A helping profession is any job that either addresses a problem or assists in the growth of a person, physically, psychologically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. This can be a counselor, doctor, social worker, therapist, elderly care worker, or in my case, a Youth Care worker. (There are many different professions included in the helping profession category)
These jobs often call to people who have suffered trauma in their lives. Many of the people I personally work with have told me stories of bad childhoods. This unfortunately comes with a lot of mental illness, and a lot of struggles when it comes to the daily duties of the job.
Personally, my job consists of, but is not limited to, cooking, cleaning, playing with kids, watching movies and having fun. It is also filled with teaching, de-escalating crisis situations, consequences, and tears. My job can be full of laughter, happiness, and learning successes, and it can be filled with anger, paperwork, police visits, hospital visits and learning set backs. There are great days where I come home feeling accomplished and there are days where I come home and break down, feeling like my job is pointless and doing more harm than it is good.
When you are battling mental illness, you sometimes feel like taking care of your own needs is more than what you can handle. In a helping profession, you take care of several other people’s needs and sometimes yours get put on the back burner. It’s a balancing act, and self care, although important, sometimes get’s put on the bottom of your list.
These are some small but effective ways to navigate your mental illness while working a helping profession.
Take your meds
If you take any medications, remember to take them! Days can get busy, if you work residential you don’t get breaks, and it’s hard to focus on yourself when your clients need your help. But set an alarm, and remember to take your meds.
Eat healthy foods
whether you work in a group home, a hospital, in an office close to fast food restaurants, it’s often easier to grab something quick or eat what is on the menu. At my job most of the food is heavily carb and cheese based and can make you feel lethargic and overall just gross. I find when I make the effort to make something healthier, or bring my own lunch I feel much better. Also, EAT. I know when my anxiety is running high, when shit is hitting the fan at work, I just don’t eat. Make sure you are fueling your body to help not only your clients, but yourself, the best way you can.
Sometimes people forget how effective just talking to someone is. Having a counselor who you can go to about anything, including work, is one of the most powerful things you can do to keep your sanity at work.
Have a sense of humour about it
I can’t count how many times I have laughed with my co-workers about something that was scary at the time it happened. It is a proven fact that people in helping professions have a dark sense of humour, and although i’m not telling you to make fun of your clients, there is often a staff office for a reason. Laughing about situations that caused you mental stress helps, and it’s usually one of the only things that helps me leave it at the door when I go home.
Yes, Self care really is important
I always felt like the amount that my co-workers told me to practice self care was verging on annoying. I mean, they really drill it into your head. But as it turns out, they’re right. Take care of you, Because if you can’t take care of you, you can’t take care of your clients. Grow a plant family, take a hot bath, or binge watch that tv show. Whatever makes you happy.
Burn out is normal, and nothing to feel ashamed about
This isn’t really a tip, but a reminder. I’ve burnt out, twice actually. Don’t feel ashamed if you realize a month in, 6 months in, or 10 years in, that you need a break, or that the job isn’t for you. Be confident with your decisions, whether that be leaving for good, taking a break, or working on yourself. Sometimes, even when it is time to leave, people can feel guilty because their clients need so much and they feel like they’re abandoning them. But the fact is, you need to do what makes you happy, and although a helping profession is rewarding in many areas, it’s not for everyone. Take care of you.