This past year has been many things – it has been challenging, emotional, overwhelming, stressful, and yet it has also been inspiring and rewarding. I am inspired by the amazing work around me and the dedicated people who do not just show up for a job but show up for a mission.
There is no doubt about it, we have all had to change not only how we do our work but adjust our personal lives due to new stress and worry that we’ve never navigated before. After a solid year of managing all this, I am seeing the toll it can take on very strong, dedicated individuals in both my personal and professional life.
The Definition of Support
How do we manage all this and still be the very best possible version of ourselves? It is a question I’ve asked myself several times. The answer is through support and resiliency. Support is a word that has different meanings to everyone, depending on our context or frame of reference. The word itself has several meanings including “to give assistance;” “bear all or part of the weight of something;” “hold up.” Our need for, and definition of support, changes depending on our individual circumstances.
And while most people feel a sense of self-worth when supporting others, there are times, however, when it feels like people need more support than we have to give. This can leave us feeling defeated or that we’ve somehow failed. Our instinct is to give more, but what happens when our “more” is depleted?
We Cannot "Fix" Everything
I’ve been involved in many conversations in the past year about how we can support each other through these unprecedented times, and I have learned some pieces of wisdom from the amazing colleagues that are sharing this journey with me. Firstly, it’s important to remember that we can support others through trying times, but we cannot “fix” everything for everyone. Despite being in the helping profession, we must realize our limitations in the resiliency process and cannot fully carry that load for others, despite how much we want to help. While we need each other for support, we are all in charge of our internal resilience. This challenges us to ask, “What can I control in this situation?” and decide from there how we move forward with our approach and attitude about the situation.
The second words of wisdom are that we all must explore, and then rely on, what grounds us personally. This pandemic has reminded us what and who are most important. We had to find our creativity to continue to stay connected to our family and friends, to find alternative ways to enjoy downtime and focus on our hobbies and our health. This is another internal journey and one we can help guide but cannot do for someone else.
Taking Care of Yourself Allows You To Help Take Care of Others
Lastly, I have been reminded that taking care of yourself really does help you take care of others. Self-disclosure: I am a total work in progress in this area. As givers and caretakers, when we don’t take time to draw healthy boundaries and meet our own needs, our capacity to support others eventually diminishes. Our bodies tell us this in many ways and we need to listen. Many years ago, I was told that “no” doesn’t mean forever, it means not now. It is hard to say no when we feel others may not see us as supportive or helpful, but there are times when it is necessary for our own personal well-being.
Focusing on our mental, emotional, social, and physical well-being is important and takes conscious effort. It makes us better at what we do and keeps us doing it longer. I have signs all over my home and office that say, “One day at a time.” When I’m overwhelmed, I say it to myself as a mantra to help me through the stress. While supporting each other is necessary, remember there are just some things we cannot control. Find what grounds you so that you can take care of yourself and others. Find humor – it is everywhere. (And always thank your great colleagues who helped you write your blog.)
This blog article was contributed by Genelle Olson, Foster Care Director at Nexus-PATH Family Healing, an agency of Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.