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Preventing Burn Out Through Self-Care

By Shafia Monroe, Public Health Professional, and Doula Trainer

Self-care!  Everyone’s talking about it, writing about it, and trying to achieve it.

The fast pace of our society is leaving individuals scurrying to respond to texts, ringing phones, multi-level social media, work demands and the needs of the family.   People are managing long hours, working two jobs, working while attending school, and the majority are responding to the pressure while parenting and being in a relationship.

The rapid pace is creating frenzies that widened the circle for human connection and create burn-out.

The pressure is causing feelings of isolation, anxiety and even depression.

Birth workers and burn out

Within the United States, the pressure for performance by midwives, birth workers, and health professionals is extremely high.  Along with general problems of societal pressures on birth workers, the issue of race and cultural magnifies the stress for midwives and birth workers of color.

This is substantiated by the fact that the emotional and physical impact for women in the workplace is twice as high compared to men.   Work-related stress manifest as heart disease, muscle and bone disorders, cancers and depression.

Jobs that meet the following criteria are exceptionally difficult for women and result in early burnout.  These are jobs that have: Heavy workload demands, are repetitive with little challenge, boring, with poor relations among co-workers and supervisors, have un-checked sexual harassment and job insecurity.

Racism creates burn out

The level of tension for women of color is high because they must navigate daily discrimination, micro-aggression, and racism in the workplace.  According to Black Women’s Health Imperative, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates.  Regardless of the age of children including having newborns and toddlers, Black women enter the workforce early in the postpartum period.

The body and mind know when they have had enough of the stress and pressures. We must learn to read and respond to the warning signs before our body forces us to stop, with high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, depression, and other illnesses.  Even when we love our work and are passionate about it, we still need self-care.  Understanding the role of self-care and its implementation can help prevent burnout, preserving our mental and physical health.  The soul wants to rest, chill, groove, relax, just be, and rejuvenate.

Today self-care includes activities such as getting a massage, a pedicure, having a solo lunch or dinner dates, meet-up with family and friends, taking mini-vacations and exercising.  These are all great ways to slow down to breathe, relax and release the endorphins.

News ways of considering self-care

Author Sobonfu Somé of “Welcoming Spirit Home-Ancient African Teachings To Celebrate Children And Community,” mentions that the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso do not feel the need for solitude for self-care. In fact, being around the family and visiting one another in the village is considered self-care; I believe this means we should consider the village concept, where villagers provide help, nurturing, care and love. In the African tradition, women work together, cook together, eat together, help with each other’s children, and sing and dance together, reducing stress and isolation, which is a major factor that contributes to burnout for women.   I hope as we learn ancient wisdom we can understand Sobonfu Somé,s message of practicing self-care by being with family and community.  Family and community will know to rub our shoulders, help clean up, provide support, and make sure the children are healthy and respectful, and give love with a listening ear.

Self-care begins slowly and gradually becomes a daily activity that makes you happy and feel accomplished.

Health professionals, midwives, and birth workers are special beings.  Ms. Byllye Avery, Founder of the Avery Institute for Social Change and the Black Women’s Health Imperative said in 2002, there is a star in the midwife’s crown because she brings forth life.  This statement is for all who work to serve families in maternity care.

A call to action

Join me on Shafia Monroe Consulting/Birthing CHANGE Facebook Page at @shafiamonroeconsulting to begin the discussion on self-care for midwives, birth workers, and health professionals.

Below is a list of steps to help you begin your journey to self-care.


Phase 1

Self-care is a mindset followed by actions.

Step one: Believe that you deserve to be cared for.

Step two: Believe that the world will continue safely as you rest.

Step three: Believe that caring for yourself is an act of worship.

Step four: Believe that you are more important than your job.

Phase 2

Planning steps

  • Let family and friends know that you are a student of self-care and will be practicing.
  • Let your family know you call upon them to help you achieve your goals.
  • Create a daily schedule and write in time for self-care.
  • Keep the step simple and inexpensive.
  • Plan a complete physical
  • See the dentist

Phase 3

Action steps

  1. Put your phone down “Erykah Badu (A three-hour phone and social media fast (it can be scheduled around meal times.)
  2. Practice Siesta time (In Nigeria naps are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of everyday life.)
  3. Walk barefoot through the woods or on your lawn.
  4. Sit and reflect on your blessings.
  5. Burn incense such as, rose, sandalwood, jasmine, frankincense/myrrh or musk.
  6. Listen to music and dance with friends
  7. Sing in a choir or with the family
  8. Try fasting once a week (Check with your doctor)
  9. Visit the library
  10. Watch comedy
  11. Visit often
  12. Let go of grudges
  13. “Let the Queen inside Shine” Jill Scott song, “Prepared.”


Black Women’s Health Imperative
Center for Disease Control, Stress at Work





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