Frontline Initiative: Self-Care for DSPs
Staying Healthy Every Day Makes Working Easier
I’ve been a Direct Support Professional (DSP) at Black Hills Works since 1997 and I’ve worked in a variety of residential settings. I currently support 21 people who live in the community in their own apartments at a complex called Lacrosse Estates. I support them with many activities of daily living, including budgeting, cooking, scheduling, and accompanying them to their medical appointments.
Staying healthy and active is not only beneficial to me, but it also sets a good example for the people that I support. Taking care of my health involves taking basic steps like watching what I eat, covering my mouth when I cough, and constantly washing my hands.
But it goes beyond that. Black Hills Works hosts weekly meetings of Wellness Wins (formerly Weight Watchers) at our administrative building. The meetings are part support group, and part education. We learn about eating more healthy food, being more active, and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is important for managing stress. If you’re stressed, you tend to eat more. I’ve been attending these meetings for years. Since I started I’ve been able to go off high blood pressure and cholesterol medicines. I don’t like taking medication at all, so that has been a big reason for me to continue attending Wellness Wins meetings.
In the past, Black Hills Works also hosted classes in iRest meditation. I attended those regularly. Even though the classes have ended, I continue to practice my own form of meditation. This involves deep breathing, taking time and stepping away from situations when I need to. Meditating and keeping a positive mood helps every day when dealing with stressful situations.
I love the outdoors and I love being active. We live in South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills and I love to walk, hike, snowshoe, and camp. When the weather allows, I hike every weekend. In the winter, I snowshoe every weekend.
I enjoy including people I support in some of my favorite healthful activities. Lacrosse Estates has a swimming pool where I water walk and swim with the people I support. This past year, three other staff members and some volunteers took a group of people who we support on an annual camping trip. It is quite an ordeal, planning all the meals, packing the food and other essentials for so many people. But it was so worth it. Because different people enjoy doing different things, we divided into groups to do preferred activities. Some people went hiking, others fishing, some stayed at the camp and played games. Some brought spouses and children along, so it was a family event too. The camping trip was Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. As we were driving home, people asked me when we’re going to do it again!