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What's Essential for the Essential Worker?

We've heard a lot about essential and non-essential workers in the last few months. Before March I'd never thought much about what qualifies a person as being "essential" and "non-essential".

During this pandemic SLP's have been on the frontline continuing to provide face to face therapy in hospitals, nursing homes, residential care facilities, and in some clinics, while in other settings providing teletherapy from home offices, living rooms and kitchens, as the work we do is considered "essential". Because I am a natural thinker (this is what I do and who I am and I just accept it at this point), I thought what makes the work that we do essential? Well, that didn't take long to come up with a plethora of highly important services we provide, from helping our patients swallow safely, to teaching social skills for appropriate interactions with others, to effective communication via speech and augmentative communication devices for those who are non-verbal, but we all know what we do so there's no need to get into that and waste our time.

So I started thinking about what is essential for the essential worker? The amount of physical, mental and sometimes emotional effort that goes into our job is quite daunting at times. So here are a few things I consider to be essential for SLP's as essential workers:

  1. Mental health is essential. Monitor your headspace. Stop, pause, break or adjust when your're feeling mentally exhausted or stressed.

  2. Creating balance in life is essential; balance of family, friends, work, and hobbies. It takes some adjusting but I always feel much more fulfilled when there is some give and take and balance in my life.

  3. Taking care of your Trinity: mind, body and spirit is essential. Listen to your body and fuel it with what it needs to perform optimally: sleep, water, fruit, vegetables, vitamins and supplements. Doing some research on the impact of certain foods and supplements on your body has been eye opening to me. Movement, whether it's yoga, running or dancing is known to increase mood and works toward building a more healthy body. Spiritual health means different things to different people, whether that's praying, meditating, listening to music, whatever the means, don't forget this part of you!

  4. Taking mental and physical breaks are essential. I like to say "I am going to take a voluntary break, before I have an involuntary breakdown". (that is an unapologetic direct quote and when I say it I mean it.)

  5. Saying "no" when necessary is essential. No explanation is required and any further discussion is purely optional.

  6. Surrounding yourself with positive people is essential.

  7. Limiting negativity and protecting your peace is essential.

  8. Feeding yourself positive thoughts and self-talk is essential.

  9. Focusing on what is good and well is essential. I have decided to start making "gratitude notes" of what I am grateful for having. I know how easy it is for me to overlook the good and focus on all that's wrong.

  10. Talking it out and seeking guidance, direction or advice is essential.

  11. Establishing boundaries for yourself is essential. (Loop back to number 5)

  12. Giving yourself grace is essential.

  13. Rewarding yourself for accomplishments big and small, and as frequently as you need to. is essential.

We as SLP's work sooo hard. We are natural givers and are always giving to others so much that if we are not careful, we can become drained and burned out "Every little bit counts" goes both ways, by either adding to your peace or to your burnout and stress.

Let me know what you're doing. What works for you? What are some practical ways you are taking care of the things that are essential in your life? We could all use some ideas on how to be better at this as we continue to provide our essential services and do so during this pandemic.

As always share your thoughts and share this post with someone who many need it.

Take care of yourself!

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