We Often Spend More Time Caring For Others, Than Caring For Ourselves
Some days are so filled with grief and sadness and the losses feel unbearable. Between election craziness, police brutality, racism, ravaging fires, covid deaths, and then the normal things like life cycles, bouts with illness, fighting with spouses, it can begin to wear us down. Add in holding emotional space for client’s and their pain and loss, it’s a wonder any of us can get up in the morning. I mean it. Some days it just feels hopeless.
But somehow in the face of all of this pain and loss, we muster the energy to do it another day. What choice do we have? People rely on us. We need to pay the bills.
Being there for others gives us purpose and meaning and a focus, instead of dwelling on the negative and doom scrolling the news, we can engage with fellow humans and sit with their joys and their suffering.
Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk: Caring For Ourselves as Therapists
So how do we do it? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How do we care for ourselves while caring for others, day after day? This is my first year as a therapist, having graduated in the year of the pandemic and starting a private practice from home. I want to practice good self-care and honor my clients’ work, by supporting myself in the ways I suggest to them.
How can I guide them if I don’t also walk the walk? What I have discovered is that it is back to basics for me. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…back to the bottom of the pyramid:
- Am I sleeping enough, eating nourishing foods, showering a few times a week, getting out for walks?
- Do I reach out for support and connect with friends and family?
- Am I stuffing emotions down or Can I put on a meaningful song or animal video and just let myself grieve and cry it out?
- Do I laugh and feel the good as well as the hard?
- Am I focusing enough on gratitude and appreciating the small things?
- Am I taking time away from the news and social media as only I can control the amount of content I consume?
2020: The Year That Taught Me to Slow Down
The biggest thing this year has taught me is to slow down – way down. When I walk my dogs, I stop and notice the beautiful trees all around my neighborhood, the blossoms blooming in spring, the falling leaves in autumn, and the bare branches and visible nests in winter.
I take moments to breathe and be present, feeling my body where I am sitting and noticing the sounds around me. I have started a gratitude journal, to be reminded of the good things that abound. One day I wrote about all the therapeutic tools and skills I can rely upon. Another entry is about my furbabies and their insatiable amount of love. Back to basics and simply slowing down. Putting down the phone, taking the dogs for their afternoon walk, and then laying down for a short nap.
Caring For Ourselves and Self-Compassion
This is hard work. Life plus everything else. We all deserve to have self-compassion and kindness for the reality of the current situation we are in. Yes, some people have it harder, but that doesn’t mean what we are experiencing is not tough. It is.
I hope you are taking a moment out to nourish yourself in whatever way that is, no matter how simple or basic it may feel. I’d love to hear how you are replenishing yourself after working with clients and being in your world. Please take care, you are precious.
Additional Resources to Help You Care For Yourself as a Therapist
We all have days where we perhaps don’t practice what we preach, or perhaps we’re needing some inspiration or help along the way when it comes to shifting our focus away from life’s “noise” and caring for ourselves.
Here are a few Practice of the Practice Podcast Episodes to help on your journey of self-care:
Prefer to read more? Check out these Practice of the Practice Blogs:
Jessica Feinsmith, MA, LPC Intern
Even though I officially became a therapist later in my life, it is a journey I have been on since as far back as I can remember. I have always been curious about myself, my patterns and why I do the things I do or feel the things I feel. Born with a deep sense of empathy and compassion, I care deeply about other people’s feelings and experiences and am someone who wants to help. I combine years worth of life experiences that have been leading me here with pragmatic, evidence-based therapies to assist others on their journey to solid mental health.