How can we care for ourselves better?

This is one of the questions Professor Bruce Stevens will be asking delegates of The Selwyn Foundation’s Ageing and Spirituality Conference.

“We typically set enormously high standards for ourselves,” he says.

He says our “automatic voice” tends to be harsh and we owe it to ourselves to be self-compassionate.

This is particularly true for caregivers, as they are in a job that is focused on caring for others who are vulnerable.

“Caregivers need to take steps to avoid burn-out, depression and low self-esteem,” says Stevens.

As a clinical and forensic psychologist, Stevens is well placed to discuss what makes us tick.

He is an advocate for self-compassion for care workers and points to Kristin Neff’s work in this area as exemplary. Essentially self-compassion for care workers means ensuring a healthy view of the work they do and building psychological resilience and acceptance towards their work of care. He says managers can play a key role in helping build this ethos in their organisations.

Stevens will also talk about the importance of spiritual care and the impact it can have on positive ageing. He believes while aged care providers are offering services in this area, there could be more done to ensure spiritual care is something which is incorporated into the whole holistic wellbeing of an older person.

Research carried out by Judith Hardie in New Zealand suggests that the carer is best placed to incorporate spiritual care into their daily care delivery, but more training and understanding is needed.

Stevens agrees. He thinks part of the problem is that spiritual care can be difficult to define.

“It doesn’t carry the baggage that religion sometimes carries with it, but at the same time it can lack the gutsiness of traditional faith.”

He says Selwyn is a leader in this area, with its array of chaplaincy and support services.

Prior to pursuing a career as a psychologist, Stevens was an ordained minister for the Anglican Church, a position he describes as “the only job that was too big for me”.

His collective experience and research interests give him a unique insight into the various topics associated with positive ageing and he shouldn’t be missed at The Selwyn Foundation’s Ageing and Spirituality Conference on 1 September.

For more information about The Selwyn Foundation’s Ageing and Spirituality Conference on 1 September click here.

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