Jennifer: What kind of therapy do you practice?
Shelly: I provide online therapy and in-person therapy appointments for individuals, couples and families. My work covers all ages from 10-70+. Recently, my clientele has mostly included working with parents of teenagers, couples dealing with infidelity and trust issues and professional adults struggling with work/life balance or self-confidence issues.
My therapeutic style is integrative. I use a combination of CBT, Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Mindfulness techniques.
Jennifer: How long have you been in private practice?
Shelly: I have been in private practice full-time for five years. In the past year, we added the online therapy component to our practice to provide extra flexibility and conveinence for people.
Jennifer: What are some things that you wish you knew about work/life balance when starting out in private practice?
Shelly: I wish I knew how difficult work/life balance would be and that it changes regularly. Everyone talks about work/life balance as something to achieve, but now I realize it’s not a destination or a strive for perfect balance, it’s an ongoing work-in-progress. As our lives change in various ways, we have to adjust our self-care practices to re-balance work/life. Knowing this makes it easier to find things that work at this time in my life, which is different than what I needed a few years ago. I’m sure in time, it’ll change again, and I’ll find new ways to balance it all.
I wish someone would have told me to find what works for me instead of trying to use someone else’s idea of work/life balance. Work/life balance will be different depending on whether you have a significant other, children, pets, volunteer activities, changing hours at work and many other factors.
What’s most important is that we’re searching for ways to have the balance and finding what works best in our lifestyle.
Jennifer: How do you ensure that you find a good balance between work/life?
Shelly: For me personally, I find balance when I’m able to have time for self-care, time with my husband, children and other important people and still strive to achieve goals for work. That’s the best of all worlds! Of course, it doesn’t look like that every week.
Some weeks are heavy with work, while others are heavy on activities with family. My goal is to balance it not just day-to-day (which is overwhelming sometimes), but to balance it all over the long-term. Sometimes that’s really successful, others times life gets the best of me.
It helps to have a good routine with which you’re comfortable so it can become a habit. That ensures more success long-term. I go to sleep around the same time every night and wake around the same time each morning, so I get enough sleep and function better.
The first thing I do in the morning is yoga or exercise, because it makes me feel better and have more energy all day. I generally have my day (mostly) planned out the night before, so I’m not struggling in the morning to figure out what needs to be done at home or work.
It gives my brain the ability to be more effective by not making these extra decisions that day. It helps to know what I’m going to do and have the routine, so I don’t question it and can just get it done.
Jennifer: What are some of your favorite regular self-care strategies?
Shelly: My favorite self-care strategies include daily yoga, good (decaf) coffee, eight hours of sleep, going for walks and sneaking dark chocolate after my kids go to bed. Laughing at a silly video or with a friend tops my list of favorite things, but sadly doesn’t happen often enough.
I make sure to schedule down time from work and the daily routine by planning when I’ll take time off in advance. I try to take one day per month as a personal ‘mental health day.’ Every three or four months, I take a full week off for either vacation or stay-cation. It helps me refresh and be more balanced and productive in work and life.
Jennifer: What do you share with clients who are struggling with jugging work and other responsibilities?
1.Slow it down! We seem to struggle most when we’re trying to do too much. I help them assess if there is anything they can cut out or delegate to others, even if it seems small or insignificant, it’s still affecting your juggling act. The less you try to manage, the easier it is to balance.
2. Prioritize your self-care. Even if it seems counterintuitive. When we get stressed or are struggling to juggle it all, we often cut out the things that help us most, which makes it worse. Things like getting quality sleep, exercising (even if it’s five to 10 minutes), getting fresh air and spending time with people you care about are all ways to lower stress and put life in perspective.
They help us manage better. There are often other, less important things that should be cut out, to make sure you have time to take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others, unless you take care of yourself.
3. Break it all into more manageable pieces, then put them in their place. For example, if you have 15 things to do tomorrow, first cut out anything you can and delegate as much as possible. Then, break these things into smaller tasks or in a way that makes them more manageable. Arrange them in your schedule in a way that makes you efficient and likely to get them done (example: putting together errands in the same location).
Think through how you will balance your time during the day. Do you have time built in to: Eat? Shower? Spend time with family? Make mistakes? I always build in extra time for tasks, knowing there may be traffic or a delay of some kind. Plan for those to give yourself some peace when they happen. A schedule that’s too tight with no extra room will likely end in disaster and cause more stress.
4. Take slow, deep breaths to slow down the moment. Often, when we’re in the middle of juggling it all, we forget to even breathe! Taking some slow, deep breaths to lower your body’s stress response and allow for clearer thinking.
5. Self-talk is essential. Saying things like “you’ve got this,” or “it’ll be ok” are more helpful than we realize. Just like a supportive coach on the field, we can encourage ourselves to be our best in tough situations.