Filling the cup

Posted by on Dec 11, 2018 • 3 minute read

Our last workshop of the year, the challenge to start with you and looking after yourself during the holidays.

It was our last workshop of the year. Shape of Emotion care, a workshop designed to support those who care for others such as counsellors, nurses, teachers and the like. This time it was for a team of senior staff, mostly matrons, of a retirement home group. I was unusually nervous about this workshop. The idea of matrons conjured up images of large, sturdy women in starched white uniforms, clip-boards in hand, frowns on face, striding purposefully into the training room. We had already met them when we presented our proposal, and they looked nothing like that. Still, I was sure that we were going to get more push back against our work than we typically get from a stiff collared corporate analyst. I mean they are matrons. Matrons like order, structure, medical diagnosis and clear interventions. 5th Place and Shape of Emotion is not like that.

Doing "holy" work

For once we arrived well before time. In other words really early. Still, we had been pipped to the post by some very eager participants. Actually, they too had started their journey early to miss the traffic. Not a stiff white uniform or frightening frown in sight. Rather casual outfits and big smiles. We were waved into a parking bay, and shown the room we were to use. Another chapel. “It’s because our work is holy work”, I whispered to Matthew.

After setting up the room, we were ushered with the rest of the group to have tea. We got everyone to complete their pre-workshop assessments. These measure general anxiety levels and, in their case, compassion fatigue and work satisfaction levels. Nervous laughter jittered about the room as we handed out the forms and pens. Jokes about not having studied and if their colleagues had “received the memo”. The very thought of taking a ‘test’ was already spiking anxiety levels (thanks school!)

Complete depletion and rivers of fatigue

The joviality and loud ribbing covered some deep concerns. Here were women completely depleted. Exhausted all the time, not being able to sleep, yet wanting to just sleep. With little capacity for anything else by the time they returned to their homes and families. They were used to giving and giving and giving. Just not to themselves.

The tears welled easily that day. Running rivers of fatigue down cheeks used to putting on brave smiles. Managing everyone else’s lives, caring for everyone else and putting themselves at the very back of the queue. The result? Feelings of anger, frustration, lack of control, avoidance of others, and of course the lack of energy. “I am so tired, all I want to do is sleep.” and “When I get home, all I want to do is sleep. I don’t have the energy for anything else.”

Who would have known looking at this laughing troupe that etched under all those smiles was a gaping fatigue waiting to swallow them up?

The challenge to feel better

Hearing all of this Matthew said, “Here is the challenge, ladies: if you want to feel better, if you want to get your energy back, you have to work on you. It starts with you. If you do not tend to yourself, how can you tend to anyone else? You do your residents and yourself a disservice by working in this state.”

Some “Yes, buts”… and mostly “You are right’s”. The workshop feedback reflected this sentiment: “I have to take time for me”; “I have to put myself first”; “I need to make changes”; “I need to allow myself to heal”. The question is, will they?

Filling the cup, the tree bears fruit

The thing is we all do, we all need to look after ourselves first. How many of us do, though? Especially during this holiday season. Will we take time out for ourselves in amongst the mad dash to far away and not so far away places? Amongst the frantic planning, looking after others and purchasing for festivities and celebrations?

In order for a tree to bear succulent fruit it cannot be gnarled, withered and dry. The same applies to us. We can’t give what we don’t have. This holiday season it’s just as important for us to rest as it is for us to look after others. Take time to fill the cup, as Matthew loves to put it. <<First name>>, it’s our sincere wish that you can and do take time for you.

Until next time, have a me too, feeling filled and connected holiday season.

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