Whether you’re an exhausted mom, a burnt-out pastor or non-profit volunteer, a therapist struggling with vicarious trauma, or a stressed-out college student, self-care is ESSENTIAL. For everyone.
What do I mean by “self-care”? Self-care refers to thoughts and behaviors that enhance health and improve quality of life. It’s different than a narcissistic, self-focused, putting-yourself-above-everyone approach to life. It has nothing to do with that, actually. In fact, I would go as far to say that if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re doing a disservice to your relationships. My encouragement to you is to give yourself permission to be intentional about taking care of yourself.
Aspects to Self-Care:
Awareness: People need to time self-reflect. To know what thoughts are flying through your head, to process your emotions so as not to explode or implode, to ‘know thyself'. Knowing your own processes, buttons, triggers, responses, strengths, weaknesses, etc. will only benefit how you interact with others. Intentionally talking out issues with friends or a professional, prayer and meditation, and journal writing are all helpful modalities of building awareness.
Balance: Maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships, not taking work home, developing hobbies, time-management, relaxing, exercising, taking care of your body, being mindful of what you eat or absorb through media. These are all tangible ways of doing checks and balances to prevent/treat burnout.
Connection: Develop nurturing, trusting, deep relationships. Reduce isolation. Develop a spiritual life to nourish your soul. Authentically and freely share what’s on your heart and mind. If you want to be a safe person for others to open up to, you need to also have that for yourself. In a way, supportive relationships are an extension of healthy attachment behavior. Model the attachment behavior you’d like to see in your relationships.
Consultation & Education. In any professional or relational role, people benefit from learning from others. Improve your skills and increase your knowledge on parenting, work, interests, and relationships.
I came across this term in a chapter about vicarious trauma, and I liked it! “All trauma helpers must understand self-care not as an indulgence or after-thought but rather as essential to their physical and mental health, and to the constructive treatment of their clients.”
Radical self-care takes some intentionality. It’s creating opportunities for replenishment, rest, relaxation, fun, fostering relationships, and taking care of one’s body. “Whenever possible, disengage from activities and relationships that are depleting and to replace them with those that are sustaining.” My hope is that you actively put self-care as a priority in your life. To be preventative and proactive instead of having a crisis-response approach to life.
*Information taken from "Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders: An Evidence-Based Guide" edited by Christine A. Courtois & Julian D. Ford.