SECRETS OF A SOCIAL WORKER

Find peace. Find happiness. Find yourself.

Tag: emotions

Finding Peace Through Pain

The entire concept and culture around emotional pain completely fascinates me. We hurt a lot as humans; it’s a part of our growth and resiliency while we venture through life. And most of the pain we deal with day to day is our thoughts. What is fascinating to me is that we choose to let pain burden us, and because of that we experience things like confusion, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fear, anxiety, anger, rejection, humiliation, perceived failure, mood swings, guilt, shame, and self-blame (to name a few)…And to add to this long list, pain causes us to mentally rewind time, replay situations, ruminate,  and wish for different outcomes. AKA-we are constantly and subjectively experiencing mental suffering. And do you know the worst part is? It’s addicting…

It’s easy for our minds to focus on and discuss the negative; what isn’t going well, what hurts, what upsets us, what we don’t like. Our minds are hardwired to have a stronger focus on and easier pull towards pain rather than happiness and optimism. It’s engrained into our cultures and entangled  in our every day life to focus on negativity…It’s contagious to experience pain because it helps us relate to others and gives us something to talk about.  We are motivated by pain and negativity, and we gravitate towards focusing on others’ pain and negativity more so than what is going well in their lives.

I am constantly being asked how I manage pain from my personal life experiences as well as the secondary trauma I acquire from helping those that have endured horrific pain. I did not realize how much pain could gradually seep into my life until working in a career filled with it. That being said, I have come to live by a few very important rules regarding pain and how I ensure it doesn’t control me…

  • First and foremost – every painful, broken piece of us doesn’t need to be analyzed, collected, or remembered… Some pieces need to stay lost because they don’t belong to us, they happened to us. Let the pieces go. Move forward, and do not hold onto these things. Do not claim the pain, just understand that it was an experience. And as hard as it is, do not tie emotion to it. It just is, and let it be just that.
  • Change your beliefs about the pain. We cannot experience love, humility, positivity without an understanding of gratitude. And without any pain, we would fail to see how great life can truly be. How can you look at the painful experience as a learning curve, or a helpful step in the right direction? What positives can come out of this pain? How can you change the belief about the purpose of the pain to help it motivate you?
  • Do not run away from pain, allow yourself to feel everything. Be present with your feelings, allow whatever it is that wants to come up to do so. Do not be embarrassed; purge the emotion. This is how we move forward, otherwise we stuff things deep inside to be dealt with later, on top of all the other pain we try to avoid. Embrace what you need to feel; it helps to understand and accept the pain… A very good tool for this is meditation.
  • Slow down. We cannot allow ourselves to feel if we are constantly going at a pace of 100 miles an hour. Give yourself time to breathe, and figure out how to move forward with these painful experiences. I am guilty of purposefully going 100 miles an hour so I do not have time to ruminate on pain… It’s how I distract myself, and it is not healthy. Take time to be with yourself, and work through the pain before it gets stuffed deep down to come up later. And trust me, it will come up later.
  • When you are right in the muck of your pain, ask yourself if there’s any piece of this that you can control. If the answer is no, you cannot control or change anything about this, then learn to let it go after you process through it. *Meditation is super helpful here also*. We cannot hold onto pain that serves us no purpose. If we can’t make any positive changes, and if the situation is not in our control, we must move on and move forward.  What other option do we really have?
  • And lastly – how can you make your pain a part of you? Always remind yourself to use pain to your advantage. Remind yourself that pain makes you who you are, and it has helped to develop you into your current self…Your soulful, resilient self. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?


You are never more than one thought away from peace~

-keep shining

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To Feel It All Is To Be Alive

We are supposed to feel…
Emotions are meant to awaken us.

We are supposed to
love
and hate
and cry
and laugh.

That’s the point.
To feel it all is to be human.

We are supposed to be destroyed.
Pick up the pieces over and over again.

Don’t avoid it,
don’t remove it.

Accept the pain when you’re broken.
Know that you’re going to make mistakes.

We grieve,
we get angry.

But it’s only then that we recognize how good life can be when it’s really good.

To feel it all is be to alive. 

 

-keep shining

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The Gift Of Giving…To Yourself.

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I’ll be honest, the this time of year is really difficult for me. Along with all the parts I look forward to around the holidays such as gift-giving, parties, paid time off, traditions with family, and Christmas treats also comes a caseload of clients that doubles in size overnight. Every year I tell myself I will be stronger, I tell myself that it will get better, and remind myself that I can’t save the world; I can’t bring the world home with me for Christmas. But, every year I still break down and cry…A lot.
The holidays are usually a time that I reflect on the clients I have had the privilege to work with over the years. I recall their stories, and I remember that many of them do not have the opportunity to receive or give gifts, to go to parties, to take off work, to spend time with family, or to have a warm meal to eat….
I have mourned with kids in psychiatric facilities whose family did not visit them over Christmas. I have been a shoulder to cry on for a man who had no one to spend the holidays with, and was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. I have tried to find the silver lining for the girl who told me that she has never opened a Christmas gift in her life. And I continuously work with individuals whose behaviors escalate around the holidays due to the trauma they’ve endured, and then watching as those around them lose empathy because they do not understand it.
I can’t keep up with the demands of the job because I cannot make people’s pain disappear, and the holidays alway remind me of that. It’s hard for me to look forward to time with my own family when I spend the days leading up to the holidays in constant crisis mode with my clients who have been sexually assaulted, physically and emotionally abused, and have nowhere to go. I struggle to leave work at work and take a break because I know someone might need me, and I can’t be there for them…This is called secondary trauma, or compassion fatigue, if you will, and it can affect any one of us at any given time. We take on our clients’ problems and stress, we let their stories affect our personal lives,  we develop our own triggers, we become hyper-vigilant, and ultimately we burn out. That’s why people who work in the helping profession often have a high turnover rate…we give too much of ourselves.
I always ask myself whyWhy do I get to look forward to the holidays when it brings so much pain to some people? I get mad that the world isn’t fair and get discouraged because there is nothing I can do to change that. At the end of the day,  I always remind myself that I have done my best, but sometimes telling myself that isn’t enough to make the pain and frustrations dissipate. It isn’t enough to ‘leave it at the door’ when I get home because I am still empathizing with those less fortunate than myself. If I only had a nickel for every time someone asked me how I take care of myself with such an intense job, I think I’d have enough money to buy every client plenty of gifts to go around! That being said, the way I get by each holiday and stay sane is to take care of myself and keep my compassion fatigue in check. Regardless of your field of world and how stressful or enjoyable your job may be, we all need to take care of ourselves and be sure we put ourselves first sometimes.
Here are some quick and easy ways I do that:

1. Check In…. I check in with myself every day; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I tune into how tense I am, what is causing me stress and/or joy, how tired I am, what I am thinking about, etc… Just check in and take a pause. Know where you are at and be mindful of yourself, first and foremost. This can take no more than 5 minutes, but it ensures that each day you don’t forget about yourself and become mindful of how you feel. This helps me approach each day more thoughtfully and think about myself throughout the day, which is easy for me to forget to do.
Click here for another perspective on checking in.

2. Be Kind… Not only to others, but to yourself. Be easy on yourself. Know that you are working hard. We get ridiculed enough in this society as it is, the least you can do is be nice to yourself and give yourself a compliment now and again. You  can always find something positive to say about yourself, and make it a daily habit. It’s easier to be kind on the outside when we are first kind on the inside. And I find myself more kind to others when I am first kind to myself. By being more kind to myself, I have actually found that mean/rude people don’t bother me as much; I am nice to people even when they aren’t nice to me. And sometimes that is just what they need because clearly they’re having a worse day than I am.

3. Focus on what is in your control… As you could have guessed, I can’t bring all of my past and current clients home with me for the holidays. Clearly, that is out of my control. I need to remind myself of the actions I have taken to try and produce the best outcome, but the outcome itself isn’t something I can predict. The holidays may bring extra frustrations or unpredictability, but it does no good to be upset over something I cannot do anything about.
When things arise that cause anxiety and frustration, just check in and ask yourself what about that situation you’re able to change, do it, and leave the rest behind.

4. Take Breaks… Let me spell it out for you, PTO…P-A-I-D   T-I-M-E   O-F-F. I know it’s hard to imagine, but the world will still revolve in your absence. People will get by if you’re not there. You earned time off, take it. We all need breaks. If we don’t take breaks we are burning ourselves out and that only affects the people around us, and the clients we are trying to serve. We cannot be our best selves in the work place if we are not taking breaks. Life is more than just working all the time. Try to rid yourself of the guilt because if you aren’t your best self for you, you sure as heck can’t be for anyone else. Breaks help give us some clarity and relief. Enjoy that vacation in Hawaii!

5. Cry… I hate crying. I hate it. And I do not do if often, so when I do I know that it’s needed. And every time I break down I feel better. We have emotions, people! We always get mad and embarrassed with ourselves for feeling the way we feel rather than just accepting it and letting it flow. You can’t control your emotions, but you can control how you react to them.
We have to get our feelings out and be honest with ourselves. Not only does it feel better and help us come to terms with things, but it brings a sense of relief. And it ensures you that you won’t go and unexpectedly word vomit your emotions onto someone else.
Click here to read another one of my blogs on this topic.

6. Decide what self care means to you…. In my trainings, when I ask people what self care means to them, often they say things like taking a bath, going on vacation, getting their nails done, going hunting, etc.. But self care is SO much more than that. Really ask yourself what self care means to you, it’s more than just this surface-level stuff. Dig deeper, there’s always more we can be doing for ourselves to ensure our happiness and health is where it needs to be. My self care absolutely includes vacations, getting my nails done, playing basketball, etc.. But it also includes all of the helpful tips above plus many more.
One of my favorite self care exercises is what I simply refer to as happy thoughts. Sometimes it is easy to let negativity sink in without even recognizing it. It’s these times when we don’t give ourselves enough credit and say something hurtful about our character or our physical appearance. So, when that happens I practice what it referred to as ‘thought stopping’ in the social work world, and replace those icky thoughts with one of my handy dandy happy thoughts I keep stored away.

We all have tough days, and we need to be easier on ourselves in order to get through them. A little gratitude, kindness, and self love can go a long way.

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete ~

-keep shining

For additional holiday blog posts, click here and keep scrolling.

Happy Things Thursday

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1. Random smiles from strangers.

2. Adopting a pet.

3. Coming home to a package on your doorstep you forgot you ordered.

4. The smell of Subway.

5. Finding gift cards you forgot you had stashed away.

6. Dog kisses.

7. Refurbishing old furniture.

8. The tummy tickling feeling in your gut when driving down a steep hill.

9. Good hair days.

10. Getting your rental deposit money back after moving out of a rental property.

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-keep shining

Relationships with a Capital R

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There are very few things in life that are more important than relationships. That is because relationships are the basis of our lives. They help define who we are, make us whole, and are the most crucial way in which we function as a society. Relationships are how we learn about ourselves and those around us. Without them, we are missing out on a major part of our ongoing development. And, honestly, relationships just make us happy. They reassure us of who we are and motivate us to become better people.

Below are some ‘Relationship Rules’, as I like to call them, that I want to share with you.

<3 Loyalty and Respect are not updates to a relationship, they are a requirement to a relationship
 YES! Write this one down, people!
As I am sure most of us do, I often get frustrated with myself when I recall the unfortunate things I put up with in my former relationships- whether boyfriends, friends, coworkers, etc.. However, if it weren’t for those unhealthy happenings in my relationships I would have never learned to speak up for myself the way I do now. I would not nearly be as confident in or as happy with the person I am today if it weren’t for a lot of what I experienced in my former relationships. We can all look back and find things we learned from those who we allowed to treat us poorly, no matter how unfortunate or icky those memories may be. But, that is why Loyalty and Respect are a must in every relationship you encounter and find value in. These two traits are invaluable and will get you very far in life.  I cannot express enough on the importance of Loyalty and Respect. If you have these two things in your relationships, you are on a happy and healthy track. And if we are loyal and respectful, others will gravitate towards us and be much more likely to display the same in return.

<3 Far too many people are looking for the right person instead of being the right person
 On our wedding day, my husband and I had a reading in our ceremony that we fell in love with. The last line of it states, “it is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner”. I will never forget that line. It is a good reminder to let our guards down in order to love those around us, and look in the mirror rather than point fingers. We all want so badly to be understood, but we forget to be understandingBeing the right person helps to hold ourselves accountable in our relationships. We can only expect from our partner what we are providing in return. It is equal give and take that makes the world go ’round!

<3 Tell people how you feel
Feelings are gooooooood! And men, even better when you can express your feelings confidently (aka- it is okay to cry!). We are all entitled to our own feelings, express them! It feels so good to not build everything up inside. Your feelings matter and may make a huge difference in your or someone else’s life if you learn to express them. It is so good to practice being honest with ourselves and others. We feel a certain way for a reason, own it. Be open to exploring why you feel a certain way to help learn more about yourself. The more we understand our reactions, triggers, and emotions, the happier and more knowledgable we become, and the more relief we feel by expressing ourselves. It also helps to understand the emotions and reactions of others around us.  Not to mention we will be more satisfied and comfortable in our relationships.

<3 Be prepared for disappointment
My mother always told me that everyone in my life will disappoint me at some time or another, and I have remembered this throughout the years. It helps to prepare me for the moments when people do disappoint me in my life. No matter how close we think we are in some relationships, people will always hurt and disappoint us. And there will be times where we will hurt and disappoint others, too. No one is perfect and people make mistakes. The mistakes that are made is what can be hurtful at times, and it is up to us to decide whether the disappointment is worth mending in that relationship, or moving on with our lives. Some friendships are in our lives for a short time and are not meant to last forever, and that is okay. However, it is also up to us to forgive those who have disappointed us to help us practice humility and acceptance of others.
The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.  Bob Marley

<3 What people think of you is none of your business
Oh how accurate this is! Nothing is more stressful, hurtful, or frustrating than hearing the negative things people have said about us. But honestly, what is the point of caring? You know who you are, that is what matters. Any why put ourselves through the hurt of having to know what people have said about us? Other people’s opinions and statements are not our business, even if they are about us. People are all entitled to their thoughts and opinions. And you know what? There is nothing we can do about that. Let’s all try to focus more on the areas of life we can control rather than worrying about others’ thoughts and opinions, which we will never be able to manipulate.

<3 You don’t need 2 million friends
It seems to me that the older people get, the more they value having just a few really close friends. Having a ton of friends is exhausting, and it takes a lot of time! Personally, I enjoy having a small friend circle as I can better focus on the relationships that mean the most to me. I can spend more time with those who are equally invested in my friendship as I am in theirs. These are the people that are less apt to hurt us and more able to be trusted. I find so much more value in my friendships as my circle gets smaller, and I am so grateful for that.

And when it comes to relationships, actions speak louder than words, people!

-keep shining

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