Welcome back! The familiar September hum, indicative of the start of another academic year, is all around us and faculty, staff and students are as busy as ever. In particular, for those of our colleagues working in front-facing, advising or instructional roles, this time of year can be challenging as they are often required to put the needs and priorities of others well ahead of their own.
Our dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic staff and faculty are a huge part of what makes our UBC communities so unique, and in order to ensure that we remain at the top of our game for others, we must not forget ourselves.
Have you taken a lunch break this week? When was the last time that you stood up from your desk and stretched? Did you drink any water yesterday? Have you socialized with colleagues today?
The truth about caring for others is that it can leave us feeling amazing and exhausted. We can feel positive, proud, fulfilled and rewarded, yet experience anxiety, fear, resentment and frustration at the same time. These emotions are natural and even have names :
- Burnout: Gradual mental and/or physical feelings of detachment, exhaustion and negative feelings associated with frustrations or a perceived inability to make a difference
- Compassion Satisfaction: Positive emotions and satisfaction received from helping others
- Compassion Stress (a.k.a. Secondary Traumatic Stress): Negative reaction experienced by a caregiver in response to an indirect event (something experienced by someone else)
- Compassion Fatigue: State of burnout or exhaustion as a result of prolonged compassion stress
When our roles are so tightly tied to the successes and achievements of others, it can be challenging to remember to care for ourselves. To be the most effective and successful in our work, we need to continually maintain our vitality and resilience. 
So how do we find the time to look after ourselves and recharge in meaningful ways? The key is to find small, manageable and affordable things that can be done on a daily basis to promote renewal while reducing immediate stress. A note of caution: we run the risk of setting lofty self-care goals that may not be realistic or attainable. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure or make it easy to send goals to the bottom of the to-do list.
This month I invite you to consider your own needs along with those of the people that you are working for and working with. Reflect on what you do for your own self-care and try to find ways to incorporate these things into each day.
Self-care ideas :
- Read a book on your own or with your child
- Listen to a favourite playlist/song
- Savour a bath or shower
- Find ways to laugh
- Keep your work environment bright and cheerful (plants, flowers, pictures, art)
- Snuggle with a pet
- Write in a journal (try The Five Minute Journal!)
- Meditate, reflection or prayer
- Take breaks
- Spend time in nature
- Establish a sleep routine
- Check out this video of people sharing their self-care routines (BuzzFeedBlue)
- Use the Self-Care chart below (@instadoodles)
Here’s to an exciting and resilient September!
All my best,
 Mental Health Commission of Canada (3rd ed.). (2016). Mental Health First Aid.
 Skovholt, T. M., Trotter-Mathison, M. (2016). The resilient practitioner: Burnout and compassion fatigue prevention and self-care strategies for the helping professions (3rd ed.). New York; London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. doi:10.4324/9781315737447
 Riordan, M.M. Self-Care Advice for Caregivers. Human Development, 22(4), 27-31.
Photo Credit: Melissa Lafrance