Sanctuary: Blog

Self Care for Life

Compiled by: Nechsma Alvarez, HR Assistant, ANDRUS

Self care means doing things to support your physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Reduce stress and feel more able to cope with whatever life throws at you. Self care can protect you against burnout in your work and your personal life and can also put you in the best position to feel healthy and thriving, and to get the most enjoyment out of life.

Taking time for self care can be very difficult, especially if you're busy or spend a lot of time looking after others. However, the better you're feeling the more able you'll be to put your energy into work, family, or other activities in your life. So this weekend try to Schedule "You" Time.

Most of us find it hard to schedule in time for ourselves with no other obligations. If we are struggling to find time to sleep, fitting in a massage may seem impossible. The wonderful thing is that "you" time is likely to leave you more energized, more emotionally grounded, and better able to face the world and its challenges. Taking time for yourself may actually support you to power through your the other tasks in your life. You may also feel more fulfilled and lively as a result. If you spend a lot of time doing for others and not engaging in self care, it's easy to start feeling drained and for resentment to creep in.

What you do during your "you" time depends on what brings you joy and relaxation. It could be painting, watching a movie, reading a book, going to a play, or taking a hot bath. It might even be taking 5 minutes to breathe and listen to your favorite song. Whatever helps you to feel supported, refreshed, and less stressed. If you haven't been doing much self care, it may take awhile to sort out what will bring you the most pleasure during your free time. The process of figuring that out can also be rewarding.

Whatever activities you choose for your "you" time; it may be helpful to schedule that time. Experiment with treating it with as much importance as a big meeting at work. It's easy to push time for self care aside if you haven't made it a priority.

New Year's Resolutions

Submitted by Joan Bender, Faculty, Sanctuary Institute


Support New Year's Resolutions with Self-Care Plans, Community Meetings and Safety Plans


It's that time of year again when we say good-bye to the past year, and look forward to the excitement and newness of the year ahead. It is a time when many of us participate in the ritual of the New Year's Resolution. As we reflect on the year that just passed, we think about all of the things that we would like to change about our lives or ourselves, and we set goals related to the changes we want to create. Often these goals involve changing our life style in some way. We commit to things like eating better, exercising, spending more time with family and friends or doing good deeds for others, just to name a few.

We start off excited about our resolutions, and share them with our family and friends. We're eager to get them going and jump in to changing our behavior full speed ahead. But if any of you are like me, in a few short weeks, you'll find yourself falling victim to your old ways, and before long you'll find that you are persecuting yourself for slacking off on your resolution.

This year, I've decided to break that reenactment, and decided that I'm going to use some of my Sanctuary tools to help me. I'm starting by revising my Self-Care Plan. Now I have my resolution written down, and I can use my Self-Care Plan to remind me. I've also kept my Self-Care Plan changes simple, and in small steps. When the brain experiences too much change, too quick, it gets stressed and wants to shift back to old behaviors. I'm hoping that by making small changes, practicing them over time and adding to them periodically, I will be more successful in maintaining those changes.

I'm also using my Safety Plan to manage any stress related to changing my behavior. I've revised my Safety Plan as well. I've added positive self talk and inspirational quotes, so that it can also be an inspirational tool, when I want to give up.

"Give up?!?!" I know, sometimes it is so hard to get motivated or maybe you're motivated, but you're just feeling really tired and worn out. You think that no one will know that you didn't exercise, or eat healthy or reach out to a friend today. That is, unless you have a structure in place to help support you. Social support is one of the greatest factors in successfully changing your behavior, and what better way to get social support than during Community Meeting. Enlist your friends or coworkers to help support you in your new year's resolutions with Community Meetings. You might even want to set up a daily Community Meeting with a group of friends or coworkers specific to your new year's resolutions and how you are all doing with them.

Happy New Year! Best wishes and much success with your resolutions. Are you using any Sanctuary tools to help you with your resolutions this year? If so, commit to social learning and share what you are doing. We'd love to hear from you.


Creating Sanctuary

Submitted by: Roy Kearse, VP of Residential Treatment, Samaritan Village


I want to tell you something that's really sensible

It's about adopting SANCTUARY and its Seven Principles.


I have suddenly got a real yearning

To increase my knowledge of social learning.


I'm also asking everyone to increase their ability

When it comes to practicing social responsibility.


You may ask, how can we do both?

Well that comes from learning and growth.


Tell the truth, don't engage in hypocrisy

Open things up by creating an environment of democracy.


Don't be resistant or practice belligerence

Learn to exercise emotional intelligence.


Open your mouth and break the silence

This is one way to promote nonviolence.


If you do this we will increase everyone's education

And hopefully this will create better communication.


What Really Happened?

Submitted by: Nelson Urena, Faculty, Sanctuary Institute


Along with the rest of the nation, I grieve over the deaths of 20 innocent and precious children. It is these moments that really call for us to be emotionally intelligent and ask the right questions. I learned about the events in Newtown CT, via social media and it immediately became clear to me how shocking and traumatic this event has been for our entire nation. Of all the comments I read via social media the common theme has seemed to be "how could someone be so evil?"

Not immune to the trauma of such event, I also lost center and began to question my safety and the safety of my loved ones. Immediately I began to point fingers at what I thought was at the root of this "evil." It seemed to me at the moment, that we as a nation need to address the issue of gun control, and that there need to be more rules around how individuals gain access to guns. As a result of this line of thought I entered into many heated arguments around this issue, arguments which of course did nothing for me but create more division during a time in which we need to be more united. In many ways I allowed myself to be pulled into a reenactment which our nation has been engaged in since the drafting of our constitution.

It was not until after I slept on the issue that I was able to come to center and begin to see this event through a trauma informed lens. This morning I came to the sobering realization that I had been missing the very point which we, as Faculty of the Sanctuary Institute, stress to be the important issue when analyzing violent behaviors. So I fired up my computer and found the same questions being asked about the gentleman who committed this act of violence, "how could he be so evil?"

One of my favorite literary characters, Atticus Finch, tells us that in order to understand what drives people's ill intentions, we have to "step inside a man's skin, and walk around in it." And so in my state of shock and disbelief about how a person could do such a thing, and what was "wrong with this guy," I took Atticus's advice and attempted to step inside this man's skin because I really just could not come to terms with why and or how such a terrible thing could have occurred.

I think what Atticus tells us is that we have to be able to ask the right questions... "What has happened" to people and communities to lead them to act in such violent ways. It may be too soon to have any answers to this question as they pertain to the incident at Sandy Hook, but what I have learned over years of working in this field is that every behavior has a history. Thus it is important that we as a community of practitioners, citizens, politicians, stake holders and parents begin to look at these sort of events critically and ask the right questions before we premature problem solve and point fingers at what we believe to be the root of all this "evil." I think that asking these types of questions will help us come closer to identifying and addressing the real issues which are at the root of violence in our communities. What really has happened to this man (and is continuously happening in our communities) to cause so many mass shootings in our current history? Finally what can we do as a community to minimize the effects of the toxic stress and allostatic load we all face on a daily basis? Until we begin asking the right questions we will continue to blow out the smoke while ignoring the fire.


What a Feeling...

Submitted by: Maxine Reddy, Faculty, Sanctuary Institute


Earlier this month I had the honor and pleasure to deliver a keynote speech to the attendees of the Nebraska Association of Homes and Services for Children. For me to have the opportunity to address a room filled with service providers, about the Sanctuary Model and its benefits to organizations, was a dream come true. I have been exposed to the Model for many years and felt excitement as I began to prepare my story. However, my excitement did not transfer quickly or easily onto paper; well, the computer screen. I had so many thoughts that I wanted to be sure to share: the incredible change that I was a part of at Green Chimneys, where we implemented the Model, the transformations I have seen at other organizations that have taken the road to Sanctuary, the wonderful and imaginative people I have come into contact with through my Sanctuary journey, and the truly fun ways I have seen these concepts move from the original five-day training, to the steering committee, the core team, the staff and clients and customers. I am a true believer that if we make things fun, more people will be interested and involved.

As I had once again the privilege of listening to Dr. Sandra Bloom present a session on Trauma Theory, I decided that this concept would be the framework in which I would tell my story. In addition to preparing the didactic component of the speech (of course I was taking copious notes) I started to think about how understanding trauma theory has helped me in my work and with people in general. I decided to focus on the Sanctuary principles of (1) understanding that all human beings have experienced adversity in some way, and (2) changing the question we ask from ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what happened to you?’.

I shared my personal stories of how I have come to change my lens when interacting with co-workers, customers, friends and strangers; and the wonderful way this changed my relationship with myself. I began to be less critical and demanding of perfection. I also shared a very moving experience with the group about a small village in southeast Alaska called Elfin Cove; population 24 in the summer months (due to the abundant fishing opportunities), 10 in the winter months after all the seasonal members leave. I saw a man on the docks (there are no streets, only docks in this town built on the water’s edge) acting very strangely. I made the determination that he was ‘on something’ and made my way along as quickly as I could. That evening, back with my tour group, this small village and this man was the talk at the dinner table. Then someone, later I found out he was a doctor, offered that this man has Huntington’s disease, a debilitating illness. In that moment of understanding, I thought of this person in terms of what has happened to him, and my experience of what I had witnessed out on the docks completely changed. My fear was replaced with compassion.

So I told my stories and related them to components of trauma theory and felt that I had done Dr. Bloom and my colleagues proud. So, to put a word to my feeling on this day of my first opportunity to deliver a keynote speech, I feel proud of myself and exhilarated to be a part of the Sanctuary Institute.