My dad used to say, “He’s about half a bubble off plumb” when describing someone he considered to be mentally or emotionally off balance.

I thought of Dad yesterday when I interviewed a supervisor from the Department of Social and Health Services from the state of Washington. I’m going to be presenting a couple full-day workshops for social workers next month on the topic of compassion fatigue.

When I asked the supervisor what she wanted the attendees to take away from these conferences, she said, “I want them to come away understanding the importance of self care. I want them to know that in the midst of everything, regardless of their circumstances, that they are in charge of their own reactions.” And then she said, “I want them to learn how to keep their emotional bubble level.”

I love connecting the image of a bubble level tool with my emotional level. Obviously, there are times when our bubble moves toward happiness and times when it moves toward despair. However, when it bounces back and forth like a teeter-totter, or it gets stuck in the “down” position, we are more likely to suffer from caregiver burnout and/or compassion fatigue.

According to the American Institute of Stress, even Mother Teresa understood that no one can care for others indefinitely without taking a break. She wrote in her plan to her superiors that it was MANDATORY for her nuns to take an entire year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of their caregiving work.

Today I’d like for you to take a few minutes. Sit down in a quiet space and try to get a reading on your own emotional bubble. If you’re feeling like you are a half bubble off plumb (or more) think about what you could do right now to bring a little balance back into your life. Then come back tomorrow for some more insights and suggestions on managing compassion fatigue.