Take Time for Self-Care
Take Time for Self-Care: Notice symptoms of stress and practice caring for yourself after listening
This is the last in a series of six statements about the values and objectives of Someone To Tell It To’s listening, training, and educational programs. Living these values is how we are helping the world to listen.
Several days ago, while talking with a treasured friend who has recently had a painful and significant loss in his life, he asked us:
How do you take care of yourselves when you’re listening to stories like mine every day?
The answer was pretty easy:
Well, there are several things we do. First, we do all the listening together. We’re almost never alone when listening to Someone. The 2by2 model of listening is a unique feature of STTIT’s work; it has been from the very beginning when it was just the two of us doing this work. And now that we have teams to listen, all of our team members listen in pairs, too. Second, as you know, we’re both runners. Running can help tremendously to melt away any stress we are carrying because of what we hear. Most often we run on our own time when we’re not working. But sometimes we get to run together after a day’s work. It releases so much tension. It makes us feel good about ourselves. It helps to keep us healthier. Back in October we ran in the Baltimore Festival of Running (Tom in the marathon, Michael in the 10k) and that was a very special day together. And third, we really cultivate a healthy sense of humor about life, ourselves, and the seeming absurdities of the human condition. A sense of humor and laughter help a lot!
We do those things to care for ourselves and each other, too – walking outside to process countless experiences and issues and to make vital decisions, getting coffee, tea, and beer, having shared meals, taking in a movie that makes us laugh or transports us to other places, and our annual December 23 tradition to reflect on the year, at the Hotel Hershey, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with their signature chocolate martinis.
They are all at the heart of how we care for ourselves and each other in this work. As you might imagine, listening to so many stories of pain and loss and broken relationships and simmering anxieties is intense and often hard to do. Setting aside what we hear and see does not simply happen on its own. To continue doing the intentional listening and supporting others through their most intense and troubling seasons, we have to care for ourselves. If we don’t, we cannot be at our best to be of the greatest help to those who come to us to share.
To keep entering into the darker corners of others’ lives takes intentionality of purpose and focus. Whether it’s personally or professionally, for every person, self-care is essential if we want to be our best to support and care for others who come to us with stories that need to be told. We with Someone To Tell It To hold their stories as sacred. Every story of every person is at the heart of who we each are as valued human beings. Our experiences mold us into who we are. We need to have them heard and validated to be able to become more of the people we would like to be.
In our humanness, each of us can grow tired and overwhelmed, impatient and judgmental. But when we know our limits and are aware of when we bump up against our boundaries, and we step back to restore and revive our emotional and relational capacities, it is then when we are better able to support and accompany others on their pathways to healing and wholeness.
While we will never be perfect at it, we all can be better. Caring for ourselves so that we are able to summon our best selves – our deepest empathy, our greatest support, our most generous grace – enables us to model the care for others that we would wish others modeled for us.
Our friend, the other day, told us that the way we listen to him – with patience, kindness, non-judgment, validation of his feelings, and showing simple love – is exactly what he needed in his grief and loss. There was no better reassurance for us than to hear what he said. We know that by listening together and by caring for ourselves, we are able to to be at our best, to care for others such as him.
Photo by Lalu Fatoni