Thanks to Jamie Stacks, LPC for this guest post. To learn more about Jamie, check out her bio at the end of the article.
As a helping professional you wanted to make a difference, you were enthusiastic and ready to take on the world one client at a time. You had dreams, ideals and visions. Then you discovered paperwork, productivity requirements, the emotional energy therapy takes and all the “other stuff” they didn’t teach you in grad school. You are tired and frustrated. You feel overwhelmed, like you will never catch up or make a difference. You are not able to fully be there for your clients, yourself or your family.
What is missing? Self-care is often the answer- one of the biggest ideas that as helping professionals and advocates of holistic healthy living you preach to your clients- you forget to practice. Learning to live with intention and renew the energy you need to take care of your family, your clients and most importantly – YOU is self-care.
We all need to practice self-care and in the life of a helping professional the act of self-care including total mind-body-spirit health becomes even more vital. As therapists, social workers, psychologists and other helping professionals we see and hear a great deal of trauma and extreme tragic stories. The idea of compassion-fatigue has been around for a while now. Compassion fatigue is estimated to affect between 15 and 85 per cent of health-care workers, and predominates in first responders, emergency medicine professionals and those involved with psychiatric patients and the terminally ill (Hooper, Craig, Janvrin, Wetsel & Reimels, 2010; Beck, 2011).
Self-care and self-compassion are vital to living a fulfilled life, however when I talk with clients, friends, family and especially colleagues and ask them what their self-care program is, they tend to look at me blankly. Most people do not have an active, living and thriving self-care program.
Start where you are- taking care of ourselves
Let’s evaluate… I have created a self-care test to give you an idea of where you are right now. Click here to take my self-care test to see how well you are providing the nourishing and compassionate care you deserve. I also encourage you to pop over to Kristen Neff to take her self-compassion test and get an even better feel of where you are with self-love. If you have already healthy and strong self-compassion and self-care congratulations and please share some tips on what you do to nurture yourself.
For those of us who not as high on the self-love scale as we would like it give us a place to start. For example if you scored high on being judgmental about your flaws you can start there. If you feel inadequate when you fail that is a good starting point. If you do not have any hobbies or time to yourself then you may look at that as a jumping off point. Please do not use this as a reason to beat yourself up. Being rough on yourself for not scoring what you would like on self-compassion and self-care tests defeats what we are working towards and is actually quite ironic and unhealthy.
This is going to give you valuable information that you can use for good not as a weapon against your self-value.
Areas of Self-Care
Total self-care should encompass all areas of our life. In my mind and practice it means taking care of ourselves- body, mind and spirit. We can start learning to do this by looking at our health, what we eat, if we exercise or keep our weight in a healthy range. It means looking at your inner thought patterns and seeing if they serve you, it can include finding a power greater than yourself to connect to and with and use for guidance. These are just a few examples of the internal work of self-care.
There is exterior work as well. It includes looking at your surroundings both at work and home and where ever else you may be on a regular basis. Do they represent you as you wish to be seen and feel? Are they spacious or cluttered increasing the clutter in your head? Do you have free space for energy to flow and move and bring new into your life? What about those who are around you? It has been said you take on the habits of the five people you are around the most. Do these people have the traits you desire in yourself? Take a look at those people in your life and really evaluate if they are serving your best interest. Does having them in your life help you work towards reaching your soul’s contract?
How do you talk to yourself? Inner conflict or an inner bully can destroy all efforts of self-care. Do you expect respect from others in your life and do you treat yourself with respect? Do you have a bucket list or a vision board? Do you have boards on Pinterest full of things you expect to have one day? I want you to truly know deep in your inner higher self that you deserve kindness, nurturing and creative fun and learn to treat yourself like the god/goddess you already are. Everything you need is already there, you just have to access it.
So what might self-care involve? A few thoughts to start:
- Creating and nurturing our “inner higher self”. She is in there and is just waiting to surface. However we often allow our “inner bully” to suffocate her. We have to learn to silence the inner critic; find, nurture and bring out our inner god/goddess. I invite you to consider with no limitations at all who you would be if you knew you would succeed. How would you be different? How would you act different, dress different, do and be more? What would be different?
- Grounding yourself…no, not like when you were in high school and got grounded. Staying grounded and connected to Mother Nature, the earth, the ground. Getting outside, playing in the dirt whether it is gardening, creating a rock garden or anything else that gets your hands dirty. Get into or near a body of water. Water has amazing healing qualities.
- Awareness or mindfulness– pay close attention to how you feel. How does your physical body feel? Your inner voice, what is it telling you? Notice the things that you are good at and tell yourself “way to go”, “I love how you took the time to rest today”, “I love that you are taking care of yourself by sleeping enough and exercising”. Take the time to nurture yourself with kind words, feelings and thoughts….beware of what you say about your body…it can hear you! Take note if you are not doing anything rejuvenating and resolve to change that.
A few more tangible tidbits you can implement starting today. Identify characteristics of your higher self and post them on your mirror, go play outside, meditate for 20 minutes or go create something awesome and unique.
Another take away to try is to practice acts of self-love. If you do not truly and deeply connect to yourself and love yourself it will be impossible to truly accept and give love to others. Look at you! Look into your eyes in the mirror as many times as you can throughout the day- don’t look at the “flaws” you see but really look into your eyes.
The eyes are the window to the soul and the soul is YOU. Look into your eyes and say to yourself “I love you- notice your beautiful eyes and the expression and depth of them and say “I love you” over and over as long as it takes for you to really feel and believe this. It is amazing what this one step can do for you. Try it.
Lastly I would like to leave you with a quote.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive” Dalai
If you would like to learn more about self-care please hop over to my page and sign up for free self-care video’s and updates on programs I am offering. My wish for you is peace, compassion and love for yourself and others.
Love and light
Jamie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with specializations in Technology Assisted Counseling, Licensed Associate Counselor Supervision and Technology Assisted Supervision, she is also a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor who has been practicing since 1998. Jamie is training specifically for yoga to use with mental/behavioral health issues and looks forward to developing this. She is also working on becoming a registered Sand tray therapist. Jamie currently holds certificate in Yoga Calm and has completed courses in Mindful Schools and Life Force Yoga.
The focus of Jamie’s practice is psychotherapy with adolescents and adults, individually or with families/partners. Her practice is specifically for people who suffer addictions of all kinds including alcohol counseling and other substance abuse, this includes support for those who have an addicted family member and are struggling in coping with this. She works with trauma issues, helping you identify the symptoms of PTSD and co- dependency issues and she helps those who suffer with anxiety, recover from anxiety and anxiety attacks. She works very specifically with those who want to learn how to take care of their emotional health, often starting with learning what emotional health is and learning healthy self-care.
The way she works varies from client to client but uses a great deal of techniques drawn from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and MB-CBT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). She teaches self compassion, self-care and mindfulness. She uses and strongly support a holistic approach with varying integrative therapies that focus on integrating body, mind and spirit.