Wellbeingness is vital for those working in many different fields, but for those in human services, and especially recovery, minding your own mental health is critical. If you work in recovery support services, you likely know that burnout and exhaustion are very real concerns.
So, how can we be aware of our own mental health and wellness while still helping others? Your welfare as a recovery coach is a top priority and crucial to your ability to extend support to others. Here are 4 tips to help you focus on your wellbeing and health as a recovery coach.
Self-Care as a Recovery Coach
Working in recovery support services means exposure to people’s traumas. It’s part of the role to listen and help those you support to navigate those difficult waters. They may share stories that can be hard to hear or remind you of your own experiences or result in vicarious trauma. Vicarious traumatization is a very real issue for those in recovery, especially peer recovery coaches who may have struggled with addiction in their own lives.
Folks are often drawn to the role of recovery support because a situation in their lives made them particularly aware of the challenges faced by those in recovery. It could be that they’ve struggled with addiction themselves or were otherwise touched by substance use and addiction through those close to them. That degree of empathy and shared personal experience makes them strong recovery specialists. Yet, at the same time, that experience makes people vulnerable to triggers as they listen to and hold space for those they support.
So how do recovery coaches avoid letting their experiences wear them down and leave them depleted? In human services, it’s especially crucial that we’re mindful of our wellbeing. We need to value and prioritize our wellness so we can extend space for the wellbeing of those we’re supporting.
1. Set Strong Boundaries
It’s tempting to give and give of your emotional self along your journey. You may feel gratitude for the abundance of support you’ve experienced on your path to wellness and that you want to pay it forward—truly a beautiful intention. Those who have experience with substance use and addiction may be uniquely positioned for empathy and understanding in serving others who want to go on that journey.
At the same time, that openness and desire to support means you must also protect yourself. It’s important that you empathize while not identifying so strongly with others that trigger your own trauma. Boundaries are critical to self-care in recovery support.
Establishing healthy, professional boundaries is critical to maintaining mental, emotional, and/or physical wellbeing. We all must be self-aware and prioritize boundaries so that we can show up with empathy and compassion. Brenè Brown says it best, “Boundaries aren’t easy. They are hard. I’m less nice than I used to be, but I’m far more kind.” One of the best things you can do to manage your wellness as a recovery coach is to set and respect your boundaries and, bottom line, stick to them. Learning to do that can be its own journey but is one well worth going on.
2. Seek Peer Support
When working in recovery support services, your fellow team members are especially vital to your wellbeing. Whether it means setting aside time for sharing and holding space for each other or working with a mentor or supervisor to implement self-care time for your team, a sense of community can help when things get difficult. Sebastian Junger speaks to the power of community and its positive impact on resilience at length in his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.
At Share, we guide many teams through the practice of Wellbeing Circles. This practice allows team members to hold space for their peers and share feelings and thoughts within a safe, open environment. Agreed-upon guidelines are set before the circle begins so everyone feels welcome and comfortable to share freely.
Wellbeing Circles are especially important to organizations undergoing changes and facing challenges, whether within the organization or the community at large. For example, during tragedies or acts of violence that impact certain communities, offering a safe space to share and talk about feelings can really help process the stress and trauma—even if the event didn’t seem to “directly” impact the organization.
With our modern state of constant connection, many people are impacted by the news of violence, racism, sexism, and other -isms on a near daily basis. These violations incrementally affect our emotional health, even if we try to brush it off. So it’s important that, as organizations, we offer an opportunity to discuss what that brings up for each of us because we will often carry those feelings forward into our work. This, in part, is why we encourage an integrated approach; our Healing-Focused Care model. We find consistently that those we support in their Equity + Inclusion work establish wellbeing circles or invite us to support them in establishing wellbeing circles through our Team Wellness offering.
3. Embrace Your Idea of a Healthy Lifestyle
Working in recovery support services requires you to be mindful of your mental and physical health. Does it mean we should all practice yoga, bike to work, or eat salad for lunch? No (although there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing any or all of those activities). It means that we must each listen to and prioritize our biological and spiritual wellbeing. You may need to set up regular reminders to do self-check-ins. Are you maintaining activities that offer you sustenance?
For some folks, these activities look like regular exercise, meditation, spiritual practices, or good nutrition. It might mean regularly touching base with your social circles and spending time with family members and friends. It could mean blasting loud music in the car or spending a day outdoors in complete silence. Healthy activities can look a little different for everyone; however, most of us benefit from a full night of sleep and from taking breaks to pause and rest our bodies. In addition, all humans benefit from hydration and paying attention to our biological needs. What’s important is to have a wellness plan that works for you, establish it, stick to it, and even evolve it over time. We encourage and provide opportunities for learners to define their wellness plan in our Team Wellness offering.
Historically (and still today), we have lived in a society that values busyness and productivity. Profit is often prized over people. As an organization, Share prizes people over profit to model the way. Efficiency and “doing” is held in the highest regard, with books, lectures, podcasts, and articles touting the benefits of getting more done in the day. Unfortunately, this mentality leads us to burnout and devalues the importance of addressing our holistic spiritual, physical, social, and emotional needs.
It’s essential to recognize that when you address the needs of your body, mind, and soul, you will have more energy to offer space for others. When you go into the day drained, depleted, and exhausted, you will eventually burn out. Set aside time to listen to your body. Breathe. Bring yourself back to a present state and prioritize the activities that nourish you. But you probably already know that; we’re just supporting you to pay attention and trust your instincts, trust yourself!
4. Connect with Your Own Coach or Supervisor
Your mentor, supervisor, team leader, or coach is there to help guide you through difficult situations. One of the best things you can do for yourself as a recovery support specialist or other similar role is to rely on the guidance and assistance of someone you trust. One of the most significant stressors in any situation is feeling isolated and alone. We all need social support and leadership to help us know how to navigate.
What if you don’t have a direct supervisor or you work as part of a team? In that case, it’s all about finding a role model. Relying on your own coach, therapist, counselor, spiritual leader, or mentor can help you find guidance through difficulties. Even when things are going smoothly, a cup of coffee or tea and a check-in with a mentor can help you stay on track.
At Share, we offer resources for teams and team leadership to help you discover how to best support and guide yourself and your team. Not only does a focus on Welbeingness create a healthy, nourishing work environment, but it also helps your team have the bandwidth and resources to continue extending their services to others. Our integrated approach to Healing-Focused Care is designed to support your and your team’s wellbeing, capacity, and skill to show up and express empathy with compassion.
If you’d like to learn more about Share Collaborative and how we can support your team, please reach out today. We’re happy to help facilitate wellness in your organization.