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GIVE BACK

Does It Still Get To Me?

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I’ve worked in areas that many people shy away from…domestic violence, sexual abuse, trauma, suicide, grief, and disabilities, amongst others. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to live a life based on servant leadership and these are the areas it’s led me to. I’m often asked how I do it and if it gets to me.

When I first started in the field, I had a difficult time finding balance. My emotions from work followed me home and changed my worldview, impacting many areas of my life. In the field of Social Work, finding balance and understanding what self-care works best for you are critical because “vicarious/secondary trauma” and “compassion fatigue” are common risks. These terms relate to the change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them. It’s a transformation that happens through empathic engagement and it can lead to changes in one’s psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being.

My vicarious trauma came through my dreams and intrusive images. I would recount stories over and over, see the abusers in my mind and be chased by people while in my sleep when I didn’t have control and was seeking much needed rest. I would fear going to sleep because I didn’t know where my mind would take me.

Through the nightmares, broken heartedness, deep sadness, tears and heaviness, my one wish
is this…

It’s been over a decade that I’ve been doing this work and while I’ve come a long way in finding balance, I still have my days. Just a couple weeks ago I got a call from a family at their wits end. Referred to me by the police, they had tried everything to help their son with autism. They were in a true state of crisis and have been for a long time. Their lives include regular trips to the emergency room, police involvement, serious safety concerns, no services left to help them and $80 left in their bank account. After our 2 hour phone conversation, with my office door closed, I wept. They viewed me as their last hope and I wasn’t sure if I could do anything to help them.

Through the nightmares, broken heartedness, deep sadness, tears and heaviness, my one wish is this…I hope there never comes a day when it stops getting to me. The day some of life’s hardest circumstances don’t impact me anymore will be much more concerning. My “Why” is much more powerful than my “Why Not” and it takes constant effort to ensure it stays that way. My Why is how children have so much resilience and I am constantly amazed by them. My Why is that I believe in post-traumatic growth. My Why is that getting to be part of someone’s healing journey is a privilege. The other things are just some of the sacrifices and prices I’m willing to pay for the life I am committed to living. It’s the cost of caring that I am okay with. With push comes pull. Ups come with downs. When you come to expect this as part of the journey, it makes it much easier when you are going through the challenging times. Give all your energy to your Why’s and choose that path always. Anything else will only distract you.

Two Words that Make Me Cringe

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I hear it all the time…

Q: “What’s your motivation to help others?”
A: “I want to help those less fortunate.”

“Less Fortunate”, huh?

I know it sounds like something ideal to say…almost textbook-like, but if this is a response you’re using, let’s pause for a moment and break it down.

Inadvertently, people use “less fortunate” with great intention, but do not recognize how it divides us and our ability to connect with one another. It puts a value system on people’s situations and classifies us as “more than” versus “less than”. Instead of focusing on what divides us, we need to look at what builds connection. Regardless of the situation and circumstance, we all know what it feels like to be hurt, scared, worried, wanting to laugh with someone, or hoping for a reaching hand to support us. Looking at other people as less fortunate is a judgement statement. It judges their situation and puts our own above theirs.

You cannot create a true, authentic connection with someone if you do not see them as your equal.

Go deeper. What is it that connects you to the situation? We’ve all been there when we’ve needed a supportive hand to help us. Maybe that support came, maybe it didn’t. Maybe you’re still waiting for it to come…

Let your understanding of what it means to have someone help you be your driving force to share that with others. I promise you, in my moments of need, the last person I want supporting me is someone who sees me as less than anything to them.

Now if you’re looking for the answer on what to say, that’s not for me to define. Come from a genuine place and don’t focus on what you should say, just focus on understanding your true “why”. Take time to think about what motivates you and get grounded.
Most important of all, come from Love. Always.

6 Daily Keys to Well-Being

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In order to give to others, we must first give to ourselves. My posts will focus on giving and being outward focused, but in order to do that effectively, we have to make sure we aren’t depleting ourselves in doing so. Self-care is critical and if you aren’t able to achieve a balance between giving and receiving, you won’t be able to do either optimally. Rule #1 about giving is giving to self so that you are able to give to others. So in this first post, I will focus on self-care.

We all want to be operating on a high positive frequency, but in order to do so it takes strong intention to ensure optimal mental health and well-being. It’s a constant effort to feed our body, mind and soul the nourishment it needs to thrive. Just like our physical body, our mind and spirit need to be exercised. Here are my 6 daily keys to promote positivity and alignment. The first 3 keys aren’t surprising but the last 3 are keys people often find more challenging to do on a daily basis.

KEY 1: Eat and Drink to Nourish your Body

Your body truly is your temple. Honour it. We all know what it feels like to feel the shift in ourselves as a reaction to something we ate. Lethargy, achiness, bloat, mind fog… blah! I work to stay focused on what food enters my home so I can balance out the meals of pure gluttony… yes, I’m a foodie! Do organic when you can, give thanks for your food and watch your mood while you are eating. Negativity in your body will impact how your body receives it. What we drink is just as important. I’ll have an organic coffee to start and then water and organic green tea the rest of the day. First thing when I wake up, I’ll put organic lemon and ginger in a mason jar filled with warm water and continue filling it throughout the day.

KEY 2: Work up a Sweat

Exercise is critical for our body and mind. Find what works for you. Whatever it is, incorporate activity into your life. It also works as a natural antidepressant. My yoga studio has been my sanctuary. Not only because I get a great workout, but it’s also become my community. Remember, these are daily keys so find a variety of activities, alternate intensities and get moving. I now put on my runners at the office and do my conference calls while taking a walk.  

KEY 3: Sleep Baby, Sleep

I can’t stress this one enough. Our quality of sleep sets the tone for our entire day. I learned this lesson the hard way travelling multiple times a week, different hotels and time zones. As a result, my body was in chaos. I now take my essential oils, have multiple meditation apps on my phone and have a bedtime routine of reflecting on all the blessings I received that day and setting intention for the day ahead.

KEY 4: Create Something

Exercise the parts of your brain that spark creativity, innovation, excitement and inspiration. Do something new (or that you haven’t done in at least the last month) every day. Cook a new recipe, take a different route to work, walk a different path, paint a picture, do a different workout routine, write a letter, or play an instrument. Creativity activates and ignites regions in our brain that allow for self-expression and a sense of accomplishment in producing something.

KEY 5: Be Outward Focused

This key is all about being intentional about connection with others. Sending a positive email/text message, helping someone out, volunteering your time, sending good intentions to someone. Our ability to feel connected with others and gift someone with positivity shifts our beingness to be less inward focused and gain from giving. I start my day with identifying 3 people I am thankful for and sending them love and light. I volunteer often and donate 10-20% of my income. Whatever it is, get connected.

Key 6: Connect to Your Purpose

Whatever your beliefs are, it’s important to be connected to a higher vibration and understanding that the world is much bigger than just us. Source Power/Energy, The Universe, Spirit… for me, it is God. There’s no judgment on what that looks like for you, but being connected to a purpose driven life and the belief that our life was a gift for us to positively contribute to others helps grounds us and connect to ourselves and others on deeper levels. Daily connection to this higher power helps to provide guidance, healing, power, purpose, intention and love. Use prayer, meditation, gratitude, art, music, solitude, reading and other mechanisms to stay in alignment with your purpose.

Doing all 6 keys every single day can seem overwhelming. But the more you weave them into your lifestyle, they will become automatic. You can even double dip to achieve two for one (e.g.: cooking a new recipe and eating healthy). Bonus tip: the first hour of your day is sacred and can define the rest of the day. Many leaders have spoken about this as a way to “superboost” your day. I can check most of the keys off in the morning by taking a walk (physical activity) on a new route (creativity), focusing on gratitude, prayer and being intentional about my day (outward focused and purpose driven) and coming back and having a healthy shake (nutrition). Set yourself for success and provide yourself with these keys to unlock the physical, mental and spiritual nourishment you need to thrive.

 

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