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Minot self-care specialist responds to need during pandemic

Self-care specialist finds calling during pandemic

When Elaine Sveet founded an online community last year to offer hope and encouragement, she never anticipated a viral pandemic would heighten response and take her work in new directions.

Sveet, of Minot, served as a church pastor for 18 years, the past 10 years in North Dakota with the Presbyterian Church USA. She most recently served First Lutheran Church in Rugby before transitioning to public speaking and personal coaching.

The online community she founded a year and a half ago originally focused on daily devotions and later added her blog.

“It really started with me wanting to connect with people during the week,” Sveet said. “As a pastor, I was noticing that with our pace of life, it was increasingly difficult for people to come to church to do parenting support or grief support together. People were needing something that they could consume when it fit their schedule.

“I started doing Facebook Lives, so that people could consume it at any time of day, and it was on their schedule or any time of their week. The response was really good to that, and then the requests started to come to speak or to do coaching, because again, people were needing it,” she added.

The pandemic shifted more focus to her message of self care.

“Workplaces have been inviting me to come in and talk to their employees about self-care resiliency strategies to help ourselves manage our stress, and not just survive our work life and crazy home life, but also to to thrive in it, to find joy and satisfaction in the journey. Then especially during a pandemic time to be able to figure out how to manage a changing workspace. Certainly for educators and for healthcare professionals as well – how to manage the changing rules, the overwhelming demands on them, so that we’re avoiding burnout. And again, we’re able to find some semblance of satisfaction and joy in our work right now,” Sveet said.

Sveet first spoke on self care last January, when she was invited to give an interactive presentation at a seminar for area educators in Rugby.

“I was sharing what I do to take care of myself. Pastors are in a super high burnout career. So I could really connect with educators especially, because of their helping profession and their high burnout rate as well,” said Sveet, whose husband is a school superintendent.

That presentation led to invitations to speak in other school districts. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, her presentations have been either virtual or in-person, depending on the situation. She also has recorded sessions for online professional development credit.

This fall she spoke virtually at the North Dakota Health Information Management Association conference. She spoke last spring to youth at a high school’s junior-senior banquet. She welcomed the opportunity to “be that encourager of these young people, because they have gone through so much, especially that last spring of not being in class, not having the usual graduation and to talk about their resiliency and the skills they have now because of having gone through this.”

Sveet posts her Chasing Abundant Life blog and other articles on her website at chasingabundantlife.com.

“What I share is very everyday-lived. I’m trying to help people with tools for this day,” she said.

The website includes information on how to sign up for professional development or inquire about obtaining personal coaching or presentations. Her coaching has been applied in various situations, from managing conflicts at work to caring for elderly parents.

Some businesses that have invited her to present seminars to their employees also have asked her to follow up with 15-minute coaching sessions with individual employees to talk about strategies for managing stress.

“They want their people to be well, and they see struggle and people being overwhelmed,” Sveet said. “We only have so much mental capacity so when we’re being stressed about this, it affects every part of our life, including our work.”

One of Sveet’s tips for workers is to remember why they do the job they do and to see the big picture.

“Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of it, and we forget the macro picture. I encourage people to create what I call the joy file, which is when someone has shown you any sort of appreciation for your work to remember that and cherish it,” Sveet said. “We should find a way to treasure the affirmations we receive in life.”

She keeps a file of received texts and notes of appreciation or encouragement that she can use as reminders on days when things aren’t going so well.

She also advises workers to “prepare their armor,” referring to getting ready to handle the hard parts of their jobs. Sometimes that involves strategizing when to tackle certain tasks to be able to give it your best at that time.

“We can all do better at what we’re doing. We just often don’t give ourselves the time to make a plan,” Sveet said.

She recommends being intentional and proactive and not simply reacting to what life throws at you. She suggests finding a mentor who models solid coping skills. If positivity isn’t present in your workplace, there are online communities that can provide it, she said.

People must recognize how much they can handle, too. As a church leader, Sveet had felt she needed to know everything to be ready to respond to changing circumstances. Constantly following the news left her with the weight of communal grief and trauma, which was not good for her mental health. Now she chooses how much news to absorb to stay informed but not overwhelmed.

Life transitions also have required her to practice her own message on self care. Moving to Minot from Rugby this past summer has been among those transitions.

The Sveets have three children – in fourth, sixth and eighth grade – and are coping with the pandemic just as other families are. They have experienced a paused hockey season and have had to develop new home routines.

“We really try to make sure that we do something fun every day. I feel like we’ve upped our goofiness in the house,” Sveet said.

“We have certainly been more intentional about together time,” she added. “I’m playing the family video games together, which I have zero interest in, but they care about. They’re doing sleepovers – just the three kids together in the living room – and just trying to find ways to be home more than we normally would and make it fun. And we talk about gratitude all the time.”

Trying to find the positive rather than focusing on negatives is important, she said. So is maintaining contact with distant loved ones, even if you can’t see them in person, she said. More hugs are given out in her home because people need physical touch, she said.

In her blogging through the pandemic, she senses her tone becoming more gentle, both with herself and with others.

“The pandemic has really upped that potential for us to be drained and stressed and short with each other. The need of our world is for us to find ways to get along and to be gentle,” she said.

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