"We expect the women we serve to be honest with us, to allow us to see some of the most intimate aspects of their family life, to discuss their innermost feelings. Some midwives emphasize self-exploration as an important part of prenatal preparation for birth. We must be willing to honestly search our own hearts and minds and explore our innermost feelings, too." (Carolyn Steiger, Becoming a Midwife)
How many of us make time for the searching and exploring that Carolyn Steiger suggests? Is it a luxury to indulge in such activity or is it a necessary component of our professional development and well being? What constitutes self-care? How often must we attend to ourselves? Will it really make a difference in how we perform our work duties? Answers to these questions are essential in order to make a case for the requirement of self-care.
Self-care is made up of activities that engage the mind, body and soul in finding a sense of balance and clarity. These activities can range from psychotherapy to a walk in the woods, eating nutritious foods to attending a religious service, exercise and massage to good conversation with a significant person, being part of a community to going on a silent retreat. It is a personal adventure to identify activities that can facilitate your arrival at this place of health, wholeness and peacefulness. I would also say that it is a necessary adventure. Without daily self-care we become internally cluttered, clouded, exhausted, and lose access to our best selves from which we give to our clients and patients. We become quick to react, defensive and resentful. We work less effectively with colleagues and ultimately deprive ourselves of fulfillment from our work.
We have a personal, professional and ethical responsibility to protect our clients/patients from our "unfinished business." One of the great benefits of self-care, particularly emotional self-care, is that it helps us stay conscious of our "issues" and thus, be more accountable for our actions and reactions in relation to clients and colleagues as well as family members and friends. Emotional self-care is hard work and can lead to feelings of vulnerability. However, it is from this vulnerable and open place that we gain clarity on the problem as well as possible routes to resolution. While this kind of inner work is ultimately a solo job, it helps to have a support system to lean on. This can come in the form of a friend, a family member, a paid professional, or it can take the form of a support group.
While traveling in Hawaii, I came to the base of a small hill on the island of Kauai. Sitting at the base was a large stone called Pohaku Hoohanau, or Birthstone. This is the place where all the great chiefs of Kauai were born. The mother was supposed to brace her back against the stone as she gave birth. Just as we provide all sorts of support for the women and families with whom we work, so must we create stones of support for ourselves.
Public Speaking, Training, Workshops & Continuing Education
Dr. Issokson is currently available for speaking engagements at conferences and is available to offer her workshops and training sessions to your professional and community organizations, healthcare practices and facilities or educational programs.
Dr. Issokson provides supervision and consultation for mental health and healthcare professionals. She also provides in-service training and continuing education for mental health and healthcare professionals.