You know it is important work. Fighting for everyone to have equal opportunities isn’t something you can take a day off from. But, you are feeling tired, bitter, and have considerably less patience than normal. You my friend, are lacking self-care. Even strong, feisty advocates like you need to stop and take a break. Without rest, you will be significantly less effective. Not convinced? Keep reading to find out why self-care for advocates is so very important.
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What is Self-Care?
Self-care is all the things you do for yourself that make you feel good. It can be anything from taking a hot bath to watching your favorite movie, but it needs to fit two criteria: it should bring some joy and/or comfort when done, and if someone else did it for you, you would likely say “that was nice of you!”
It doesn’t always have to be the frilly, fluffy things that come to mind, like a spa day or a massage. Self-care can simply be eating well and sleeping enough.
It means caring for your physical and emotional health so that you can continue to care for others.
8 Reasons Why Self-Care for Advocates is so Important
1. Self-care is crucial for anyone who deals with trauma.
Trauma can come in many forms. Whether you have experienced physical, mental, emotional or even secondary trauma, it is crucial that after the episode passes you do something to help signal to your brain that the event is over and you are now safe.
For example: You witness a heated fight between clients that leaves you feeling anxious- go for a walk around the block by yourself. Fresh air and some time to cool down will help you process the event better than if you had stayed in the same room mulling over what just happened. Getting your body moving helps release stress and signal to your brain that you are OK.
However, in moments where your brain has been triggered by a traumatic incident, it is hard to think of ways to calm down. It’s important to have a pre-made safety plan to help guide you to a calmer place. You can get our Safety Plans/Self-Care for Advocates workbook with free templates to help you make one here:
Self-care helps to build up your emotional resources.
When you are constantly doing things for others, it can be hard to remember to check in with yourself and see what your needs are. Your mind gets so focused on the outer world – everyone else’s problems- that you stop noticing your own needs.
Self-care replenishes some of those emotional resources to put you in a more balanced state so that you can continue to focus on helping others.
Picking a few hours, or even just 30 minutes, in your day for you will help you stay balanced.
Self-care can help you make healthier decisions in the future.
When you are in the middle of a busy, stressful time – your brain is not at its best, it is overwhelmed by stress hormones. This is why you literally can’t think straight or make good decisions when you are under intense levels of stress.
Taking some time to do something that makes you feel happy and relaxed will give your brain the break it needs to come back refreshed.
Taking a break will also help you be more present with your clients, or family, and their needs.
Everyone deserves an advocate that is ready to fully serve them! That is why self-care for advocates is so, very important.
Doing something for yourself isn’t selfish. It’s a necessary part of your role.
You have to be in good mental and physical health to be a good advocate.
A healthy advocate is one who can think clearly, make good decisions and look critically at each situation. Again, if your brain is overwhelmed by stress, you can’t do that.
You have to be well to help others. Any empty person cannot give.
Taking care of yourself means nourishing your body with proper food, hydration, and enough exercise to keep you strong and energized. It also includes finding a way to deal with stress when it does arise.
You’ll be more productive after caring for yourself.
If you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or even resentful about the work you do- your productivity is going to suffer. It can be extremely hard to focus on other people’s needs when all you want to do is curl up in bed with a cup of tea.
Self-care means being kind to yourself first so that once again -you have the energy to focus on the needs of others.
Taking a break will help you avoid burnout and depression.
When you are in the thick of it, fighting for everyone to be treated fairly and equally can feel like an endless battle.
If your brain is constantly under stress, you are less effective. Chronic stress literally changes your brain and can lead to problems with your physical and mental health, causing depression, anxiety, or even full-blown burnout, eschewing your view of yourself, your work, and the world around you.
If you can’t see clearly, you definitely won’t see the progress and impact your work is making.
Taking care of yourself first will put you in a better position to see what is possible and know that progress IS being made, even if it isn’t the monumental leaps and bounds you’d hoped for.
Without taking breaks, your work can become more harmful than helpful because, without rest, you are not considering all options or looking for new solutions. You are stuck. If you are stuck, you can’t expect yourself to help anyone else get unstuck.
It is important for advocates to take care of themselves and those who may depend on them.
You can’t pour from an empty cup so take care of your own needs first! Taking care of yourself as an advocate won’t slow down your momentum – it’ll increase it exponentially because now you are working from a place of rest, rejuvenation and clarity.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish – it’s smart! Selfish would be ignoring your needs because you think they aren’t as important as those around you. Being an advocate means sacrificing certain things to make real change for everyone else but it doesn’t mean sacrificing your well-being. If you aren’t well, who will support those who are looking to you for help? Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
You can’t do it all and you shouldn’t have to. For your work to be effective, you need a break from time to time. Taking a step back will help your brain recharge so that when you jump back in, you’ll make the most impact possible.
You deserve to take care of yourself!
It is not selfish to take care of yourself because you deserve it. Life isn’t about self-sacrifice- that’s a sure-fire way to burn out and be unhappy in your work and life. It is about balance, which means caring for others AND taking time each day or week to do something nice for yourself!
You’ll feel better, have more energy, and be a better advocate for those around you. It’s not selfish- it is self-care!
What are ways that I can practice self-care?
Self-care activities can include things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating well, and doing activities that make you happy. It can also be taking time out of your day to do something nice for yourself and meet your own emotional needs. That looks different for everyone but here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk
- Go to the gym or exercise class
- Listen to a podcast
- Take ten minutes to yourself every day where you sit in silence with no phone, computer or distractions. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and breathing deeply but try not to fall asleep!
- Take a break from social media and technology
- Watch an episode of your favorite show. Stick to one episode. Binge watching will likely make you feel worse.
- Spend time doing art- drawing, painting, coloring, etc. Being able to reach the creative part of your brain forces the rest of you to calm down.
- Knit or crochet
- Spend time outdoors- go for a walk or sit outside in nature with no distractions.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Practice gratitude. Did you know that practicing gratitude every day can actually train your brain to see the good in situations and automatically be more grateful?
- Talk with a friend or loved one
- Do a breathing exercise
- Fidget- mold clay, use fidget toys, or even just fiddle with your pen for self-care when you can’t actually getaway. (Fidgeting helps you release anxious energy.)
- Stretch or do yoga.
- Play! Take your kids to the park or just go on your own. Run, swing, go down the slide, be free to be a kid.
- Laugh- tell jokes, watch a funny video or reminisce about a funny story. Laughter has the power to calm tension and your stress responders.
- Relax under a weighted blanket. (Weighted blankets add calming pressure to your body signaling to your nervous system that it’s time to calm down.)
- Get dressed (even if you are working from home and no one will see you)
Self-care apps are also a great tool to have on your phone. They are free or inexpensive- look for ones that give you ideas, check-in with you throughout the day and even provide guided meditations. Here are some of my favorites:
Calm this app provides guided meditation, stretches, nature scenes and sounds, and much more to help you calm down whenever you need it.
My Life this app has you identify your emotions and then recommends meditations for you. I especially love the kid’s section of this app.
Mindful Mama– If you are a mother, this app is for you. It has beautiful guided meditations for different stages of motherhood, emotions, or just quick everyday check-ins.
Headspace – This app helps you practice mindfulness meditation. It’s really great for beginners and has lots of different practices to choose from so you can find what works best for you.
Self-care boxes are another great way to practice self-care. They provide you with all the tools you need, make it easy for you, and fun too! You can purchase self-care boxes through companies like Therabox or make your own.
The main idea is to put everything you need for a quick pick-me-up in any easy-to-reach place so that you can focus on caring for yourself instead of hunting for supplies. You can also do this for kids.
Self-care books are another wonderful tool to use. They give you ideas, remind you of the importance of caring for yourself and how necessary it is when working hard in this world that can be so harsh at times. There are also lots of free self-care printables online but I do recommend having a paper copy if possible- just because there’s something special about owning a book and being able to underline and highlight to your heart’s content.
Here are some of my favorite self-care books:
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown– this one reminds you to practice radical acceptance, be kind and courageous, and more all while practicing loving yourself through it.
I love anything by Brene Brown. Braving the Wilderness is also wonderful. It talks about being brave enough to stand alone in your convictions. Which, let’s be honest, in the advocacy life happens a lot.
The Self Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate and Accepting of Yourself by Shannon Kaiser – this book is about the evil voice in your head and how it can be tamed with self-compassion.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho– a beautiful, enchanting story that reminds you of what’s important and where happiness lies.
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis– a great read for anyone who struggles with feeling like they are never enough. The author exposes how many of the lies we tell ourselves hold us back.
Set Boundaries and Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab– this book reminds you that how we react to things has a lot more power than what is happening. It empowers you to set healthy boundaries and find the root cause behind your struggles.
Resilient by Rick Hanson– a great read for anyone struggling with life. It talks about how you can grow your inner strength and learn to bounce back life’s difficulties to become more resilient than ever before.
Create Your Own Calm by Meera Lee Patel– this book is part of a series and more of a journal than a book. Each page encourages self-reflection and exploration to find out how you create your calm.
The Body Keeps the Score by Sean Pratt– Disclaimer: I am a neuroscience nerd. This book shows how the traumas we face influence our bodies, health, and mind. If you are still on the fence about the importance of self-care, this book will convince you for sure.
What Happened to You? by Oprah and Bruce Perry– Again, not your typical self-care book. This is a very simple explanation of how trauma and stress affects our lives. It will help you see yourself and those you interact with through a more compassionate lens.
Get a self-care routine in place. Creating a daily or weekly schedule for you to follow helps create structure and predictability. With less stress, chaos, and unpredictability your mood will automatically improve even if the rest of life’s circumstances are not changing.
Consistency in self-care will create a buffer to better defend yourself against the chaos life throws your way.
If you need help creating a plan, download our free self-care and safety plan workbook.
Create a Safety Plan
Part of self-care for advocates is having a plan to calm yourself down when triggered. If you aren’t familiar with safety plans, click here to learn more. If you are, download the workbook and write yours out today!
Self-care should not feel selfish – take the time you need so that when it comes down to it, you can give your all to others. Self-care for advocates is essential because if we don’t take time out of our day (or week) to do something nice for ourselves in addition to taking on the world, we won’t be able to make real change happen! Even strong advocates need self-care and it’s not selfish-it is essential.