September 11th and Self-Care

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As a Human Services Professional, empathy is essential to success in my field. Being empathetic is when your heart goes out to someone else. Being an empath means that you can feel another person’s happiness or sadness in your own body. For better or worse, I am an empath in every sense of the word. Because of my self-awareness, protecting my ‘spirit’ is a part of my self-care plan.

September 11, 2001 is a day that most American’s (alive at the time) will never forget. A national tragedy unlike anything we had seen or experienced on American soil. Americans had been lulled into thinking that our homeland was safe and untouchable. I dare say we had developed an indifference to large scale, collective trauma. This was devastation – not just in the numbers of lives lost on the planes, in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and on the ground, but also because of the long-term effects.

Today, we as professionals and as a nation, know more about trauma, but I’m not sure that we have truly processed how the 9/11 terror attacks have impacted our lives collectively.

I remember practically everything about that day. I remember driving to work and the radio station I was listening to. I remember the on-air personalities who informed us of what was happening. I can still hear the terror and disbelief in their voice. I remember getting to work and informing my coworker (who had grown up in New York City) about the plane crashes. I remember her shock.  I remember vividly how we rolled out the television to see the continuing coverage. I remember talking to my sister who worked near the White House at the time and advising her to leave work after the plane struck the Pentagon.

I remember leaving work to pick up my daughter and nephew from school and seeing other frantic parents doing the same. I remember the kids asking why I was picking them up early and not being ready with an answer as we drove past snipers on rooftops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I remember leaving the city that night. Those emotions return every year on this date. 

I very literally slept with the remote control on my pillow for the following weeks. I watched the news every waking moment. I created a disaster kit for my home and car. I created a ‘bug-out’ bag and a family escape plan. I was unbelievably sad, but I never cried (a true sign of my personal trauma). I remember one news anchor looking totally depleted and drained and realizing that I was also re-traumatizing myself. I had to stop and go on a media detox.

I always have and always will pause to remember the tragedy of 9/11. I have visited the Twin Towers site, donated to the American Red Cross, become a Disaster Preparedness Volunteer, and taken part in 9/11 Days of Service. Nothing will ever truly be enough. I must be extra intentional about self-care on September 11th.


Self-care includes putting good stuff in (to your life) and keeping negative stuff out.  The attacked were fueled by hatred. Racism and hatred in America never ended, but now we have cell phone cameras and social media to broadcast the injustice. Politics is currently so intensely intense, and our country so divided that I have also turned off the news as a part of my current self-care plan. It is overwhelming. I am not perfect, but I refuse to become hate-filled, desensitized, and distracted.

Do you need to make a media detox a part of your self-care plan?

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Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a Leadership and Career Strategist who helps mid and senior level women leaders develop the confidence, competence, and credibility to lead with authenticity and boldness. She has an extensive background in leading multi-disciplinary teams, developing and managing programs, and forming public-private partnerships. She is a college professor with a passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders. Nicki is an accomplished supervisor, trainer, and group facilitator who has merged her Master of Social Work degree and over 20 years of diverse work experience into a thriving business. Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting assists companies in expanding their influence and impact by enhancing employee recruitment, increasing employee morale and performance, and decreasing employee turnover.  Nicki is a travel and cupcake lover who also enjoys reading, listening to music, and serving her community.

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