RAYMOND — “Ask yourself once a day, why am I doing what I’m doing? This question reminds us to be rooted in our attention.”

Longtime trauma worker Laura van Dernoot Lipsky spoke to county residents at a Nov. 28 event in the Raymond Theater.

Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is the founder of The Trauma Stewardship Institute, which helps individuals and organizations learn ways to manage trauma. She also is the author of multiple books such as “The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul.”

The event was sponsored by Pacific County Youth Alliance with support from The Medina Foundation, Pacific County Public Health & Human Services, Teen Advocacy Coalition and Pacific County Democrats.

Burnout vs. trauma

Burnout and trauma are two responses people who care for others may experience. Burnout is something that happens over time and can be managed by making a change such as taking time off or working in a different job, according to the American Counseling Association (ACA).

Trauma is a state of tension and may look like preoccupation of clients’ stories and trauma experiences, according to the ACA.

According to van Dernoot Lipsky, signs of burnout include feeling helpless and hopeless; a sense that one can never do enough; hypervigilance; diminished creativity; inability to embrace complexity; minimizing; chronic exhaustion/physical ailments; inability to listen/deliberate avoidance; dissociative moments; sense of persecution; guilt; fear; anger and cynicism; inability to empathize/numbing; addictions; grandiosity: an inflated sense of importance related to one’s work.

Two factors that play into how care providers are impacted by their jobs are systematic oppression and climate change, van Dernoot Lipsky said.

Self care

“You probably feel like you’re being asked to do more with fewer resources,” van Dernoot Lipsky said. “You find yourself saying ‘If something changed I’d have a whole different scene here.’”

One of van Dernoot Lipsky’s major focuses was how providers can take care of themselves.

“No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price,” van Dernoot Lipsky said.

Self-care activities van Dernoot Lipsky suggests include exercising six days a week, practicing gratitude throughout the day, getting enough sleep and to keeping a sense of humor. She also suggests being aware of media consumption and whether time spent on social media is worthwhile.

“If you have 90 seconds and you’re going to take a break, go outside and look at the sky,” van Dernoot Lipsky said.

Saying no

“Do anything you can to have a life that’s valued outside of your job,” van Dernoot Lipsky said.

How do you say no? How do you prioritize the loved ones in your life?

These two questions were another focus.

“Just because you’re good at something, you’re not obligated to do it,” van Dernoot Lipsky said. “If you’re torn like ‘What if I never get this opportunity again?’ you likely will.”

She stressed the importance of knowing what perceived barriers each of us use as a way to say no to taking care of ourselves.

“Your boss isn’t the reason you stopped going to the gym,” van Dernoot Lipsky said. “For any of these things you want to use it as a window; whose voice is that? Where does it come from?”

Another major tip of van Dernoot Lipsky’s is to stay aware of why you do the work you do.

“Ask yourself once a day, why am I doing what I’m doing? This question reminds us to be rooted in our attention,” van Dernoot Lipsky said.

Finally, along with staying aware, van Dernoot Lipsky suggests to also maintain a Plan B.

“Ask yourself what your Plan B is. ‘If I wasn’t doing this what would I be doing instead?’ The stakes are too high for you to be doing what you’re doing because you don’t know how to do anything else,” van Dernoot Lipsky said.

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or aevans@chinookobserver.com

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