Self Care

Self-Care: So Who Takes Care of You?

Written by: Mark W. Wolf, Training Director at National Safe Place Network

This is my first attempt at a blog so bear with me.  I volunteered to do this one because the most significant thing I have learned in my nearly 40 year career in the youth work field is the importance of taking care of yourself.

It has always struck me how so many youth care workers, who are superstars at caring for others, fail so miserably at taking care of themselves. The other thing I know to be true is how those most effective in this field care down to their core. That kind of care takes a toll on you emotionally and physically, and often leads to burnout.  If you want to continue to work in the field and be effective you absolutely must make a plan to take care of yourself. Many of us learn to take care of ourselves the hard way and many drop out of the field, unfortunately, because they do not learn in time. Fortunately, self-care can be learned.  With guidance, support, and good role models I learned some things along the way about work and self-care that helped me in my career and life.

Before you can make a self-care plan, there are some things you need to figure out about your work.  You have to examine why you are doing the work you are doing, and who are you doing this work for. It’s ok that we all meet some of our needs through our work, but our work cannot be the sole provider, or even the primary provider.  Remember that in our work we are there to meet other’s needs, not our own.  We need to meet our own needs in our own way, on our own time. Most importantly, we must be realistic in our expectations of how much we can do at one time, it is indeed a marathon. Understand that at best, we are support agents that facilitate change and growth that must be self directed. In the end, hopefully we know and believe we are worthy and deserve to be cared about by ourselves and others.

Once you figure all this out, and it can be complicated and take some significant time and effort unraveling who we are and what we need, you are ready to make a self-care plan.  First, understand that self-care is a bit of a misnomer. Much of self-care is making sure you have people around you that care about you and for you. The self-care part is allowing these others in.  As for a self-care plan, make a list of things you do for yourself that energize and inspire you, make a schedule, and keep it. Develop a support system outside of your work that includes a variety of people and activities. Give yourself permission to make time to play, have fun, and be totally selfish with your time and what you choose to do with it.

I was fortunate to have lots of support, guidance and great role models along the way to help me figure out how to create and maintain balance in my life.  Go out and find the support and guidance and care you need along the way.  You already know this but it is worth saying again – if you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to help take care of others.

Getting to Know Your NSPN Family: Take a Breather

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

Sometimes when one hears the word “relax,” it’s followed up with “Relax? Who has time for that?” “If only.” “It must be nice.” “I can’t turn my mind off long enough to relax.” “If I relax, who’s going to do the work, take care of the kids, and so on . . . ?” But did you know relaxing is actually important for your health? Here are “10 Health Benefits of Relaxation” shared by The Huffington Post:

  1. Relaxing protects your heart.
  2. Relaxing lowers your risk of catching a cold.
  3. Relaxing boosts your memory.
  4. Relaxing lowers your risk of stroke.
  5. Relaxing keeps you safe from depression.
  6. Relaxing helps you make better decisions.
  7. Relaxing keeps you slim.
  8. Relaxing eases acne.
  9. Relaxing will keep you in the mood.
  10. Relaxing could slow breast cancer.

Lucky for you (if you’re one who’s guilty of having the thoughts mentioned above), we found “40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less.” Some of these suggestions include the following:

  • Nosh on chocolate.
  • Lay your head on a cushion or pillow.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Rub your feet over a golf ball.
  • Drip cold water on your wrists.
  • Look out the window/find the sun.
  • Stretch.
  • Listen to your favorite song.
  • Sniff citrus.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • and 30 MORE!

We asked your NSPN family this question: “What do you do to relax?” Here’s how they take a breather:

  • Laurie Jackson, President/Chief Executive Officer: “I read cookbooks, novels, etc., and I spend time ‘unplugged.’”
  • Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer: “Read, write, and photography.”
  • Shauna Brooks, Principal Investigator: “To relax, I like to lose myself in a well-written book, movie, or TV show.”
  • April Carthorn, General Specialist: “To relax, I lay on the floor with my dogs, have a beer and a shot of 1800, I listen to music, and people watch.”
  • Sherry Casey, Operations and Administration Manager: “Read or spend time with grandkids.”
  • Zach Elmore, Operations Specialist: “I like socializing after work with friends and family. I find long talks with friends as good for relaxation as any exercise.”
  • Kim Frierson, Training Specialist: “Go to the movies or have a well-made cocktail.”
  • Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations: “I guess I relax by watching TV.”
  • Rachel Hurst, Development Associate: “Working out is really stress relieving for me. I read voraciously. I love naps with my puppy!”
  • Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator: “Read a book, watch a movie or TV show, or drink a delicious glass of Malbec wine.”
  • Autumn Sandlin, Marketing & Communications Intern: “I’m a big fan of naps! Although, I generally take those out of necessity and not for strict relaxation. When I’m actively trying to relax, I usually put on a tv show that I like and do some sort of face mask.”
  • Sabrina Smith, Development Intern: “When I get too stressed, I like to go outside and hang out with our chickens! They’re always so happy to see me – it’s impossible to be stressed when you’re surrounded by chickens.”
  • Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events: “I feel most relaxed when I’m snuggling with my pugs. Some people get annoyed when their dogs snore, but I find it quite calming. I think it’s because hearing them snore lets me know they are ok.”
  • Eric Tadatada, Technical Assistance Specialist: “I like to read or do crossword puzzles.”

Learn more about your NSPN family at

What do you do to relax? National Relaxation Day is August 15; feel free to share your “goto” relaxation ritual below.  


What do New Year’s Resolutions mean to you?

What is a resolution?  I asked this very question to a couple people and received the same initial response from all.  I received a “look”, a look that implied “I know the answer to this but I have to think about how to verbalize it.”  They had to think about what a New Year’s Resolution really was.  After thinking for a moment, they shared replies such as “it’s something new someone wants to do for themselves”, “a new beginning”, and “putting something into motion”. What if I told you a resolution is as simple as a promise.  A resolution is a promise that you make to yourself (and work hard at keeping)!

Year after year, resolutions are made; yet, you find many are broken.  Why is it so difficult for people to follow through with their resolutions?  Perhaps the reason that they are so easily broken is because they are not thought to be actual promises, but instead ideas.  People like the idea of something, but it is expected that not all ideas come to fruition.

How can you do better?  Start by simply thinking of your resolution as a promise.  It will help motivate you to be more thoughtful about the resolution and you will be more motivated to keep it.  When you feel down, remember that you can do it!  You wouldn’t have made the promise if it weren’t realistic or if you didn’t believe in yourself to do it.  You have made progress and it’s not time to give up.  Next year, one of two things will happen.  You will be proud that you kept your promise and accomplished your goal –OR- you will wish you stuck to it and will be starting all over again.  Which will you choose?   Make this year the last year that you make this same promise to yourself.  Whatever you choose, make sure it is the right choice for you.  Believe in yourself and don’t give up.  You are worth it!  A promise is a promise!  Happy New Year!

Feel free to check out the tips below to get moving in the right direction. 

Tips on Making and Keeping Your New Year’s Promise

  • Put some thought into it! What do you really want to change?  Is it a personal goal or does it have to do with family, friends, or the outside world including work or school?
  • Make sure it is attainable. You want to do something that is good for you, which is why you are promising yourself in the first place.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.
  • Don’t leave it open ended. If you want to lose weight, set an amount (“I promise to lose 20 pounds this year and keep it off.”)  If you want further your education, decide what you want to learn and be specific (“I promise to take a pottery class this year.”)  One is less likely to give up or “phone it in” when setting clear specific goals.
  • Plan ahead! Do you know how much you want to save?  Have a schedule?  Ideas on types of storage or labels you need to get organized? Do you need to have healthy food options on hand?  A pair of walking shoes?  Need to get rid of things from your home or work environment? Want to be better at your job?  Joining NSPN can help with this!
    • Write it down. There may be times where you don’t remember what you should or shouldn’t do.  Writing it down makes it more formal and it helps when your “bad habit brain” wants to take over!
    • Have a contingency plan. Identify what you will do if temptation kicks in! Anyone, at anytime, can suffer from a pesky craving or forget and fall back into bad habits.
      • Does your promise depend on the weather? What happens if it rains?  Make a plan and take away the room for the excuse ahead of time.
      • Craving ice cream or an after dinner sweet snack? Try cool whip mixed with flavored Greek yogurt.  YUM!!
      • Running late? Don’t hit that snooze button!  Set your alarm for when you actually need to wake up and place it on the other side of the room.  Don’t waste an hour of interrupted sleep just to keep hitting the button.
  • Let others know! The last thing you want is external influences pushing you to break your promise.  Let people know around you that you have made a promise to yourself and appreciate their support.   You increase your chances of success when sharing details of your journey as you tend to receive extra external motivation and encouragement!
  • Have a friend ready to support you. There will most likely be a time when you need the extra support or someone to get your mind off things.
  • Write down some positive self talk statements. Who knows the best part of you more than yourself!  It’s ok to tell yourself how awesome you are and that you are WORTH doing this for yourself!
  • Be persistent! It takes at least 21 days to start a new habit. Don’t expect that things will change overnight.  It took some work to create the bad habit, generating a poor credit score, or gaining the extra pounds, so it will take some work and time to turn things around.  Take things day by day.  Don’t look at it as a lifetime commitment or a yearlong commitment.  Wake up in the morning and say TODAY I am (or am not) going to do this for this day.  Recommit yourself each day.
  • Track your progress. Regardless of the size of the step, every step forward is a plus!  Give yourself credit when credit is due.  A little happy dance never hurt anyone; go ahead, stop what you are doing and smile about what you have just accomplished.
  • Reward yourself along the way! Yep, that’s right… you deserve a pat on the back!  Make your rewards meaningful. Some reward examples include downloading a song or album of choice, having a spa day (You can find great deals online for local massages!), or something like going bowling.  Depending on what your promise is, you might have a short-range, mid-range, and of course the ultimate goal!  The rewards can mimic the outcomes (the more you do, the more you reward)!
    • Here’s some more great reward examples:
      • Complete a Brain Break from NSPN’s Plugged iN Email!
      • Take a hot bath. Go ahead and splurge on that calming lavender oil (or other pleasing scent of choice).
      • Give yourself a Mani and Pedi! (Or if it’s a mid-to-ultimate goal splurge for the professional one!)
      • Get a massage or a facial.
      • Visit a farmers market and get some goodies.
      • Buys some fresh flowers and set out on your counter. Seeing them every day for a week will be a great reminder of how hard you worked.
      • Have a play date! Yep, whether with a friend or significant other, take time for a movie or other fun outing.
      • Turn on some music and dance around like no one is watching.
      • Enjoy a fun attraction like the zoo or city Ferris wheel (even the largest sky scraper in town and check out the skyline if you’re in a large city).
      • Do a crossword puzzle, word search, or play a card game.
      • Allow yourself a few hours to read a book.
      • Check out a play at a local theater.
      • Host a game night with friends.
      • Have coffee or tea with a friend.
      • Take a road trip! Weekend trips to a new destination a short distance away are great!
      • Take some photos and make a collage.
      • Give someone special a gift (like flowers, a meal, or something else special)
      • Reach for the stars! … Or just look at them. Star gazing can be breathtaking. Perhaps your city has a local planetarium.
      • Go to a local craft show or home show that’s in town.
      • Take a nap. Sleep is a good thing.
      • Go through your DVDs at home, pop some popcorn and watch a throwback movie you enjoyed and haven’t seen in a while.

Helping Youth Make a Promise?  Here are Some Tips to Help Them Get Started!

  • Help Youth categorize their resolution promises.
    • Examples: school/work, finances, recreation, social life, health
  • Make sure the goals are attainable.
  • If they are unsure about what to change or do to enhance their life, ask them questions to get them thinking. Where do they want to be in a few years?  Are they looking to save money for a car or rental, go to college?  What steps do they need to take to get there?  Are there areas they can focus on to help?
  • Share your success stories with them. You can share with them the amount of work it takes to make it happen, and that it is possible!  You might be able to offer ideas to make it easier.


Sample New Year’s Promises:

  • Stop a Bad Habit
    • Smoking, Biting Nails, Drinking, Fibbing, etc.
  • Lose Weight / Have a Healthier Lifestyle
    • Eat Healthier, Become a Vegetarian, Walk/Exercise More, Drink More Water, etc.
  • Learn a New Skill
    • Grant Writing, Cooking, Blog Writing, Sewing, Typing, Knitting, Speaking a New Language, etc.
  • Try Something New
    • Yoga, Zip Lining, Sky Diving, Hiking, etc.
  • Start a Hobby
    • Painting, Dancing, Collecting Coins, etc.
  • Travel / Visit a New Place / Be Spontaneous!
    • Travel to Another City, State or Country; Visit Your Local Museum(s) in Your Own Town, etc.
  • Spend More Time with Loved Ones (Including your pets!)
    • Plan a Family Game Night Once a Month, Take Your Dog to the Dog Park Once or More Times a Month, etc.
  • Get Organized
  • Save Money / Manage Debt
    • Create and Use a Budget, Use Coupons, Build/Rebuild Credit, etc.
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  • Be Kind! (Offer at Least One Random Act of Kindness Each Day.)