You are on your way to see your therapist, and you are thinking, “Man I am glad to be going today. I have had such a stressful week, and I know I can get help from my therapist to deal with life.” But have you ever stopped to think how your therapist can be present, listening and helpful to client after client all day? How do therapists do that? Therapists, like other folks, have stressful days, family drama, financial issues, parenting problems, and health issues. So, what is the secret to a therapist’s success in being able to be present for each client? Partly it is because therapists follow their own advice about self-care. Therapists know that in order to prevent burn out and counter-transference, self-care is an important part of daily routine.
Self-Care NOT Self-Indulgence
Many people equate self-care with self-indulgence and avoid the concept because it feels selfish, but that is far from the truth. Self-care is not self-indulgence, nor is it selfish. It is a vital part of good mental health practices. Think of it this way, if you were a race car driver, you would not run your vehicle until it was out of oil and gasoline, because without oil, the car would be ready for the junkyard. The engine would be useless. We don’t think of adding oil to our car as indulgent. We add it because it is a necessary part of good engine maintenance. Self-care is similar. It is a necessary part of good mental health maintenance.
What are some good self-care practices? It is different for everyone, of course. For some, a round of golf does the trick. For others, golf is a study in frustration! So, finding what works for you can take time and thought, but here are some suggestions:
Find a Hobby
Take up a relaxing hobby that you find enjoyable. For some, it is splattering paint on a canvas, or taking the camera out to a reserve to take pictures of birds. For others, it is more physical like volleyball or bowling. The key is enjoyment in the hobby, not frustration or angst. Relax and enjoy your activity.
Give Your Mind a Break
Give your mind a break. Instead of ruminating on negative self-talk, find a book to read, or do a crossword puzzle. Meditation and yoga are great ways to let your mind have a rest. The negative self-talk will be there when you get back, but give it a rest and go pull some weeds in your garden.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
While we are on the subject of negative thinking, self-care can include challenging those negative thoughts. For example, “I am not lovable,” can be challenged with looking at those who do care for you and appreciating that you have a friend to count on. The negative feelings and self-talk keep us from seeing the gifts we do have, and prevents thankfulness. By challenging your negative thoughts with thankfulness, you can give your brain a break.
Develop Healthy Friendships
Self-care also includes looking at friendships, and giving up the toxic people in our lives. This is hard to do, but it is good to assess the behaviors of others to see if their connection in your life is a healthy one. If someone takes more than they give, or if they try to manipulate you or make you feel guilty, it might be time to distance yourself from them, at least for a while. Self-care includes attracting healthy, giving, loving people.
Invest in Your Relationship with God
Try spending more time in prayer or reading the Bible. Nothing is more soothing than reading the Psalms or the Gospels. It enriches your mind, soul and spirit.
Being grateful is also part of self-care. We often get bogged down with life, and we forget to be thankful for the incredible person that we are. Remember to be thankful and grateful for your body. We are so quick to criticize our bodies, but just think what it does for you. It carries you wherever you want to go, it allows you to move, to breathe, to bear children, to play, to hear music, to see color, and yet we rarely stop to be grateful for our marvelous bodies.
So, do what therapists do to stay healthy and mentally alert. Find the self-care that works for you and practice it regularly. You will be amazed at how much stronger, healthier, and happier you will feel.
Question for Reflection:
Which of the above self-care steps will you take today? Comment below, we would love to hear from you! Comment below
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