What does it mean to honor and care for ourselves in this line of work?
In the domestic and sexual violence field, as advocates we are constantly extending ourselves and our energies to people all around us… to our coworkers, clients, family, friends and strangers. We often may leave a meeting feeling tired, drained or defeated. Over a period of time this can become exhausting, especially if we don’t replenish the energy that’s been lost.
This is when we are, as advocates, most susceptible to burn-out… the leading cause of advocates leaving this field.
Imagine trying to run on an empty gas tank. That is what burn-out is.
Last week, I had an experience where my fuel pump went out on my vehicle. It opened my eyes. I imagined this is what it must be like, to keep going going going until you eventually break down. My family and I faced tremendous hardship without our vehicle for a few days… and it allowed me to reflect on the concept for this blog.
In my position at the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, I support our NM tribal communities in sexual violence prevention and awareness. Working with and for your people can be a very rewarding job. But, it can also be very emotionally draining because of the heaviness that surrounds this topic for many of our relatives. Sexual violence affects our families, our loved ones, our friends and our relatives; no one is exempt from the impact of sexual violence. I tell myself everyday, I need to be healthy and strong so that I can be healthy and strong for the work.
Therefore, self-care is crucial. Remembering to honor and care for ourselves in this line of work is ceremony.
“What does self-care look like?”
I often get asked, what does self-care look like? What does it mean to care for myself, as I am also caring for a victim? Self-care can be what we want it to be, as long as its healthy and replenishes our energy in a good way. It’s up to us to explore and identify the things that make us feel good and bring us balance. Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes of your day to do something you enjoy or partake in something positive that helps you feel good. This can be reading a favorite book, filing your nails, going for a run or walk, or taking a bath.
As Native people, we have many options for self-care because our identities are ceremoniously tied to our culture, communities, and families… so returning to these areas for self-care can bring us back to balance. Many of us achieve this by participating in ceremony, having a prayer or blessing done, or spending quality time with our elders, listening to their stories and soaking up their wisdom. Self-care is also lighting cedar or sage for cleansing and taking in medicine, letting the aroma fill your home. For those that identify with the land they come, visiting sacred mountains or water sources can also help replenish that lost energy we need. Other relatives have expressed their feelings of healing and happiness when listening to the beat of the drum, whether it be at a powwow or during dances in the plaza.
Our mission at the Coalition is to eliminate violence against Native women and children and advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Self-care ensures that we can reach our goal by providing us with the strength and endurance to be the voice and help for our NM tribal communities.
Self-care is key! Self-care is our value. Self-care is ceremony.