The world is changing, things around us are changing. There is a new normal, which some consider abnormal. For example, working from home, a lot of work is being done digitally. A lot of agility is required. That on its own has brought anxiety to a lot of people.
I enjoy working from home in my own space (as I become more productive, not worrying about traffic). However, I have realised it is easy to slip into burn out if you don’t establish or put boundaries in place.
At the beginning of lockdown, there were a lot of challenges, emotions were high, too much information and a lot of confusion. I have a huge team I am responsible for, trying by all means to keep their anxiety levels low because they are essential workers, rendering services to survivors of sexual offences. …and yes unfortunately people are still being abused amidst all of this and most of them are “lockdown” with their abusers and perpetrators
One day as I was doing my reflection, I realized that I have been attending to my team’s needs and fears and have not really included their families and loved ones. As I was reflecting I remembered something I learned when I attended an AMAZING Flourishing retreat in Ghana hosted by the African Women’s Development Fund [AWDF].
The facilitators stressed that self-care is IMPORTANT. As Hope Chigudu would say “your body is your vehicle, therefore look after it by serving it, especially now during this Pandemic“. I wish everyone could meet her, she is a Gem.
I define self-care as my holistic survival toolkit. Therefore, I started including self-care information when sending COVID-19 information to the team which included things that children can do or to be done as a family such as grounding techniques, breathing techniques when someone feels overwhelmed, practising mindfulness etc.
During a meeting with the Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) counsellors I asked an open-ended question, I wanted to find out what they did to remain grounded or as part of self-care. One counsellor answered, “after a long day I prefer a shower” and I suggested, how about next time you take a shower, try to be present, feel the drops of water falling on your skin, listen to your body, consciously breath in and out while you taking that shower.
In level four of the lockdown I realised my physical and professional self-care were neglected because of lack of movement, change in sleeping patterns, increased screen-time, lack of visible peer support, etc. However, my psychological and spiritual self-care had improved, as I was making time to reflect more, journaling, connecting with the higher power, listening to my body, increased digital support system, meditation and spending time with myself.
In light of the above, the most important thing is to strike a balance. For the professional self-care aspect, one needs to ensure to set boundaries, go with what is best for you. If you are productive after hours, your manager needs to be aware so that alternative work arrangements can be made or agreed on.
It is also important especially when working from home to take a tea or lunch break and also to connect with your colleagues as a way of sustaining relationships and keeping abreast.
In my professional field monthly supervision is mandatory. I have a privilege of being able to receive supervision online, and my external supervisor makes it easy by constantly checking-in with me. However, for some people it might be a challenge because of internet connection, or anxiety to enter into a whole new digital world. For that, constant checking-in is important to lower the anxiety and improve cohesion in a work place, considering the “new normal”.
The lesson during this period has been: learn, unlearn and relearn. Most importantly breath, attend to yourself first so that you can be able to attend to others. After all we have different ways of practicing self-care or defining self-care.
… be present and connect.
Palesa Lekhesa is the Thuthuzela Care Centre Coordinator for Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and recently joined the AWDF (African Women’s Development Fund) on a retreat in Ghana with a focus on self care. This has inspired Palesa to deepen her thinking about self care and to bring others along on this journey too.
Feature image reference: Recipes for self love