The Importance of Self-care

At almost every session, I discuss the importance of self-care with my clients. I think they sometimes even get a little frustrated when I ask “what did you do for yourself this week?” or “how are you going to practice self-care in the upcoming days?” Often, I get responses along the lines of “I don’t have time; I’m too tired at the end of the day; I have tried <insert some relaxation method here> but it didn’t work.” Well here I am putting my foot down…. MAKE TIME. Trust me, I also feel like I frequently don’t have time. I feel like I have a million other things I should be doing that are more productive (laundry, marketing for my business, cleaning that one thing that I said I was going to clean but I keep putting off). You know what? Self-care is productive and it’s taken me years to accept that. So right now I would like you to take fifteen minutes and read this post. Really read it, process it, and meditate on it. Be intentional because this is important to your health and wellness.

You… are… worth… it. That’s right. Repeat after me “I am worth it.” Say it out loud. Mean it. I believe in my heart that you are worth every ounce of care in this world. Too often the demands of the world pull us in what feels like 100 directions. You have your job, family, household chores, and other various responsibilities to keep up with. Taking time for yourself might sound crazy and unrealistic but you can’t pour from an empty cup. When I don’t take time for myself I start to get irritable, short with my son and husband, tired and unmotivated. These are all signs that I need to recharge by myself. How do I do it?

My self-care routine is always changing as I discover new things that relax me or realize other things that used to relax me are just not doing it for me anymore. Your routine can look however you want it to. It can last five minutes or an hour. The important part of this is that you are consistent and that you do something (even if it’s little) every single day. I’ve been experimenting with a new routine and so far I really like it. I set the coffee maker up the night before so that it’s ready to go. When I wake up (my goal has been by 5:30am), I stretch and then immediately walk to the kitchen and turn on the coffee maker. While my coffee is brewing, I wash my face and put in my contacts to help myself “wake up.” Sometimes I will use an essential oil roller blend and put it on my wrists and behind my ears to help energize myself for the day. Once the coffee is done, I grab a cup and sit cross-legged on my favorite cozy corner of the couch with a soft throw (I love the texture) over my lap. I have recently been trying to get back into meditation so I try to find one related to what I want to focus on for the day (today I did a short 10 minute guided meditation that focused on gratitude). If I have more time, I’ll pick a longer one. Sometimes I will read a few pages out of an inspirational or spiritual book (right now I’m reading A Return to Love). That’s it. It’s all done in less than 30 minutes and I feel ready for the day.

You can do your routine in the mornings or in the evenings, whatever suits you. If you feel like you don’t have time, then wake up 15 minutes earlier or wait until the kids are in bed and do it then. All it takes is 15 minutes out of your day. Take a hot bath with lavender scented Epsom salts before bed, read a chapter of your favorite book, do a 10 minute yoga video, take a walk around your neighborhood, sit on your back porch and listen to the birds, color/draw/paint, journal or sip your favorite cup of hot tea. Experiment and find things that you enjoy, that leave you feeling relaxed and recharged. You might even designate a special space in your house that is your “self-care spot” (more on this to come in the next blog post).

I challenge you to start today. Pick one thing for yourself and do it. Report back to me and leave a comment. What did you do? How did you feel after you finished? Tell me about your favorite self-care activities and what they do for you.

 

Does Therapy Actually Work?

During my years in the mental health field, I have heard from a number of people that they don’t believe in therapy. I’ve been asked countless times “does therapy really work?” “how is talking to a stranger going to help me?” I get it. The words “therapy” or “counseling” are scary, weird, awkward and sounds kind of new-agey sometimes. You may be thinking to yourself “only crazy people go to therapy and I’m not crazy.” So, let’s address this. Does it actually truly help people? In this post, I am going to use my personal experiences with clients.

In my opinion, yes but there is a caveat to this. Therapy does work BUT (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) you have to be motivated, engaged and following through with things that you discuss with your therapist. I have had individuals come in on occasion where I have sensed some disappointment at the end of the session. I’ve seen some feelings of discouragement because they came once or even a few times and they aren’t “better” or “fixed.” Change is hard. You can’t expect to meet with a therapist for one hour per week and suddenly your life different.  There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. Let’s say you get an average of eight hours of sleep per night (56 hours per week) so that leaves you with 112 hours per week that you are awake. If you see your therapist for an hour session once a week, that is less than one percent of your time every single week (0.89% to be exact).

I’m wondering if you might be thinking “wow, Katie. That is really discouraging to hear. I don’t even want to go now.” Well, let’s talk about when it does work and why. Therapists practice various types of therapy. Some examples are traditional talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy), cognitive behavioral therapy, narrative therapy, and so on. I tend to incorporate various techniques and theories when working with my clients but I especially like cognitive behavioral therapy. I like CBT because it’s structured and tangible. Clients feel like they are actually doing something because CBT often involves homework and specific techniques to change your thoughts. Another positive thing about CBT is there is a lot of research behind it’s effectiveness, especially for anxiety. I’m not going to turn this into a boring peer-reviewed article discussion but you get the point and if you like to read the research, feel free to email me and I can send some information and links your way.

In my experiences with clients, I have seen therapy work and seen it not work. When it works it is usually because clients are continuing to practice the skills that they learn in their sessions outside in the real world. I’m also looking for consistency. If I suggest that a client start meditating for ten minutes a day, and they come back and say “yea, I tried it once and it didn’t help,” then they really didn’t give it a chance. I like to compare therapy to the gym. You don’t go to the gym once and expect to lose 20lbs or run a mile in 7 minutes your first try. You go back. Then you go back again and again until you begin to see results. The results keep coming, slowly, but you start seeing them and feeling them and then suddenly you are running and lifting heavy weights and losing weight! That feels good! It feels amazing when you reach your goals, doesn’t it?

So what if we treated therapy how we treated our fitness? Would therapy work then?

You tell me.