Today, more than ever, it is important to check in with yourself. As caregivers, we need to protect ourselves from the daily grind of our work. At the PATH, Intl. National Conference there was a session on preventing burnout and safeguarding your own mental health. I previously wrote a post about self-care here but today I want to talk about finding support.
In equine assisted activities and therapies we work with a high risk population. This means we often see people with physical, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities. We may also work with people who struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or eating disorders. Clients may have suffered physical and/or emotional trauma, come from a broken home, or experienced things that we will be fortunate enough to never understand.
The work we do is good and important, but because we all love what we do we can forget to care for ourselves. In addition to self-care (linked above for ideas on that!), find support that works for you! Here’s some ideas for you:
1: Have a debrief. After sessions, debrief with staff and volunteers who were involved. It can be helpful to discuss what worked or what was triggering immediately following a session, or at the end of the day if easier. The debrief gives everyone involved time to process the session, share the burden, and not take it home.
2: Reach out to others in the field. Connect with EAAT providers. We all understand the work and know how overwhelming it can be. We have probably had a similar encounter and can empathize. One thing I love about this industry is how willing to help everyone is. Never be afraid to reach out!
3: Reach out to friends and family. Obviously don’t share confidential details, but it is fine to call a friend and tell them you had a rough day. Talk to your partner or call your mom. We deal with heavy things sometimes and it’s nice to share that burden.
4: Ride your horse. Tell your horse! After a particularly difficult session, I love to spend time with a horse. I can tell them all about the session without breaking confidentiality, and I get a little equine therapy of my own.
5: Ask for help. We cannot do this alone. Bring in another instructor or therapist. Find more volunteers. Limit the number of participants. Ask specific people for specific tasks that are most helpful for you. Do you need time between sessions? Ask another instructor or assign a volunteer as point person to clean up at the end of one session so you get a break before the next.
6: Say no. It is perfectly acceptable to say no. There are certain populations I know that I cannot fully serve because it is too triggering for me. Know your limits and set boundaries. If it is too difficult for you to work with a certain group, don’t do it. Find other organizations that serve that population and pass along that information.
Do you ever find yourself experiencing burnout? What is helpful for you? How do you find support?