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

Self-Care for Creatives with Lillian Dokken | the nashville self-care series

the nashville self-care series | Lillian Dokken

The Nashville Self-Care Series will show how real women practice holistic self-care. Often times you can forget all of the ways you are already taking care of yourself or you may need some new ideas to create your own self-care plan. This series hopes to give you insight into the variety of ways women in Nashville take care of themselves. 

This week's self-care dialogue is with Lillian Dokken, the founder and accessory designer of Lilli Dokken. She is a passionate creative that is bringing beauty into the world. Her thoughts about balancing self-care and a small business are honest and refreshing.  

Lillian Dokken | Self-Care for Creatives | the nashville self-care series

What does a typical workday look like for you?
My workdays are never really consistent… A schedule is one thing I am hoping to do better this year. I typically get up (as of January), do a devotional and write in a prayer journal, and then move to my studio where I check my emails and take on whatever task is at hand that day. This varies based on what is going on. It could be designing, setting stones, filling client or wholesale orders, doing a custom order, water-coloring a commissioned Birthday invitation – haha. It really is whatever is “most important” at that moment.

How have self-care practices impacted your life and work?
I honestly feel like my self-care practices keep me “human.” They keep me sane. If not, I think I’d be a full-blown (burnt out) workaholic:

Exercising: I don’t always want to do it and don’t always do it, but I can tell a huge difference in my energy and mood when I do vs. when I don’t. It gives me mental clarity and often makes me feel more creative. Also, if I’m doing it outside, it makes me aware of God, gets me out of my head, and allows me to focus on Him.

Seeing a therapist: Going to talk to someone every few weeks is so helpful. I am always able to work through any issues I may be having with relationships, myself, or my business. Getting another perspective on things is just so healthy for me. It’s also a scheduled way for me to “leave work” and get out of the house.

Reading / listening to books and podcasts (on my personality type, self-help, or entrepreneurial things): Reading or listening to these things make me more self aware, which helps me grow as a human. For example, reading about my Enneagram type (4 with a 3 wing) allows me to better understand myself. I am more conscious of how I think, feel, and act (or react) now that I know my type. I’m able to try to improve / be aware of any unhealthy things I do. It also helps me give myself a little bit more grace.  

Reading a devotional and keeping a prayer journal: I’ve noticed that doing this in the morning sets my mind in a new perspective before I start my workday.

Eating (mostly) healthy: When I start to eat poorly, I can tell. It often effects my mood, breaks my face out, and makes my confidence go down, so I try to stick to a fairly “healthy” diet.

Hanging out with my husband, family, and friends: I’m on the line of extrovert / introvert, but I lean more towards an introvert. My husband, however, is very extrovert.  Since I work from home, it is VERY healthy for me to interact with people regularly outside of work. If I didn’t have him, I honestly would be very bad at this. Thankfully, he holds me accountable to spending time with others. He gets a healthier and happier wife when we plan time with friends, each other, or family.

Church / small group: Same as above. It holds me accountable to seeing friends, meeting new people, but also growing in my relationship with God.

Taking on something creative - that doesn’t feel like work: Allowing myself to take on something creative that doesn’t feel like work helps me from getting burnt out on my creativity.

Meetings with my brother-in-law: These meetings are for my business. I’ve learned I work better with accountability. He helps me come up with business goals and the next steps to reach them. He has been so helpful in holding me accountable to these things. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today had he not stepped in and helped push me forward.

Asking for help when I need itWhether it’s asking someone to help me with my business or asking someone to help me clean our house – I’ve learned that asking for help takes a weight off of me.

Keeping my house clean: I can’t stand a mess. If I’m stressed, a messy house literally makes me go nuts. So loving myself by cleaning the house fairly often is key for me.

Literal self-care: This sounds silly, but working from home makes it easy for me to wake up and be in “go mode”. There have been days where I will stay in my comfy clothes, forget to eat, brush my teeth, or wash my face because, for whatever reason, I immediately got up and went into working mode. I tend to wake up with my mind set on getting something accomplished (hello Enneagram 3 wing), and can easily get going. Before I know it, my husband is home from work and I haven’t done the first thing to take care of myself. I’ve found (OBVIOUSLY) that I feel better on the days I actually take the time to get ready and feed myself properly. I’ve also found that taking the time to read a devotional and pray in the morning forces me to set my day differently and not start working as soon as my feet hit the ground.

What are some obstacles in this season of life that make self-care a challenge?
As stated above, working from home can be an obstacle. I tend to not properly take care of myself – or become too invested in working because it is in my home and so easy to do (at any hour I want). This has also made it challenging to hang out with others because I’ve:
A) Made myself too tired by overworking.
B) I didn’t take care of myself that day.
C) I feel I need to work more. (The line of when to stop working is blurry because as a one-woman show, there is A LOT to do in order to keep the business running.)

Are there any practices of self-care that you are implementing in 2018? Why?
Not to repeat myself, but I’m trying to create a loose “schedule.” My first step for this is reading a devotional every morning and doing a prayer journal. This is putting me in God’s presence before I go into my workday. So far, it seems to set my mind in a better place and start my day out on the right foot. I am currently reading New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp and using Kristen Ley’s Thimblepress Prayer Partner to hold me accountable.

·How does your industry/field practice or promote self-care?
I don’t know if I have seen it specifically in the jewelry industry, but I think there are a ton of other great small businesses in various industries that can shed a positive light on self-care. I typically find this in the social media world or listening to podcasts when other entrepreneurs are just vulnerable about the TRUE ups and downs that small business holds and talk about how they handle it. I also find it with other friends that have a small business.

A few good hashtags to look at for some posts that lead to vulnerable business owners: #thedarlingmovement #communityovercompetition #therisingtidesociety. The rising tide society is newer to me, but they focus on bringing entrepreneurs together and creating community locally.

How would your industry/field look different if self-care was a core value?
I think that it would be such a relief to see that other companies HAVE to take the time to have self-care. I think It would show a healthy/realistic view that running a business isn’t only the beautiful things you show on social media.

Are there any books/movies/songs that are currently life-giving for you?

A Little More about Lillian: 

I’m Lillian Dokken – founder and designer of Lilli Dokken. Adorning others is a part of my being. I have always had a zeal for creating. It was my love for tactile things and adornment that led me to my college, Savannah College of Art and Design, where I discovered my passion for designing. After graduating with a B.F.A. in Jewelry and Objects, I designed accessories for Lilly Pulitzer, until I took a leap of faith and decided to start Lilli Dokken.

Growing up with a mother as an interior designer has been a huge influence on my process. It was her love for vintage objects that made me see the value in things from our past. I knew from the start that I wanted to incorporate vintage components in my work as much as possible. When jewelry holds a piece of history, it distinguishes itself and the individual wearing it. Sourcing these materials is almost too fun - I feel like I am digging for treasures. I use a combination of materials that vary between new and old glass stones, foiled and unfoiled Czech & German stones, as well as Swarovski stones with a base metal of plated brass. 

I strive to keep the jewelry process as local as possible. All Lilli Dokken products are assembled by hand here in the USA. I have high standards for my line and check each piece personally before it is shipped off to its new home.

Follow Lillian on Facebook and Instagram

If you are in Nashville and are ready to check in with a professional to create a self-care plan, contact Jessica at to schedule a 15-minute phone consultation. If you are looking for more self-care ideas, then be sure to check back next week for more of the Nashville Self-Care series. 


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.