“Ships don’t sink from the water around them. Ships sink from the water that’s in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you, get inside you and weigh you down.” - Unknown
Now, I’m stealing the above quote shamelessly from a friend’s recent social media post. It resonates with me and my recent experiences. Over the past few months there's been a lot going on at work that I've been carrying around with me. For those who don’t know me, I work with people with disabilities, and there have been some situations lately in which my clients have been taken advantage of. I've also been treated in ways that I have never been treated in the 15 years of my professional career.
Some of the things I realized I've been carrying are anger, frustration, hurt, sadness, stress, anxiety, and my relationships with people outside of work suffered. Performing tasks that wouldn’t have been as big of a burden became triggers of resentment toward my husband, kids, and friends. Additionally, I started having physical symptoms. About a week ago I started having pain in my shoulder, which made its way into my lower back, neck, jaw and head. And while I can say that my back pain is likely in part caused by hauling a toddler and an infant around constantly, there is definitely a part that stress plays in making these underlying conditions come to the surface.
I let it in and didn’t let it out. So now, I’m rebuilding and improving on my boat. Here are some ways to help keep the “water” out that I am working on now and could maybe help some of you also:
Awareness. Recognize when it’s happening. Out on the water we can see when storm clouds roll in and most often have the ability to make a choice in how we will handle it. We don’t always have the ability to steer clear of the storm all together, but that’s when we “batten down the hatches” if you will. I have been teaching myself to notice when issues arise that I may have to take part in but don’t have to be in the center of. Which relates a lot to my next skill in progress which is....
Set boundaries. Not only for work, but for family and friends. Some people will try to drag you into their situations because they are grabbing for the closest life raft. If your boat is already full, it’s not a good idea to add more weight. If you can, direct them to someone or something that can help. Maybe you see they have a bucket in their boat, maybe remind them that it’s there. For a concrete example, in my field there are many professionals, “supports”, who are responsible for different tasks. Often times we have knowledge about how and what a different support does, and may be able to perform some of the duties of a support in a different role. But just because we have the knowledge and ability to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should, or that it becomes our responsibility. Setting boundaries can help clarify our role especially when our plate is full, and allows us to direct those who need help to the right professional.
Self-care. This one is a common theme in our wellness blog. Really carving out time for things that make you a better you. And here’s the thing... everyone’s self-care looks different. It can look like anything from exercising, to a beauty routine, to getting a massage, to reading a good book, to something as simple at taking a shower (I know you ladies with young children hear me).
I am still working on bailing the water and repairing my vessel, but in the process I am becoming more aware about how these experiences have impacted me and can better protect myself in the future.