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Go to BAT for yourself

Lately there has been a lot of talk in the community about the impact of toxic stress on a child’s developing brain. As advocates working with traumatized children we are always looking for ways to help mitigate that impact. But what about ourselves? Whatever you call it – secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma or just plain old burn-out – it will suck the life out of you, LITERALLY, if it isn’t dealt with in a timely manner.

So Go to BAT for yourself – self care tips to use every day
You can only care for others to the extent that you care for yourself. Sometimes it feels selfish to take time for yourself. In reality, you must take time for yourself to rejuvenate your ability to empathize and care for those you love.
Reduce your stress and re-energize by going to BAT for yourself:
• Breathe
• Action
• Talk

Breathe - It is calming to breathe slowly and deeply. A new breathing rhythm changes the heart’s rhythm, which in turn has a powerful and soothing effect on the brain and the entire body and synchronizes the whole nervous system. The easiest way to calm yourself and relieve stress without even leaving your space or chair is to practice deep breathing.
Aches and pains are warning signals that something is overstressed. It is like overusing a muscle while running or playing tennis. You need to stop and tend to the area of pain. Whether emotional or physical, lingering pain drains your emotional energy and saps your brain power. Research shows that chronic stress shrinks the hippocampus, or memory center in the brain and chronic pain keeps the brain so occupied that it actually shrinks the entire brain. So, if the aches and pains don’t convince you to take action consider the brain implications.
Inhaling deeply and exhaling fully eliminates carbon dioxide that builds up from shallow breathing. Try counting while you inhale deeply and exhale for the same count contracting your stomach muscles to push out all the air trapped from your shallow breathing. Remind yourself to do this several times a day – start noticing your shallow breathing and force yourself to breath in and out deeply. Notice the difference in makes in your body and mind.

Action – Even a little action will make a big difference. Walk around the room, walk up or down the stairs a few times a day, take a hike or engage in some other activity that you enjoy. Stretch your arms overhead or behind your back while sitting or standing.
Stretch and breathe – you can do this while sitting or better yet stand up and do it. We tend to “shoulder our stress” and this movement helps remove the tension resulting from the stress.
• Stretch your arms out in front of you interlocking your hands. Gently turn them inside out so you are looking at the back of your hands. Inhale and stretch your arms up above your head. Exhale and straighten your arms, pushing the ceiling a little higher. Breathing normally, hold this stretch for a count of 5. Inhale, undo your hands, exhale and slowly lower them.
Combine deep breathing and action to double your results. Use the exercise above or intentionally breathe deeply while walking up and down the hallway or stairway.

Talk - Notice the voices in your head and test the reality of the message.
Imagine a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the worst reality that you can imagine. Like living in a war zone or being in the middle of a tornado. Maybe 8 is a life altering event such as going to jail or an accident that puts you in a wheelchair. Let’s say 7 is something that temporarily alters your life such as losing your job or having to move out of a home you can no longer afford. See where this is going?
Almost everything that we allow to stress or irritate us is somewhere in the 1-2 range of dashed expectations. In other words, our moods and our stress levels are determined by events that actually matter remarkably little.
That's useful to remember when you find yourself utterly irritated at being on hold, standing in line, or waiting to turn into traffic. Is the situation really worthy of getting worked up about?
Self care means letting go of perfection expectations when they are not necessary, realistic or useful. Take a deep breath and let it go.

Going to BAT for yourself will give you a new well of energy to nurture others.
Breathe – practice deep breathing and full exhaling at least once a day.
Action – take 10 minutes every day for some activity – walking, tennis, kayaking,….. Notice your breathing and intentionally deepen every breath.
Talk – Notice the voices in your head and change them to positive statements. Make choices every day that work for YOU.