How an actual counselor does self-care

As a counselor, I have the privilege of working with many high-achieving young women. These women are dedicated to careers and families and have high standards for themselves- and often are just BUSY. It can be difficult to carve out time to take care of themselves. And so, oftentimes, part of our work includes creating and maintaining a solid self-care plan. I tell each person that her plan will be unique, tailored specifically to her own needs. After doing this for several years now, I thought I would share my actual plan!

But first, a few disclaimers:

  • I do NOT do these things all the time. This is my Plan A- it's my best case scenario, not what ALWAYS happens. Having a plan helps me redirect when I'm feeling stressed or unsure what to do.
  • These are just things that work for me. You may or may not feel calmed or rejuvenated by these practices. This is just an example to get you started.

How I actually take care of myself as a counselor

5 Senses

The mind-body connection is so strong, and part of self-care is recognizing and attending to this connection. It's helpful to find at least one way to engage each sense to induce a state of calm or energy (whatever you're looking to cultivate at the time). Here are the ways I intentionally use my 5 senses:

Scent: Diffusing essential oils- my favorite is Peace & Calming from Young Living.

Sight: Repeat after me- outer order contributes to inner calm! I knew this intuitively, but when Gretchen Rubin put words to it, it made for an easy mantra. If I'm feeling stressed, it's helpful to clean off my workspace or kitchen counters.

Sound: Listening to sad music actually has a positive impact on my mood- and the research backs this up! Throwing on an Dashboard Confessional album gives me a mood boost. Also, do not underestimate the power of the playlist! Having playlists for different activities helps me to enjoy life more fully. For example, listening to my Frank Sinatra playlist while making dinner instantly turns an everyday task into a event.

Touch: Having ultra soft blankets around the house and choosing non-itchy fabrics in my clothing is key.

Taste: A cup of my tea in the evening (especially during our 5-month winter in Minnesota, ahem) has a calming effect. I'm sensitive to caffeine, so for me, this has to be herbal tea.

TIME

Work: My clients notice I'm not in the office in the mornings or all day Friday. This is intentional. Providing quality counseling is a priority to me, and I know that can't happen if I'm rushed or overtired. This structure doesn't work for everyone, and it may not work for me later on- but that's the beauty of creating your own plan- you have the power to change things at any time.

Personal: I am fiercely protective of my time. This is not a selfish move, but rather an intentional choice so that I may show up fully to the things that matter most. If I'm saying "yes" to things that don't align with my values/are a waste of my time and energy, I have less to give to the activities and people that are at the top of my priority list. 

miscellaneous

Soul: I'm a person of deep faith, which means soul care is incredibly important. I take time daily to pray and read scripture, as well as engage in my faith community. 

Body: I make exercise work for me. I used to go to a gym and it didn't work well for me. I now do my workouts through an app, where I can schedule classes at a time that works for me, from the comfort of my living room. 

Relationships: I've got a lot of long-distance friendships. No two ways around it, this can be difficult. But it also makes for really fun reunions and travel opportunities. One of the top 5 things people regret at the end of their lives is that they didn't stay close to their friends. This is not something I want to regret when I die, so I make the effort now. Sometimes this looks like having a virtual happy hour over FaceTime, and sometimes it looks like driving 6 hours to Chicago for a long weekend with good friends. 

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There you have it! And just to drive the point home- life happens. Sometimes- a lot of the time- these things don't work out or I get distracted, or something else becomes a priority. That's okay. The idea behind having a self-care plan is so that you have go-to ideas to help yourself feel more calm, grounded, and purposeful. 

Ready to make your own self-care plan? You don't have to go on feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Take good care of your mind and soul through counseling. Get started today by scheduling your first appointment.