Building Resilience

Increased awareness, support and self-care help to build a helper's resilience, improve well-being and mitigate the impact of VT.

We'd be crazy to expect someone to run a Marathon without rigorous fitness training and getting the good sleep, food and rest that build the necessary strength and stamina to run 26 miles!

... so, imagine if we thought about helpers like we think about long-distance runners?
... if we regarded someone's ability to provide empathic support for other people's suffering over months and years, as needing the same degree of preparation?

Then, helpers and helping organisations would prioritise time for building in the emotional support and self-care which build resilience in helpers in the same way that an athlete's daily training regime builds fitness, strength and stamina

Building Resilience

The 'four cornerstones' of support

Research into VT across the globe, from warzones and A&E departments, from social workers, police and paramedics, universally identifies three elements - Awareness, Balance and Connection - as the pillars, the A-B-C of what helps to build VT resilience in helpers.

We have expanded the A-B-C by adding another 'C' for Compassion - as without self-compassion, we might know something, but still not do anything about it! Compassion is also key to supporting one another and in sustaining self-care.

  • Awareness: what can I feel in my Body? Breath? Emotions? What do I need?
  • Connection: do I reach out? Feel supported... at work... home... elsewhere?
  • Balance: is my life balanced at work and at home? Do I make enough time for me?
  • Compassion: do I recognise what I find in myself with kindness, as a best friend would?
Building Resilience

Three strands of active self-care

Self-care can also be seen in terms of the energy that we feel in our body. This is linked to the biochemicals being constantly generated by what we think, feel and do... Noticing the shifts and changes in our body energy throughout the day, helps to be more aware of three pro-active ways of managing our body energy by doing the activities which can help to:

  • Ground our energy
  • Release negative energy
  • Re-charge positive energy

These can be done in the following ways:

Grounding the body energy is feeling your feet flat on the ground; noticing your breathing and body sensations and allowing whatever is there.

Releasing the negative body energy caused by 'fight or flight' chemicals generated by stress, can be done through many different everyday activities, anything vigorously aerobic like sports, singing and laughing!

Re-charging positive body energy also comes from everyday activities, but those which generate body chemicals like Oxytocin, from being with loved ones; and serotonin from having play & creativity; being out in Nature and doing whatever strengthens a sense of safety, belonging and hope.

For more details on the four cornerstones and these energy activities, do have a look at the two short VODs on this page

Using this information as individuals, with colleagues and as organisations...

The 'four cornerstones' and 'three energy activities' are important for all helpers to engage with individually.

It is also really helpful to 'buddy up' with someone you trust, to monitor for signs of VT and encourage each another in building in and maintaining these activities for resilience.

Where organisations embrace this too, building resilience will be even more effective in positively impacting helper's well-being. VT knowledge and support become embedded into organisational awareness and used to inform supervision and staff well-being programmes.

Self-care Obstacles

The importance of self-care is self-evident, but we believe that for it to be prioritised by both individuals and organisations, we first need to discover the OBSTACLES to self-care...

Take some 'time out' to try asking yourself the following questions:

  • What gets in the way of my self-care outside of work is ...
  • What gets in the way of my self-care at work is ...
  • The words / phrases I often have in my head for why I cannot relax more, have more fun and do the things which I know will help my well-being are ...
  • What I would like to be able to ask for from others, to support my well-being at work/outside of work, is ...

These are always a combination of organisational AND individual obstacles to staff well-being

But unless self-care and well-being are prioritised and promoted as absolutely essential (rather than an 'extra' or seen as selfish) effective self-care will remain LAST on everyone's 'To-do' list. Ironically, maintaining well-being can even become one more cause of stress!

One key reason we may neglect ourselves, is because of the internalised 'Do' and 'Don't' messages we took from our care-givers, when growing up. This often continues to drive our behaviours - to the detriment of our health - as adults.

To discover your own unconscious 'Drivers', you can download and complete the Drivers' Questionnaire, which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete:

Download: Drivers Questionnaire