Self-Care and Therapy

By Lynn Acquafondata

In our high intensity society, many of the basic strategies for taking care of oneself are routinely pushed aside. These include things like eating regular and healthy meals, getting enough sleep, exercising, taking time to relax with friends and family. 

It’s an important subject for all of us, but especially for people who are either seeking therapy or providing therapy. Yes, it’s equally important to people in crisis seeking help and to counselors who are reaching out, using our training and expertise to help people get better. 

Self-care is both a necessity and a challenge on both sides of the office. I know, I have spent my adult life doing self-care, studying it, failing at it, revising my approaches, succeeding and repeating the cycle over and over through the years. 

It’s always a work in progress because the things we face in life are always shifting. Every time something in one’s daily life changes, self-care is likely to need some sort of revision to match.

First don’t get upset with yourself if you aren’t where you’d like to be.

Set a short term goal, like a week or even a day. When I’m revising my self-care approach, I like to write up a one week schedule and check off items each day. 

For example you might say: This week I will do two of the following each day:

  • Cook and eat a healthy meal

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep no matter what else needs to be done

  • Exercise for 30 minutes or more

  • Get together with a close friend

You don’t need to do to everything every day, only two items. There’s discipline in this approach, but also flexibility. 

At the end of the week, assess your progress and write a new schedule.

If you didn’t meet the goal, you might want to decrease your expectations to doing one item per day. 

If you met the goal with lots of effort, congratulate yourself and keep the same goal for next week. 

If you met the goal without a problem, you might want to add some items and increase your goal to three items a day. 

Here are examples of items to include on a longer self-care list: 

  • Take a walk

  • Write in a journal

  • Play or listen to music

  • Meditate

  • Do something that makes you laugh

  • Attend a place of worship

  • Read a scripture from your religious tradition or read from a book of daily inspirational readings

  • Write a list of things you are thankful for today

  • Express your emotions with a piece of artwork

  • Carry a grounding object

  • Go to the library or sit in a coffee shop 

  • Seek professional help 

Self-care is always important, but it is especially important when you are engaging in the work of therapy. Try out some of these strategies. If you need more guidance, don’t hesitate to talk to your counselor about self-care.