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Shelf-life of a doula

Burnout rates amongst doulas are notoriously high.

The shelf-life for many won't last more than a few years.

Although I haven't found a formal study on this topic, most of my colleagues who attended births just a few years ago have since left the profession. And studies of burnout amongst midwives have exposed exceedingly high rates of occupational stress and career abandonment.

I feel passionate about this topic because I love attending births as a doula and I didn't want to have to give it up because I got tired. As the years went by I needed to find new ways to make the work sustainable for myself.

Along the way I discovered many things that I am super excited to share with you in the Sustainable Doula's Guide to Self-Care, but I thought there were a few initial ideas I could share with you now that could start making a difference in your doula life right away.

You can think of these ideas as 'natural preservatives', extending your doula shelf-life for as long as you desire. You may not last as long as a twinkie, but would you want to?

There are basically 2 essential practices that sustain a doula life:

1- You must refill your well. Whatever that looks like for you. It may mean scheduling off-call time throughout your year. It may mean consistent practices that replenish you, whether it's your yoga and meditation practice, herbal support or the kind of bodywork that restores you every time. You cannot just expect yourself to bounce back after catching up on sleep alone.

And you must, most importantly, include the cost of anything you do to refill your well in your fees!

2- You must 'slow the drain'; learn your limits and obey them. This may mean setting boundaries around when, where, and for how long you meet with clients and potential clients. This may mean you cannot take as many doula clients a month as some of your other colleagues. This may mean you share your workload with other doulas.

This might also mean you only work with people who are a right fit. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your preferences, in fact it is essential because working with the wrong clients will suck the life force out of you fast, whereas working with the right clients will actually nourish you.

Here we're working with the same "well" as above, just not draining it any more than necessary.

In truth there are tons of other 'natural preservatives' and 'musts' to a lasting shelf-life, many of which you'll get in your Sustainable Doula's Guide to Self-Care, but start thinking, how might you begin to master these first 2?

Did any of this spark a thought about how you might take better care to refill your well or drain it less in the first place? Can you think of at least one way you could start refilling, or one way you've noticed yourself getting drained that you can set new limits around to 'plug the leak'?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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