self-Compassion

Recreation Therapist seem to innately know how to care for others.  This intrinsic ability is easy to tap into when working with a client.  The reward of seeing a client burst into a smile when meeting a recreation challenge that previously had been out of their reach due to their injury or disability.  The feeling of joy when a client has the ability to be included in a program or activity that they may have been excluded from fills most of us with the drive to keep going.

Working with people and wanting to do our best to provide the best service does have its toll.  Burnout happens to the best of us.  How we care for ourselves is just as important as caring for others.  However, this concept is easier said than done for most of us.

To prevent burnout, a Recreation Therapist has to find that fine line of balance.  All the skills we teach to clients, we must utilize in our own life.  It is the adage:  we must walk the talk.
Self-compassion can be learned. By taking simple steps, we can learn how to care for our own needs, which may feel selfish at first, but ultimately allows us to renew so that we can give to others without resentment.

A first step may be to look at your schedule and see where small changes can take place.  Finding where can you take a pause and just breathe is a great start.  Deep breathing has the ability to help us de-stress.  Deep breathing is differentiated from shallow breathing by imaging your belly rising and falling with each breathe.

Some may find saying ‘no’ difficult.  This inability fills up our schedule quickly and allows for limited free time.  We know that leisure is all about free time, yet we forget to give it to ourselves. If saying no to additional responsibilities is not in your vocabulary, you can start slowly.  When a person, either supervisor, colleague, friend, or family asks something of you, take a minute to notice how your body feels.  Your body will never lie to you, it tells you exactly how you are feeling.  Our minds try to rationalize, yet may not have your best interest in mind.  (pun intended!) If there is any unease in your body, be prepared to answer with, “I am not sure, can I get back to you?”  This buys you time to truly understand if you can meet the needs of those that are asking without risking your own health.  Once you understand how you feel you can go back and provide a genuine answer.

Self-compassion is all about the little things we can give to ourselves; a deep breathe, a walk, enjoying silence, a warm bath, a massage, healthy food, enough sleep, and using positive psychology on ourselves – it is a much needed practice!

I leave you with one of favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It is posted in my bathroom so that I can read it daily.  “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Holly teaches Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.  She utilizes the Wellness Model that understands all aspects of our lives are interdependent and working conjuction for our mental health.