Counseling Advice: Counselor Self Care

Self-Care is not a word we often apply to ourselves. Too often, we are busy “doing things”, things that are part of a daily routine and are necessary to keep our lives going smoothly. Is this busyness at the expense of ourselves? Are we so occupied with running around and “doing things” that we forget to take care of ourselves?

Many people often put other’s needs before their own. Often times this is because we have small children, others who are dependent on us, or our current life circumstances make it so that we are unable to put ourselves first. This is a reality, but self-care is a conscious choice. We CAN choose to make time for ourselves. Denying oneself of this type of self-care and love is not only negatively impacting us individually, but it impacts the people we love and care for. There are many reasons why it can be uncomfortable to put ourselves first. Yet, we know ourselves better then anyone else. We know how to make ourselves feel good. Why do we put ourselves last on the list of things that need our attention? There are many excuses out there. The bottom line is, it is important for you to make time for yourself.

As a therapist, if I don’t engage in self-care and do things to love and care for myself, how can I give the best of myself to my clients? As therapists, we are focused on other’s well being, supporting them on working through their current obstacles, and we are constantly giving to others. It is essential that we refuel by taking care of ourselves and making sure our needs are being met outside of the therapy room. Therapists are not perfect, no one is. However, we can lead by example when it comes to self-care, as it is essential to our ability to care for others.

I have to make a conscious effort to include self-care in my daily agenda. Self-care is just like planning a healthy diet for the week. It takes time and needs planning in order for it to be successful. For example, when you plan to eat healthy for the week, you have to go to the grocery store, purchase healthy ingredients, and plan your meals. Most people do this on a Sunday when they are reflecting and getting ready for their upcoming week. Self-care does not take as much preparation, but it takes planning. Engaging in self-care takes discipline, just like eating healthy. On Sundays, I look at my week ahead and I physically schedule time for my kick boxing classes, a few hours on my day off for my nails, a massage, or something fun just for me. I schedule time for myself and I hold myself accountable.

women lunchI also plan lunch with my girlfriends twice a month, phone calls with long distance friends, and date nights with my husband. These self-care activities and pleasures feed my soul, rejuvenate me, and are things that make me feel truly happy. When taking time for myself, I am able to give 100 percent of myself to my clients. I can focus on their needs and give them my undivided attention because I know that I will have my own self-care time later as it’s been planned!

I constantly encourage and request that clients make time for themselves too. I suggest that my clients do one thing a day or several times a week to nurture themselves. This may be a long hot shower, a bubble bath, a massage, manicure or pedicure, a T.V show, a hard workout, walk, mediation, reading a book, watching a movie, or doing yoga. Just remember, self-care is something you do for yourself because you need it!

At the end of the day, the better we treat ourselves, the happier we are. When we give ourselves what we need, plus some extra love and attention, we are better able to give to others. Therefore, it seems essential that we all engage in some form of self-care.

Amy McNamara, LMFT

Amy McNamara is a licensed marriage family therapist living and working in southern California and has been practicing therapy for 5 years. Amy has a private practice in Redondo Beach, California and also works part time for a government funded mental health agency. She's a relationship expert and has extensive experience working with children and teens with a wide variety of mental health disorders. Amy's a graduate of Humboldt State University and received her Master's Degree in counseling at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. For more information about her practice, please visit her online.
Amy McNamara, LMFT

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