Self-Care: A Learning Process
Author: Perrin Jones
If you’ve worked in the music therapy field or another helping field for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ve heard about self-care more times than you can count. Before you stop reading this post, I’m not here to tell your busy self to go sit in a bubble bath and start journaling (unless that works for you!), instead, I’m going to unpack 5 tips and truths about self-care that may go overlooked.
Just as we treat clients in spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and occupational (work/life balance) goals, our self-care time ideally should span a variety of domains as well. If you’ve noticed your professional inspiration or your own self-care time feeling a little stale, it might be time to add in or change your self-care so that it falls under one of the domains that might not get as much attention. That being said, sometimes it’s hard not to look at self-care as an extra task for you to complete, something else on a mile-long list to check off. It’s important that your self-care truly recharges and reenergizes you. See the following 5 tips and truths below:
1. Your self-care routine is going to change as your schedule and life circumstances do.
Think back to college. Now to internship. Then to early professional life. And to where you are today. You, like me, were probably in a very different place in your life at each of those stages, with completely different schedules and priorities. We each go through different seasons where we may have more time to do things we enjoy than others, and it’s hard to make the adjustment between seasons. For me, personally, I am enjoying a schedule where I have plenty of time during the weekday mornings to get some self-care in. I take my dog to the dog park, go for a pedicure, and catch up on some of my favorite shows. This summer, my schedule is going to be jam-packed with summer camps, music therapy sessions, teaching lessons, and embarking on the grad school journey. While I’m looking forward to the next season, it also means that I have to be more conscious about carving time out for self-care than I did in my previous season. I challenge you to assess the current season you’re in and see how you could, or do, make time for self-care in comparison to other seasons in your life.
2. Self-care isn’t a competition.
It can be easy in the age of social media to fall into a trap of doing things to promote your image or purely for other people rather than for yourself. I’ve caught myself snapping a picture for Snapchat or Instagram of the Greenway I’m walking along or my face with a DIY face mask on it literally captioning the picture “self-care time.” Hold up. If self-care is truly about taking time to nourish yourself, then why am I even promoting it? Do I really need my friends and followers to believe through one photo that I’m a super-balanced and “zen” person? Once I got out of the habit of participating in self-care that I thought was trendy or expected, my self-care time became more energizing because I was focusing on me, and just me. Similarly, self-care time doesn’t have to involve music or art in any way. If you find that that’s what reenergizes you, by all means, please create! But sometimes I feel that there’s a pressure in our artistic field to use our primary medium for self-care, and that certainly doesn’t have to be an expectation!
3. Self-care can (and should) be little things, too.
Can self-care be a long weekend at the beach or mountains? You bet! But, those vacations only come around every so often. If we waited until each vacation to recharge, we might be pretty burnt out by the time we get there. So, self-care should be small things throughout the day or week, too. Self-care might be grabbing a latte at the coffee shop, doing your session planning somewhere other than your office, cooking your favorite meal for dinner. I talked above about the different domains of self-care; you can take one regular self-care task and make it multidimensional, too. If you’re planning on meeting friends for dinner (social), you could meet somewhere where you could walk or ride your bike (physical). Get creative with it and try new things!
4. Make yourself a list.
How many times have we asked clients to do things that we’ve never done? I’m guilty of this. I’ve challenged adolescent and adult mental health clients to make a list of things that they can do to recharge when they’re feeling down or burnt out, and when I sat down to write this blog post, I realized that I’ve never done it myself. So, I’m making my list of 30 activities (from simple, small things on up to grand ones) that I can pull from for myself when I feel that I need some inspiration. This will also challenge me to try new things and get out of a self-care rut!
5. It’s ok to say no.
I saved the best for last. It’s taken me years and years to learn the art of saying no, and it’s still a work in progress. I’m definitely an ambitious person and a people-pleaser, so it’s incredibly hard for me to say no to opportunities without feeling like I’m letting others or myself down when I do it. You may have learned this lesson the hard way, like I have in the past. You overcommit yourself to too many responsibilities, are overscheduled, pulled in a million directions, and, as a result, are pretty stressed out, too (you might even get physically sick). Over scheduling and a lack of boundaries can lead to exhaustion. What I learned from overscheduling myself was that I wasn’t able to give my all to everything that I had committed to. Today, I’m challenging myself to be protective of both my time and myself. Not biting off more than I can chew means that I can be more present and effective in the tasks that I do choose to take on and that I will have time to take care of myself along the way.
How have you overcome self-care challenges
Providing music therapy services for early childhood to older adults, music instruction and enrichment plus continuing music therapy education in Greater Charlotte Area of the Carolinas.