Caring for the carer: the importance of looking after yourself

There is a general rule in the emergency services: you make sure you are safe first before attending to patients. An injured fireman, paramedic or policeman will be of no use to anyone. For example, in an emergency on a plane you’re told to first reach for your oxygen mask before you help others.

Working in care might not always be a matter of life and death, but maintaining your own well-being is as important as anything you will do in your job. If you allow your mental or physical health to suffer for the sake of your patients, there will come a time when you won’t be able to help them any more.

reflecting on your work / life balance

So, before you care for someone else, you need to care for yourself. You have to identify and establish personal barriers. This sounds selfish and awful and completely against your philosophy of being a carer, however, there are times when you have to draw a line between your life and your work, so you can be effective in both.

Some personal barriers could be: I will not go to work if I am unwell; I will assume there is another excellent professional who can step in and care in my place. It’s also worth remembering that it’s good practice to not pass on your germs to people who might have a compromised immune system.

Another barrier could be: I have an important life event, a birthday or a wedding; I will make sure that this life event is off limits to work because my personal contentment is important in maintaining a balance that will allow me to be strong for others.

This self-care might not come easy as a care worker but it is worth considering that self-care is an important part of being professional too. Being fit to care is as important as knowledge of how to care.  

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