I’ve always been the type to give my time, energy and love to just about everything except for myself. I eat junk food, I can’t keep a sleep schedule to save my life, and I only exercise on accident. I was able to get by doing the bare minimum for myself and not thinking too much of it until I arrived at Southwestern. In every single one of my Counseling and Art Therapy classes, I have heard the same message again and again- take care of thyself.
Why is self-care so important? I am learning that self-care is crucial in the life of a therapist. This is a potentially emotionally draining field, and if we as therapists do not take good care of ourselves psychologically and physically, then we are letting down not only ourselves and our loved ones, but also our clients. We cannot be the best versions of ourselves for others if we do not love ourselves. Maybe we need to be our best for ourselves first, and for others second. Self-care prevents burn out, compassion fatigue, second hand trauma, and stress related illnesses. It is renewing and balancing.
I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, there are a billion ways to take care of yourself, and your body will tell you which ones are right for you. We practice meditation in class and discuss other “clearing” techniques that can be used as a metaphorical “refresh” button to let go of emotional baggage before and after seeing clients. I’ve started jumping on my landlord’s trampoline to help me blow off some steam. I’ve tried new recipes and going to new places to build confidence while having fun. I take more time for my own art and non-curricular reading. I’ve also banned myself from sad movies that I know will wreck me for months to come.
I was having a particularly overwhelming hard day this week. Everything felt way too heavy. Instead of taking care of myself, I started to isolate and eat pizza rolls in bed. That’s when I remembered my hedgehog. Her name is Roxy Pokeyhontus and she is three months old. She has an infection on her snout from being pricked by one of her own quills! She needs antibiotics twice a day. I knew I had to administer one of her doses, but the thought of getting out of bed was too much. That’s when it became real for me- we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Roxy shouldn’t have to go without medicine because of my lack of self-care. Clients should not be affected by the therapist’s own issues. I got out of bed and held Roxy. I think she likes the medicine, because it is bubble gum flavored and now she opens her mouth for it willingly. I LOVE HER! I love myself too, and I need to start acting like it daily. I am excited to be learning how to practice self-care so early on in my education. I am also thankful for Roxy for teaching me a valuable lesson that my clients will benefit from someday. -Micaela Wood