One method of coping with compassion fatigue and burnout is having a hobby that you can enjoy outside of work (and even better, away from caregiving). We talk about hobbies when I present these topics to an audience. Typically, when I ask how many people have hobbies, about one-third to one-half of the room raises their hands. Then I follow it with, how many of you spend as much TIME as you would like, doing that hobby? And many hands go down…but it's encouraging to see some stay up in the air!
I like to think that I am one of those with my hand up, for the first question at least. I have hobbies, including:
- Writing … I love to write non-work-related fiction and non-fiction;
- Painting … miniatures such as characters in strategy games like The Hobbit with tiny goblins and dwarves;
- Painting … 3-D pictures of seasonal scenes, such as the changing colors of Autumn or a winter holiday scene;
- Jewelry making … especially beads and pretty pendants;
But here’s the deal with these hobbies, for example, the scrapbooking. The last page I completed was when my daughter was around 3 years old…she is now 13. I often joke that I’m going to tell her she was abducted by aliens for a period of time, which explains the missing years.
Truthfully, while I may have my hand up for the first question, the second one brings me back to reality…I spend very little if any TIME doing my hobbies. It’s hard to stand in front of an audience and say "you have to make time” when I’m so lousy at it too. But there is hope, and when I have those random periods of time when I can actually disengage from everything else, I have plenty of hobbies to choose from! My daughter teases me that I buy all these materials for different hobbies, but then don’t spend any time doing them. In fact, this past week, she labeled me a "Hobby Hoarder." Wow, that really fits!
While it’s become a joke between her and I, the reality is that I need to spend time with these hobbies. I believe that part of my issue is my search for perfection. For example, I remember in my childhood bedroom closet I have a six-inch start of a knitted scarf, and a half-finished latch hook rug. I’d restart every time I didn’t feel the stitches were perfect…and neither one ever got finished.
So, besides my advice to GET a hobby, and spend TIME doing that hobby, my last bit of wisdom would be to ENJOY the hobby…rather than worrying about whether the outcome will be perfect. Now, if I can just take my own advice!