My name is Brooke. I’m a Licensed Practical Nurse and I work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It is one of the most beautiful and authentic places I have ever worked, but it has many challenges.
One of those challenges is that there are no cut and dry answers for things. I work with a population living with long-term difficulties with their mental health and addictions. It can be difficult to adjust my expectations and still feel like I am making a positive impact. Lately, with the opioid crisis, there have been so many losses in the community, which has left a trail of grief and sorrow that is hard to contend with.
The term “self care” used to make me want to run for the hills. It seemed so selfish to be wasting time worrying about myself, when daily I work with people who are struggling to have some of their very basic needs met.
Thankfully, I have a very wise counselor who has been telling me for years how and why I need to be focusing on self-care.
My husband and my counselor were both very quick to point out the way I was starting to change in this job. I found myself not eating properly, and not sleeping well at times. I often felt like I had no energy left over at the end of a day.
One of the practical things I have added to my daily routine is that I now ride my bicycle to work. It helps me to expel any anxiety on my way in, and allows me to decompress on my way home. I try to pack a nice little lunch, and take time on my breaks to sit, breathe, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the seawall. I also plan a lot of awesome adventures on my weekends so I have something to look forward to during the week.
Another helpful thing I added to my day is stopping on my way home from work to sit and reflect for a while. I do an inventory of how my day went, what I did well, and what I could do better tomorrow. I try to leave all that stuff there, and ride home without it.
Implementing a few of these tools each day has made an incredible difference in my mental health, how well I am able to cope with difficulties at work, and how much physical energy I have left at the end of a day.
Brooke Peppler works for Community Apothecary and the Portland Hotel Society.
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