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As a Direct Support Professional (DSP), you’re in a position of always providing support and care for others. You have the unique privilege of providing support to intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, allowing them to live in a home setting. Since you are charged with helping your patient to do as much for themselves as possible, staying in the background, you may not be “seen” as doing actual caregiving. This may give you and others the mistaken idea the job will not trigger burnout or cause stress in the way other caregiving positions do. But you would be mistaken.
As a DSP, it is important to take care of yourself and get the support you need to support those who depend on you. Have you ever been on an airplane? As the plane taxis down the runway, getting ready to take off, one airline hostess will demonstrate what happens in case of an emergency. Decades of flying and preparing for emergencies have taught personnel that you first place the oxygen mask over your face and then help the child, senior or passenger in the next seat. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of anyone else.
Stress takes on many forms, and you’ll be better able to face the challenge when you are physically healthy. You’ll find if you have a cold or haven’t had enough sleep, you’ll experience more stress and may get angry more easily. This is why one of the top strategies to avoid burnout and to take care of yourself is to care for your own physical health. Key strategies to self-care are:
Sleep: It is important to get at least 8 hours of quality sleep each night. During sleep your body removes toxins and metabolic waste from your brain, reducing the potential for dementia. Without enough sleep you have an increased risk of being in an accident, experiencing negative health conditions, getting depressed, being forgetful and gaining weight.
Nutrition: Your body is what you eat. Each cell in your body feeds off of the food you put into your mouth. If you’re eating fast food and Cheetos, then you can expect your health to reflect the quality of the food you’re eating.
Exercise: Although you may be on your feet most of the day at work, this counts as movement and not exercise. Movement is crucial to your health and reducing your risk of heart disease, and so is exercise during which your heart and breathing rate increase. Seek to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, doing whatever you enjoy.
As a DSP you are providing support to your patient, and then likely going home to do something similar for your family. It’s time you did a little something to take care of yourself as well. Seek out activities that help you to relax and “blow off steam.” For many people, that’s vigorous exercise. You may also find yoga, stretching, long walks after dinner or getting lost in a good book are what help you to relax.
It’s also important to find someone with whom you can confide about the stresses and challenges you face each day without revealing private patient information. Talking out your concerns can help you to find solutions but repeating the problem over and over only increases your stress level and doesn’t solve the problem. Try to find a balance between sharing to release the issue and repeating the issue until it becomes ingrained.
As a DSP you give others the opportunity to live at home, making the difference between enjoying life and suffering through it. Contact the professional recruiters at Capital Healthcare Solutions today and we will help you figure out if this is the right path for you.