Is Self-Care just one more thing on your To Do List?

Since the concept of “self-care” had exploded in the last few years we are bombarded with ideas to “do this” or to “do that.” Most are time consuming, rather unrealistic and can be exasperating. Many elicit the thought from me that, “You have got to be kidding me! When do you expect me to work that into my busy day?”

Ashley Davis Bush, who’s written the book: Simple Self Care for Therapists, had an article in one of last year’s Psychotherapy Networker [one of my favorites] that seems much, much more realistic. She talks about “micro-practices.” Practices that only take a minute – really a minute. I was immediately all ears.

She says we need three types of self-care – oops. I was skeptical that you could do three types of self-care AND just do it in a minute. But I persevered through my skepticism and here’s what I learned:

The three biggest occupational stressors in the helping world.

  • Burn-out in which we need relaxation.
  • Compassion fatigue when empathy flags and we need motivation and we need energizing.
  • Trauma exposure – We need grounding to create our own safe harbor.

Bush created a list of all the “short, simple, powerful” self-care exercises that she felt could be completed quickly for the biggest immediate impact. She recognized that to create a habit of self-care it would be important to have a trigger or prompt, e.g. beginning of day, at lunch, at end of day, before or after a session, etc.

Bush started with the below exercises, at her identified prompt points for one month. She  expanded upon them when she realized she actually felt calmer and was dealing with her stress more effectively.  She mentions many other useful skills in her book, Simple Self Care for Therapists.

  • Grounding: For one minute, time it on your phone, on your in-breath think: I am calm. On the out breath think: I am grounded. [This is from One-Moment Meditation by Martin Boroson]
  • Energizing: One minute of Donna Eden’s Cross Crawl, i.e. marching in place, knees high, arms swinging, crossing right elbow to left knee and left elbow to right knee.
  • Relaxing:  One minute of 4-7-8 diaphragmatic breathing [in the EMDR protocol] inhale to count of 4. Hold to count of 7. Breathe out as through a straw for the count of 8.

The exercises mentioned in the article truly are short, simple and powerful. Granted she doesn’t mention EFT. Try slow deep breathing combined with tapping as another quick way to relax.

I wrote this in an airplane economy seat. Airplane trips don’t lend themselves very well as a self-care activity – at least not in the economy seat.  However, I actually pulled off the grounding and relaxing ones above and a moderated version of the Cross Crawl down the aisle!

So where ever you are, whatever you are doing, which ever type of pick up you need, give one of the above three exercises a try. Oh, and say a silent – or not – thank you to Ashley!

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Ann Adams