Tools of the Trade

This past summer, Bridges of Hope hosted an excellent community training for those of us working in the “helping profession,” called Healing the Heart of the Healer presented by Chris Henley, MS, Licensed Psychologist. Chris says everyone is “hard- wired” for empathy, and as a result, we can be pulled in to another’s feelings by the work we do or the circumstances we experience in our life. We can become so focused on the other person’s feelings that we forget ourselves and the state of our own body and mind.  Chris teaches that when we learn to identify our own signs of hyperarousal, we can calm both ourselves and the other person too. Signs of hyperarousal can include an increased heart rate, increased respiration, a sense of not thinking clearly, sweating, and high blood pressure.

One of the lasting concepts that Chris shared that day was that we–those of us whose work is primarily focused on helping others–are the tools of our trade, so we need to take care of ourselves. She impressed on us the importance of maintaining our overall well-being and balance while continuing to facilitate our clients’ healing. The training also gave us several hands-on techniques to use when we are feeling stressed or fatigued, which are easy for anyone to use. If you experience a stress-filled situation or conversation, it’s time to “put on the brakes” mentally and begin to become aware of yourself and surroundings. Here’s how to do that:

1. BREATHE: Breathing is key. Take three slow deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

2. RUB AND SHAKE: Rub the palms of your hands together quickly for three to five seconds to create heat, and then shake your hands to get rid of the energy. This helps clear your mind and release stress.

3. CHANGE YOUR POSITION: If you feel yourself being “pulled in” to the other person’s experience, deliberately change your body’s position by crossing your legs,  picking up you pen, or diverting your eyes.

The take-home message of the workshop was we need to be aware–aware that we’re hardwired for empathy, and aware that we can “catch” each other’s emotions. Once we’re able to identify our body’s signs of hyperarousal, we can practice ways to deactivate some of the stress and can maintain a healthier sense of well-being. If you start with the simple techniques described above, you will be taking the first steps to healing your own heart.

Other Self-Care Resources:


Wanted: VHS Tapes

Doug and Jill stopped in to Common Goods on their way to their cabin this summer. They were looking for a few “new” items to decorate with. As they looked around the store, Jill noticed several VHS tapes on a shelf. She excitedly called Doug over–the couple had a VHS player at the cabin, and their grandchildren often requested to watch movies while visiting. Doug and Jill snapped up several children’s titles that day, glad to know they would have something “new” for the grandkids to watch. On the way out of the store, Doug promised they would be back next summer, on the hunt for more VHS tapes!

Believe it or not, VHS tapes are popular at Common Goods–our customers are always looking for VHS tapes, DVDs and CDs in good condition and in their original cases. Children’s titles and family movies are especially popular. Look through your own video and music collection at home, and donate the selections your family no longer enjoys to Common Goods–they just might make someone else’s day!