Saturday, February 12, 2022

Healing for Helpers

2022 March Newsletter:  Healing for the Helpers


Healing for Helpers

by Vanessa Mortillo


“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers


From the hospital staff who have showed up for the sick and dying, to the parents who work double duty supporting their children and maintaining normalcy, to our teachers, daycare and eldercare staff, clergy, mental health professionals, first responders, and service workers, it is comforting to know that helpers are everywhere. Yet, it is difficult to find words that do justice to their extraordinary struggles during this pandemic. Many helpers rose to meet challenges head on, and many are tired.


For anyone in a helping role, it is important to pay close attention to your own wellbeing. The classic airline safety instruction, “Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others,” is so true. Yet, so many helpers charge forward with little attention to their inner lives. If this sounds like you, I see you.  You may have been taught that taking time for yourself is selfish or fear that showing vulnerability will be concerning to others. As a result, you may not be asking for support when you need it.  I often hear the phrase “I am so done” from frustrated parents, teachers, and youth that I work with. Exhaustion, depressed mood, hopelessness, and frustration are all signs that it may be time to focus on your own healing. Doing so will expand your ability to help others immeasurably.


An oft overlooked aspect of healing is staying connected to other people and our community. Dr. Bruce Perry, a renowned child psychiatrist and trauma expert, states, “Relationships are the agents of change, and the most powerful therapy is human love.” Dr. Perry found that even short, positive 5-minute conversations with other people, spread throughout the day, can shift internal energy from distress into homeostasis. Connecting to community might look like asking trusted friends to check in, making an effort to call people more frequently, planning quality time with loved ones, or even joining a new community. This is one of the reasons the Resiliency Center offers classes and workshops. We understand that humans thrive in community.


Below are a few more self-care tips to support your healing journey:


·      Self-compassion: Understand that you are often simply doing your best with what you have available to you. You are just one human dealing with a lot, and it is okay to take breaks and attend to your own needs first. Give yourself grace if you make mistakes. Commit to loving kindness meditation practices.


·      Attending to your body: Moving, exercising, and massage can release tension and stress as well as relieve parts of your body that carry emotional burdens. Feed yourself foods that nourish you.


·      Seek therapy: If you have lost someone, have been exposed to trauma, or simply would like support as you support others or to experience your own healing, invest in therapy.


As many challenges as we face as helpers, there are many ways to cope. Creating a sustainable lifestyle that allows you to be your best self while helping others may involve getting to know yourself better and finding the self-care strategies that work best for you. We hope you take time for yourself and take care.


Vanessa Mortillo is a Licensed Professional Counselor with extensive training in play therapy. Utilizing mindfulness, expressive arts, and play-based interventions, Vanessa provides a playful space to harness creativity and imagination in the service of growth and healing. To learn more about her practice, view her profile or contact her at or 267-507-5793.