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7 Self Care Tips for Professionals Embarking on Careers of Service

Human service workers such as teachers, counselors, nurses, social workers, and caregivers can benefit from these unique self care strategies.

Finding fulfillment in careers of service

By Alejandra Torres

February 6, 2024

If you aspire to build a meaningful career in service to others, it’s important to consider how you’ll make your own mental health and overall well-being a priority. Self care for empaths like yourself is crucial to effecting the change you want to see in the world. Taking care of yourself from the start will better energize you through the ups and downs in a career of service. Here are seven practical tips you can begin implementing from day one that will pay off.

1. Know Your Boundaries

Even in careers of service, there are times you will need to say no. It’s better to know your boundaries and be able to respectfully refrain from participation upfront than to accept all responsibilities and not be able to deliver. Common boundaries may include not working on the weekends, communicating on reasonable workloads, taking your full vacation time, or advocating for independent work time.

2. Focus on What You Can Fix 

As a human service worker, you will likely want to fix it all. Your compassion and dedication to good causes are precisely what makes you a valued employee in this field. But you need to acknowledge your own limits and know that fixing everything is impossible for one person. Instead, focus on the things that are in your control. The problems you can solve oftentimes create a ripple effect that leads to the positive change you are hoping to effect.

3. Recall Your Purpose

Along the same lines, it is important to recall that heartfelt drive you had that led you to your career in the first place. Ask yourself: What is the impact you want to have among your students, patients, clients, or community? Write down your answer. Keep it close to you and read it often. This can help you focus your mind on the big picture.

4. Acknowledge All Wins

Big or small, every win in the human service field is a significant win. You are helping to change lives and uplift others. Whether you helped secure thousands of dollars in funding, helped a family find a new home, or you made a new student smile, these are huge accomplishments that you should bask in. It means a lot to your dependents, and it should mean a lot to you, too.

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5. Invite Joy In

There is plenty of advice out there on how to bring more happiness to your mental health. (How often can we suggest a spa day?) But there is no one right answer that fits everyone. Take a moment to think about what brings you joy. Then, make time for it—doing so will give you the energy you need to be most effective. You know your schedule best. Avoid overwhelming yourself or feeling let down if you don’t meet your goal. The point here is to find ways to stay positive and let that feeling follow you wherever you go.

6. Nourish Your Body

You can only do as much as your body allows. Follow general guidelines on proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, and hydration. Schedule routine visits with your health care provider and always make an appointment right away if you’re experiencing a problem.  Preventative measures for a healthy lifestyle are the best way to keep your energy going. 

7. Practice Mindfulness

In high-pressure situations, practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and promote mental well-being. Take a few minutes (on a regular schedule or as needed) to engage in mindfulness activities like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. These practices can foster clarity and increase your resilience.

Self care is not only a necessity, it is a lifelong journey toward a balanced and rewarding life. By recognizing the value of self care, you can establish a solid foundation for a healthy and sustainable career in education or other human service fields. In short, take care of yourself so you can accomplish your goal of taking care of others.