You Can’t Teach What You Don’t Own

Creating a Self-Care Culture vs. Telling People What To Do In Self-Care

There is a Negro Spiritual that has a song chorus of ‘Every Round Goes Higher and Higher’.  When I think of self-care, this song rings true.  In a nutshell, what worked for me then; simply does not work for me now.  In fact, you can insert so many things and people in this mindstate.  Friends that worked then; don’t work now.  Strategies of coping and even self-care that worked then; don’t work for me now.  Why?  Because every round and elevation in your life is met with new stressors.  And these stressors need new coping strategies-interventions including intentional elements of rest-mediation-care of self.

So as a clinical leader, why is it important to infuse self-care?  Because we know that building longevity in this field of autism and ABA requires us to understand that turnover happens and burnout is probably the loudest quiet culprit.  This burnout extends from line technicians to senior level staff.  So yes, self-care is important.  But, let’s get honest.  Most people across fields of study and careers don’t practice the elevated level of self-care consistently that our personal spirit-body-minds require.  The walks that worked for me then; don’t work now.  My life is so busy and ‘in your face’ that I now need to sprint and get more hardcore in my workouts to match the stress.  When my life calms down, I will go back to walking.

Instead of telling people how to take care of themselves, recognize that self-care is a journey.  And the care of self is personal.  Instead, create a company culture of care.

What does a company culture of care look like?

  1. It has boundaries.
  2. It understands the personal and individual scheduling needs of its staff.
  3. It encourages the team to problem solve including how to cover and care for its colleagues and clients when scheduling and coverage for clients are in conflict.
  4. It gives people time to think while at work so they can do a better job while at work.
  5. It communicates change and says thank you.
  6. It allows its leadership to make mistakes without ridicule and teaches from the failure.
  7. It allows its leadership and staff to take time off without calling them on their days off.
  8. It encourages healthy relationship building amongst staff across leadership levels because we are in this together.
  9. It encourages colleagues to ask “do you need anything” and builds that do you need something inquiry across all levels with everyone reaching up and down to build a better organization and team.
  10. It takes its time to grow. While caring for itself through its own growing pains.
  11. It recognizes that staff are people- humans in fact.  Superhumans are on television. It allow for grace for the personal life of your staff.

As a clinical leader, I would be out of alignment in providing lists for my staff in how to take care of themselves.  In my own ‘realness’, I am on a daily journey (and most days I remember) to rest-sit-abide-and be.  That is my self-care; a pause to breathe deeply and listen to my life.  I sprint to get the stress off; but the real care is in the pausing.  That is my self-care.  I’ve had to learn this and this is where I am today…in this journey.  Next month, I might need more actionable spa self-care.  My point is, the care of self is a personal journey and I don’t know the person-hood of each staff I encounter.  I know what they show me or tell me.  The best way I can teach self-care is to not talk about it as if it is a phenom, but to show how I care for myself…and sometimes caring for myself means that I allow myself to make mistakes without beating myself up for being perfectly human.

I’d like to think that self-care is new.  But it is not.  Generationally, people are conditioned to care for themselves wholly or not.  My workspace is not going to break a familial pattern of  care nor readily influence everyone in the same way by posting a contest of care, a list, or new care idea.  While noble and worthwhile, for some the idea of a list or seeing a new list is daunting and adds stress.

So what then are we left with?

We are left with ourselves. Our authentic “this is not easy; I don’t need to prove myself; and I have boundaries for myself and family” self.  I’m going to be a better leader by not indirectly dictating self-care.  I’m going to be a better leader by not faking it.  I’m going to be a better leader by creating the culture of care.  And I realize this culture creation is top down.  I’m not hiding behind anything…Tuesday Tequilla day is not going to work for me.  So I sprint-run; I laugh with my friends; and I text message using the Bitmoji app that came into my life (from a friend) and makes me laugh.  See…it’s all personal.  The culture of care allows me to see the bright side and do more of what is unique to me.  And then I communicate what I’ve done when engaging with my staff and families.  Why?  Because as a clinical leader, you must indirectly demonstrate and communicate that You. ARE. Human….with feelings.  When you do this, you consistently show yourself that you are human.  A human that has a cutoff time for work, who can’t get it all done today, a human that needs a day off during the week; a human that goes away on vacation and relaxes without angst of what’s happening at the office.

See self-care is not about our staff as much as it is about us and the culture that we create.  And realizing that this care does not mean people will stay forever.  Self-care allows people to evolve…in care, experiences, and transitions.

But, I cannot teach what I don’t authentically live.

Life and this enormous work of Autism and ABA must become more about the latest phrases and phenom.  Self-Care is important and people are real.  So let’s keep it real…we cannot teach what we don’t own.  Care for yourself and show up in the strength of triumph and failure…the culture of care will trickle down and then it will flow up to you as the leader.  I know this much to be true.  😉

~Let’s Keep Thriving

Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA



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