This blog is an excerpt from our recent webinar with Hayley Peek, to learn more about Sustaining Well-being in Peer Support, you can view the full webinar recording here: https://youtu.be/9ybJUmR-hXo?si=vYaQFWvgrlQvLcg1

Peer support has undeniable benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing, but along with those benefits comes a unique set of challenges. It’s essential to explore how, as peer supporters, we can maintain our roles while  prioritizing and sustaining our well-being. To do this, we need to identify some of the challenges that can surface as a direct result of providing peer support and balancing these challenges through proactive means of self care. 

Proactive Self-Care

When we think about self care, we typically think about being reactive and supporting ourselves in times of stress or dysregulation. Learning to shift our habits and lean into proactive self care has us taking deliberate and regular actions to maintain and improve our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This means we are practicing to identify our needs, and addressing them, before our health feels a significant impact. Think of the mental health continuum—it’s about striving to stay out of the orange (injured) and red (ill) zones, as best we can. Instead, if we practice regular routines that contribute to our overall wellness, it creates more space for us to notice the small signs that may need more of our attention. This kind of proactive approach helps us maintain balance while managing stress and burnout.  

Reflective Exercise

So how do we learn to identify burnout, boundary needs or other challenges that might need our attention? Some reflective questions to consider as a Peer Supporter might be: Are the number of peers I’m supporting negatively impacting me?

If your caseload feels unmanageable, it’s crucial to recognize this as soon as you can. We all have different capacities on any given day, so learning what feels manageable can be the key to reducing stress and avoiding meeting unrealistic expectations.

Do I still enjoy being a peer supporter?

It’s very okay to reassess your passion for peer support. Like anything, our passions and interests can change. If you find being in the role no longer feels energizing or enjoyable for you, start by showing yourself some compassion. It’s important to  ensure we are doing our best to show up from a place of connection and empathy.

Am I sharing parts of myself that don’t feel good to share?

Just because we have lived experience doesn’t mean we have to share it all. Sharing should feel healthy and helpful for you. There may be parts of our story that don’t feel good for us to share at any given time. Knowing our limits contributes to our ability to care for ourselves.

Am I supporting peers whose experiences are causing me unintentional harm?

As peer supporters, we can’t always control what experiences we may be exposed to. Recognizing that exposure to our peers’ stories may lead to vicarious trauma; this can also coexist with direct trauma. Being aware of peer connections that may be contributing to this can help alleviate harmful impacts on our wellness and potentially burnout. 

Am I showing up equally in all my peer relationships?

We are not meant to be the right peer supporter for everyone. If you find yourself resenting, not empathizing or even dreading certain peer relationships, it may be time to consider transferring the peer. If we cannot show up authentically and empathetically in a peer relationship, the connection may have run its course and we may be doing harm to ourselves and our peer. Am I still practicing my own forms of self-care?

Sometimes, our go-to self-care methods stop feeling effective. If this happens, it may be time to reevaluate and consider introducing new tools or supports that better suit our current needs.

Peer support is a rewarding but demanding role. By being proactive about our well-being and regularly reflecting on these questions, we can work towards sustaining our ability to support others effectively. Remember, it’s okay to reassess and make adjustments as needed to maintain a healthy balance.

Have questions about Peer Support? Reach out to Hayley directly:

Website: www.HayleyPeek.com
Email: hayley.peek@gmail.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/hayley-peek

To sign-up for our next webinar, visit https://firstresponsemh.com/webinar-peerconnect/ or to learn more how PeerConnect can support your organization visit https://firstresponsemh.com/commit-to-connect/