Self-Care for Social Workers with Lydia Burris | the nashville self-care series

the nashville self-care series | Jessica McCoy Counseling

The Nashville Self-Care Series is a resource for each of us to hear how other women are taking care of themselves in the midst of busy lives and hard jobs. Each interview brings a new perspective because self-care looks different for everyone. I am excited to introduce this week's guest blogger, Lydia Burris. She is my favorite social worker and my sister. I cannot be more proud of the work she does for Nashville students and the school system. Social Work can be a heavy job and I am so grateful to hear Lydia's perspective on Self-Care and Social Work. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?
One of my favorite parts of my job is that every day is different. My day may be packed with meetings at schools and appointments or I may be in the office for the entirety of the day. Every day, I answer emails and am on the phone with clients, school staff, therapists, and juvenile court staff. I primarily attend Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities and advocate on behalf of what the parent or guardian wants for their child’s education. I also attend meetings regarding school discipline and meetings with the Department of Children Services. Other days, I provide training to community agencies regarding special education law, visit my clients in juvenile detention, go to court with my clients, do home visits, or visit kids at school. Having the variety in my schedule helps me avoid burn out and gives me something new to look forward to when I am starting to feel exhausted.

Jessica's two favorite social workers. Lydia Burris and Brené Brown. 

Jessica's two favorite social workers. Lydia Burris and Brené Brown. 

What are some daily, weekly, or annual/seasonal self-care practices that are beneficial to you?   
I know my mental health is always better when I am getting enough sleep and exercising regularly, whether that be running, walking on my lunch break, or doing a Yoga with Adriene video, so I always try to incorporate those into my daily and weekly routine. For me, I know that relationships and connection with others are really important ways to take care of myself, so I try to make sure that I am getting enough social activities in through spending time with friends, families, and my husband.

This past year, I knew that I really needed to do some personal work, and I started seeing a therapist regularly. Seeing a therapist was one of the most beneficial ways that I was able to take care of myself during a difficult time, and I would highly recommend seeing a therapist who you connect with to anyone, especially anyone in a helping profession.

I also find it really helpful for me to be involved with a faith community because I find that doing this work can feel really lonely, and it is so beneficial for me to connect with others in my neighborhood and community even if they don’t always understand what I do at work. Even though I work with youth, I spend more time working with parents and school staff, so I teach the kids at my church every week. I find that to be important because it gives me time to build relationships with kids without having it be a part of my 9-5 routine.

Professionally, I love going to trainings because it not only makes me more competent, but it is so nice to be around other social workers. I am also typically a guest speaker every semester at the college I attended, and I really appreciate that opportunity to give back to a community that molded me into the social worker that I am today.  I find these experiences so much more helpful long-term than getting my nails done or getting a massage.

Exercise is not self-care when you end up shaming yourself for not being enough. - Lydia Burris LMSW | The Nashville Self-Care Series

How have self-care practices impacted your life and work?.
When I started my job four years ago, I really didn’t understand how important self-care was, so the first six months of my job was really challenging. My boss repeatedly had to remind me to give myself more grace, which has been really formative for my career. Since then, my practice of self-care has improved significantly, and I feel like another person both professionally and personally than those first few months.

I think boundaries are so incredibly important, so as soon as I started my job, I refused to get my work emails coming automatically to my phone. It helps me focus on what needs to get done, and it means I’m not accessible when I’m off the clock. It’s already difficult enough to not take our clients’ stories home with us, so having this feature turned off really helps me stay balanced and healthy personally. 

What are some obstacles in this season of life that make self-care a challenge?
When my schedule is packed, I know that my practice of self-care practice automatically decreases.  Also, this political climate that we are in currently is really challenging for me in a lot of ways. I try to pay attention to the red flags when I know that I’m not taking care of myself well enough.

Are there any practices of self-care that you are implementing in 2018?
Because I know exercise is really important for me, I try to run before work when I know I have a difficult meeting that day. Or recently I had a tough day at work, so as soon as I got home I jumped on my bike. Thirty minutes later, I felt like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde because “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” Regarding exercise, I’m really working this year on not shaming myself for not being faster, stronger, as good as that girl over there, etc. Exercise is not self-care when you end up shaming yourself for not being enough.

I recently started doing a Shame Resilience Group led by my therapist with a bunch of my close girlfriends, and we are going through (my Social Work Queen) Brené Brown’s curriculum. I’m really looking forward to this because the work is so important personally, but I am also getting to improve my relationships with my friends. Having a strong community of women who empower each other has truly changed my life.

Even though it’s more expensive, my husband and I save money for vacations and weekend trips to get away. I was really struggling at work last April, so we scheduled a weekend at the beach for the end of May after school ended. As soon as I knew it was on the calendar, my outlook on work and life was immediately different. I really try to be aware of what seasons are most difficult at work and strategically place events in my calendar to give me something to look forward to.

How does your industry/field practice or promote self-care?
The social work profession really values self-care, which absolutely makes sense considering the difficult work we do and the secondary trauma we experience. Throughout my education, we always discussed self-care and the importance of it to our health and our longevity in this field. Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away from school with a strong understanding of what self-care should really look like for me personally. Because self-care has to be individualized to your personal needs, I would recommend to anyone in school or before starting a new job to start figuring out what works best for you as soon as possible. You need those skills incorporated into your daily routine because it is hard to determine what works when you’re already exhausted from the learning curve of a new job or you’re in the middle of a crisis at work.

Are there any books/movies/songs that are currently life-giving for you? 
When I’m feeling stressed before a school meeting, I often blare “Glorious” by Macklemore & Skyler Grey as I drive.

Anything by Brené Brown. Meeting her was a bucket list moment for me for sure.  I just ordered The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and I can’t wait to read it. When I need a break from anything heavy, I love a good easy-read Chick Lit book.

Lydia Burris, LMSW provides educational advocacy with students with disabilities who are currently involved in or at-risk for the juvenile court system. She believes that all students deserve justice in the classroom. Lydia and her husband live in Woodbine and love their neighborhood. 

If you are looking to add going to counseling to help during this stressful season in your life, contact Jessica at Jessica@JessicaMcCoyCounseling or call 615-979-4168

Seven Recommendations for Self-Improvement Books

Seven Recommendations for Self-Improvement Books | Nashville, TN

Bookstores and libraries have shelves of self-help books. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. Often women will ask me which book to read to help with certain issues. For the next two posts, I want to give you some recommendations for two dimensions of your life: your relationship with yourself and your relationship with others.

Here are 7 books I recommend to those who want to work on their relationship with themselves. These are in no particular order.

1. Anything by Brené Brown.
I recommend starting with Gifts of Imperfection, which is her shortest book.  Daring Greatly and Rising Strong are both helpful reads for anyone wanting to live whole-heartedly. I recommend her books to anyone who feels weighed down by shame or for those who internally wrestle with feeling like “enough.”

2. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life - Susan David
Dr. David's book gives guidance to handling the range of emotions we experience on a daily basis. She gives strategies for noticing emotions as well as how to make value-informed decisions to move forward in light of those emotions. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled to know what to do with his or her emotions.

Using tools like Audible or Nashville Public Library's OverDrive App can be helpful for auditory learners. 

Using tools like Audible or Nashville Public Library's OverDrive App can be helpful for auditory learners. 

3. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma - Bessel Von Der Kolk
Dr. Bessel Von Der Kolk is a psychiatrist who lays out a comprehensive framework and understanding of trauma and its effects on our bodies and brains. Be warned that the stories in this book may be difficult for some to read due to the intensity of their traumatic content. However, this book is a fascinating read about how trauma physically and emotionally impacts us and what trauma recovery can look like. I recommend this to anyone who has experienced any level of trauma in life.

4. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others - Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky  

When I recommend this book I always start by saying, "When I read this book the first time, I broke a pen because I underlined so many pages". The book maps out how working with trauma can impact us. The author also helps show how you can still work in trauma related fields in meaningful and sustainable ways. I highly recommend this book to anyone working in a trauma related field. This includes nurses, doctors, firefighters, social workers, therapists, ministers, vet techs, police offers, Department of Children Services employees, teachers and many other professions that work closely with those who are affected by trauma.

5. Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now - Meg Jay
Dr. Jay focuses her work on the important season of life we call “the twenties.” She shows how critical these ten years are in the life of young adults and gives practical advice on how to make the most of them. Dating, career, friendships, and both mental and physical changes are all addressed in an honest and relatable fashion. I recommend this if you are in your twenties, work with twenty-somethings, or love a twenty-something.

6. The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships - Julie de Azevedo Hanks
One constant topic in my office concerns the challenge of communication. This book is a helpful guide for women who want to learn communication in helpful and healthy ways. I recommend this book for those wanting practical tips to move them towards more assertive communication. 

7. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself - Kristin Neff
Self-compassion is often misunderstood to be self-pity, self-indulgence, and self-esteem. But Neff’s work helps the distinct traits of self-compassion. I recommend this book to anyone looking for tools that that can strengthen your own practice of self-compassion. 

Next week, I will share three more books for improving your relationships with others. If you are looking more support in your self-improvement journey in Nashville, then fill out this form for a 15-minute phone consultation. 

These are a few of my favorite things : February Edition

These are a few of my favorite things : holistic self-care ideas

One of my passions is self-care. The thing about self-care is that most of us "know" we need it, but we do not always know how to do it. This year I am focusing on my holistic self-care. I am trying to intentionally incorporate caring for myself in physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational ways. Here are a few ideas that have helped me in 2016. 

1. Bora Bora Fireballs: Don't let the name scare you off. This is my favorite new recipe of 2016. These meatballs are a gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free meal that taste amazing. What is especially great about this meal is how many you make at once and then can eat throughout the week. But be warned you may go through them faster than you think. Large batch cooking saves time later in the week (and gives you more space for other self-care practices). 

2.  Brené Brown's COURAGEworks Living Brave Semester:  Brené Brown holds a special place in my life. I connect with her work due to her authentic voice and strong research background. Going through her virtual classroom has lead to multiple personal shifts. Read how this class has impacted my re-evaluation of my values

3. Diamonds by JohnnySwim: In December I attended JohnnySwim's Holiday show (and I am already hoping they come back to Nashville next December). A few of their songs resonate with me, but this song is one of my new favorites. I love the resilience pouring from this song: "We are the brave. We are the chosen ones. We are the diamonds, rising up out the dust." Listen to Diamonds and let me know what you think. We're the light when the day is done. 

4. Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2016 - Sacred Space is a book of daily readings that include six prayers, a Scripture reading, and a brief reflection. One thing I love about this book is the way these prayers and reflections often point towards connecting to Jesus through emotional experiences. In my spiritual practice of self-care, I am constantly searching for resources that are able to connect both mentally and emotionally in deepening my faith. This book continues to be a treasure. 

 5. Nayyirah Waheed's poetry: I cannot describe her work and art better than she can. So here are a few of my favorite poems.

What are some of your favorite things in your life? What practices or items are bringing you joy? Do you have any highlights from February?