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Gratitude: A Self-Care Practice Tracy Kristoff, MA, LMFT

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Have you ever noticed that when you say nice words to others, they in turn responded in a more positive tone? Positive affirmations whether said to yourself or heard from another person can change how you are feeling in the moment.

Today I had an opportunity to address Occupational Therapy (OT) students at Purdue University- Indiana. The topic was burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. It is a timely subject for today’s climate. I started off the presentation with some affirmations to encourage the students during their ever-changing school environment. This led us to discussing the roles gratitude and thanksgiving have in rewiring our burned-out brains. Studies suggests that keeping a gratitude journal help people experience more positive emotions overall. It turns out that this is an age-old practice as indicated in Proverbs 16 - gracious words are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” I also asked the students how many felt “burnt out”. Everyone in the class raised their hands and reported feeling an over-whelming sense of fatigue. I am willing to take a guess that if they are feeling it and I am feeling it, then you are feeling it too! Let’s look at the symptoms of burnout and its antidotes.

Burnout is something that happens over time and is a state of chronic stress as evidenced by the following symptoms:

  • Physical Exhaustion- body aches and pains including headaches, nausea, and fatigue

  • Emotional Exhaustion – feeling emotionally drained and depleted

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Irritability – snapping at people, free floating anger

  • Isolating – This is intentional! I know we are all isolated, but this is refusing to answer texts, and/or social media posts

  • Low-self worth or excessive guilt

  • Feeling ineffective at work or home

When we recognize burnout, how can we care for ourselves?

  • taking time off

  • self-care treatments / self-nurture

  • connecting with nature

  • music

  • creating or appreciating art

  • enjoying nourishing foods

  • finding meaning and purpose in one’s life

Practice creativity, faith practices, and most importantly - gratitude. Gratitude has the potential of redirecting negative thinking, it has the potential to transform our thought process, in essence we practice self-care when we chose to be grateful. Be reminded to extend words of affirmation and gratitude to those around you. They too could benefit from a little gracious talk - “Gracious words are a honeycomb sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

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