Tag Archives: self care

That Fine Line

One of the “fine lines” I thought about the other day was the line between knowing when to protect and when to push the self.

When is it ok to say “I’ve had enough of this environment, I can leave now”, and when I should say “I’m starting to feel overstimulated, but I can stay a while longer”?

When is it ok to use my personality traits as a justifiable reason for why I won’t allow myself to do certain things, like attend a dinner gathering with ex-colleagues on a weekday night, or spend 4 hours helping out at a kids’ sports camp on a Saturday… And when am I being too soft with myself, overprotecting myself, using my personality as an excuse just because I don’t want to risk the side effects of being socially tired and stretched?

The comrade offered a sensible approach: Examine what are the factors that trigger each episode of overstimulation, reflect on it and think about what could have been done differently if the situation comes up again. And most importantly: DON’T FEEL GUILTY LISTENING TO YOURSELF. You owe it to yourself.

A few Sundays ago it was simply an overdose of social interaction (8am to 1pm!), and guilt about leaving the social setting when the volunteer meeting wasn’t over.

Faced with the same situation again, I’d probably tell whoever’s chairing the meeting that I have a commitment at a certain time, and I’d have to leave BY X:XXPM (Key word being “by”, so I can leave earlier if I have to).

Time and time again I am reminded that we can’t be of much help to others if we don’t take care of our state of being first, and one of the first steps in doing that is to listen to our body. When frazzled, on edge, and just feeling bombarded by everything (not forgetting PMS), how much use can we be? Take a step back, let the body get what it needs, and reenter the world, gently, one step at a time.

It will be ok.




“Don’t Steal My Dust!”

One of the inevitable side effects of teaching music in a classroom is that sometimes, the classroom instruments become more than that – they become weapons of childish acts of revenge, objects to tease with, objects which can be used to get attention.

After a particular trifle between 2 groups in which Boomwhackers were hurled through the air, I got them to stay back after class to Talk.

Long story short – after rounds of blame-pushing and fact-crosschecking, the culprits finally owned up to their actions and agreed to accept the consequences.

Still feeling angsty over their misbehaviour, I then curtly told them to make it quick and to make sure I can see how much dust they have each cleaned from the room. The 2 boys picked up the brooms and started sweeping earnestly. After a while, 2 small mounds of dust accumulated  on the floor. Boy1, after sweeping his mound into the dustpan, went over to Boy2’s mound and attempted to do the same. Boy2 became startled. “Hey!! Don’t steal my dust!!”

That he would be so protective over a mound of dust tickled me to no end.

Almost at once, I felt the irritation and angst over their earlier misbehavior dissipate, and I saw them for what they simply are: Young boys who are growing up. With hormones and all.

I allowed myself to crack a half-smile (even though I really wanted to burst into laughter), and told them there was lots more dust under the teacher’s table and under the stacks of chairs. It became almost like a game, with them trying to show me how much dust they could each collect.

I went back to the staffroom and shared the dusty story with a colleague, and we had a good laugh over it.

Self care for the day, done!

Self Care

A recent session with a newly referred lady, “Marge”, at the nursing home, left us feeling rather drained and tired by the end of the day. Not physically, considering all we did was sit in the garden and chat with her, but emotionally. Because all she did was tell us about how she has no one in the world, how she wanted to kill herself, how the only reason why she hasn’t done it yet is because she hasn’t found a foolproof way to do it. For 45 minutes to an hour.

Yet, in between her dismal rants, she sings “Over the Rainbow” in a beautiful quivering voice, she laughs at the birds who hop over to join us, and at the male nurses who have to help another female resident with her knitting.

Her words speak of pain and sorrow accumulated over the years, and carry an unmistakable cry for help. There is nothing we can do except to be there for her, with her. Which is what we did.

But, the fatigue we felt at the end of the session led us to question the aspect of self-care. The fact that we were glad that hers was the last session for the day, that we would not implicate another client/resident with the negativity we felt, shows how much it affected us.

Where does one draw the line between being there for a person and being emotionally implicated? Is it selfish to want to protect ourselves from the emotional baggage spilling out of the people we work so closely with? When our aim is to help them process their emotions and come to resolution? Can we do that without feeling the weight of their sorrow ourselves?

It’s times like these when I wish this placement was supervised instead of being independent. Thankfully there are always experienced people to turn to when we need them.