As a doula, childbirth educator, and doula trainer, as well as a mother who started in this business when my children were very young, I know all too well the need to make sure that I take care of myself. So what does that mean exactly?
How do we, in one of the most nurturing professions around, seem to find the time to also take care of ourselves?
It is typically the people who are so compassionate that are the ones who burn out most quickly. I am always telling moms, other doulas, and even fathers to take care of themselves during a long labor. If they don’t eat or take a break every now and again, they will not be able to help mom later. Although I teach this, I often forget my own advice when it comes to me. Just as they say on airplanes: you must give yourself oxygen before you help others.
I have compiled a list of ideas to think about and remember as you learn that you too need the same kind of nurturing that you want to provide to others. While we cannot make others care for us the way we do them, we can take it into our own hands and make our own well being a priority in our lives.
Authentic and sustainable self-care is a choice we make.
Sometimes we will be more successful than others at maintaining it, but as long as we come back to it as soon as possible, even if it is a few moments a day, we can rebalance ourselves.
- Be kind to yourself. When you are starting to feel overwhelmed or anxious, remember that you are only human. Make a self care plan about how you will take of yourself as soon as you can during the stressful situation.
- Make a list of the different things you can do for yourself. Sometimes we may not have time to schedule a day at the spa, but we can go stand in our back yard barefoot and feel the dirt between our toes, take a bath, have a playlist of calming songs to listen to in odd moments that you need to relax, or use a favorite meditation.
- Remember that you are where you’re supposed to be at that moment, and you can learn something from every situation. Remember also that just because you are supposed to be there on a spiritual level, or learn something from every situation, doesn’t mean you won’t need time to regroup from the experience. Even wonderful birthing experiences or postpartum clients with average needs can still be exhausting, and we need to rebalance ourselves often.
- Have a support group of several people who understand your work. Take time to process emotional experiences, both good and bad. Remember that not everyone will be able to support you in the way that you want to be supported, so understand that if someone else doesn’t provide it, you can give it to yourself in some manner. Try journaling or writing a letter to yourself, then respond back as though you are speaking with a friend. You probably give better advice than you realize.
- Clarify your boundaries as often as possible to keep them in check. One of the best ways to prevent burn out is to have enough respect for yourself that you have set and keep clear boundaries.
If possible, always remember to express your needs to those who are helping or want to help. Even if you need to say, “I don’t want advice, I just need to vent. Thank you for listening.” Many people really want to help but aren’t sure how. If you are clear, then you may have a win-win.
Always remember, we tell our birthing mothers the importance of taking care of herself so she can be the mother she wants to be. We must also take care of ourselves so that we can be the perinatal professional we want to be!
Don’t forget to spread the doula love at World Doula Week and #worlddoulaweek!
By Ruth Kraft, CLD, CCCE
Copyright CAPPA 2015