Caring for myself is not self-indulgent

Caring for myself is not self-indulgent

As a trainee, you’ll hear this term a lot. If, like me, you’ve grown up having to be self-reliant, ‘self-care’ often hasn’t come into the equation. ‘Getting through’ has been the thing. I’ve had a lot of therapy (thanks, course-mandated therapy!) both before and during this course and I’m far better at self-care than I realise, I suspect, but i don’t THINK about it a lot.

I was forced to recently however, and so I thought it was worth putting out there for others.

Let me tell you a story: A long time ago (2012 in fact), I was the only eye witness to a car accident that ended in the death of someone. I went through the process of giving statements etc, and the prosecution decided I was a credible enough witness that the case could go to court. Fast-forward to over a year later and the day arrived. My evidence as a witness for the prosecution would make the difference between ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ and so as you can imagine, it was a stressful day*. I had a decision to make – the hearing was the day I have clients, and I had to decide what to do.

Various factors led to me deciding to keep my client’s appointment (and I am glad of that – blog post on that to come!), but I knew that in order to keep the appointment and be fully present I had to VERY effectively bracket, and to do that, I had to ‘indulge’ in some good self-care otherwise I just wouldn’t be able to put it down.

When the day came, after I was done in court I went home with deliberate intent to do some self-care, and I did all the things that would make me feel better. I started by playing some phone app board games (ticket to ride is a GREAT app) curled up on the sofa with my partner. Later in the afternoon I went for a run (I say ‘went’; it’s a treadmill) for half an hour with Zombies, run! in my ears. It’s a great distraction, quite aside from the distraction that is ‘running three miles’.

Other self-care things I do include getting my partner (if she is home when I am done) to put the kettle on and I get met with a mug of hot chocolate when I get in – often quite late in to the evening (my placement is 5.30-9.30). Sometimes, taking the time to curl up for even 10 minutes with a book, or watch an episode of CSI (guilty pleasure) are things that help to wind down afterwards, as well as prepare for beforehand (generally the day before in my case).

I suspect it doesn’t really matter what it is that works for you, but I want to stress that it ISN’T an indulgence; if we are to be as good a therapist (trainee) as we can be, we MUST take care of our emotional health first. We cannot help a client if we are drowning. If that includes taking ‘time out’ from placement or our place of study, then that’s what needs to happen. I know that doesn’t happen easily, and should be thought about, but the principle applies – if we are not capable of being there for our client, then we shouldn’t BE there for the client.

*the verdict was ‘guilty’

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