Therapy for change. Things happen. How we experience them at the time doesn’t have to remain fixed. (See: Why do situations get you anxious?) Since the lockdown started, I have had time to reflect on myself and my experience, in other words, to practice what therapists tend to neglect – self-care.
Self-care is not selfish.
Firstly, self-care is not selfish. Secondly, how can we care for others if we don’t care for ourselves? Therapists should set an example regarding ‘looking after oneself’ but often don’t.
How many people do you know who are always running around after others whilst neglecting themselves? Burnout is not far.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as:
‘the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider’.
When lockdown 1 came, I had to re-evaluate my working practices. Most of my sessions were face to face. However, I had been taking some sessions online. For instance, if a client was housebound, it was beneficial to conduct sessions online. Likewise, the flexibility online sessions gave was a positive factor for those with time constraints—all for the client’s benefit.
Lockdown 1 meant face to face sessions were not possible. That is to say, sessions were online—a new way of working and extra training. So I was busy moving my practice online. Busy, busy, busy.
Whilst rushing around to pivot the practice, I thought: ‘I need to take better care of myself. I had been helping others to take care of themselves for years. Now it was time to take care of myself.
I have put together a list of suggestions that may help you. A sort of introduction to self-care:
- Break out from your four walls – if you can, even if it’s just into your garden if you have one. Maybe take a trip to a park.
- Help out neighbours. Volunteer. Altruistic therapy. Probably not a thing – but it should be. Helping may not be wholly altruistic. However, others benefit, and it could give a boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Stress is a killer. We know that. Anxiety can present as physical symptoms. For example, headaches or dizziness, muscle tension, pain, stomach problems, chest pain or a faster heartbeat, and sexual difficulties (NHS).
- Mindfulness. ‘Those who learn its techniques often say they feel less stress, think clearer (The Harvard Gazette).
- Diet. Try to eat more fruit and veg – if you can. The health benefits of eating more fruit and veg are well reported. In addition, better general health can lead to better mental health.
- Sleep. Strange but true. If a person is stressed, they may find it hard to get and stay asleep. The night is generally too quiet. For example, there’s not much to distract the thoughts that start whirring and falling asleep just before the alarm goes off. Lack of sleep can lead to lower productivity, lower concentration and being ‘snippy’.
- Move away from too much stuff! I know that I feel better after I’ve got rid of items I no longer need. Consequently, I can be more productive and better organised, which leads to less stress!
- Why not try being digitally unsocial. Escape the pings and rings. Turn off and tune out. These days the world is in our pockets. Leave it there, if only for a short while. Taking a digital break, a ‘circuit breaker’ if you will, helps us to feel a bit less overwhelmed. Most importantly, it is o.k. to take a break now and then. Recharge your batteries, not your phones.
To sum up, take time for yourself. Self-care = others care. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be able to care for others. So taking care of others is a good thing—a good thing all the better for being based on a solid foundation of looking after yourself.