Self-Care Tips: Changing your Mindset for the Better

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Pasadena Villa Outpatient Center-Raleigh recently kicked-off “Villa Nights,” our new monthly networking event, that brings together behavioral health professionals to reconnect with former colleagues and share information with new contacts.  We were honored to have the author, speaker, and counselor, Christine McDonald, MS, NCC, LPCS of Path to Hope Counseling, provide an interactive workshop based on advice from her new book, Self-Care for the Counselor: A Holistic Guide for Helping Professionals.
As therapists and counselors, we often encourage our clients to practice mindfulness, meditation, and other useful health practices but deny ourselves the benefits. Christine led the group through exercises, highlighted the benefits while lowering the barriers to personal self-care, and shared valuable information about self-care for the behavioral health professional.

Why is self-care essential to the physical and mental health of behavioral health professionals?

Mental exhaustion is quite typical for many behavioral health professionals due to the emotionally demanding nature of the job. Therapists and counselors are often drained, stressed, irritable, and more prone to be physically ill if they negate a self-care routine. Self-care needs to be a daily activity and is an essential element of overall physical and mental health. Self-care helps to refill our cup consistently so that we are at our best to help and support our clients. When we don’t take care of ourselves, this can negatively impact all parts of our lives including relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. A lack of self-care can result in us being less present for a client or producing a less favorable outcome with their progress.

How do we practice self-care?

Christine finds approaching self-care in a holistic way most helpful. Calming your mind, creating spiritual practices, eating healthy, and being more active, make a dramatic difference in your overall health and wellbeing. Self-care is a change in mindset and is a process.  Below are a few self-care practices that are easy to implement into your daily routine:
  1. Keep a journal: Take a few minutes to write down what is on your mind. Also, use it as an opportunity to express gratitude, noting even the simplest things for which you are grateful. Journaling can clear your mental clutter and help to reduce your stress.
  2. Take a technology break: Today, we have multiple devices at our fingertips, keeping us connected and often distracted. Change your habits with technology and take a break to recharge. Put down your phone or step away from your computer. Give yourself the down time you need.
  3. Meditate and breathe: Take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and breathe. Disengage your mind and take long, slow, deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth. Meditation and conscious breathing can reduce blood pressure, boost memory, and relieve anxiety and stress.
  4. Eat healthy and mindful: Add some fruits and vegetables to your plate; research shows that berries stimulate the brain and many vegetables have heart-healthy benefits. Also, don’t multi-task at meal time, but focus on being mindful of eating a nourishing meal.
  5. Sleep: The body needs an average of 7.5-8 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can cause the body to be sluggish and less productive. Developing a healthy and consistent sleep routine will help your body regulate hormones and increase your immune system.

What self-care tips are the most beneficial for the mind, body, and soul?

The most beneficial self-care tip is the one that speaks to you personally and brings you joy and peace of mind. Christine shared that she finds meditation to be most helpful for a therapist, as it gives the brain a break, helps connect with your spiritual self and leads to feelings of calm. She also finds exercise to be an essential part of self-care as a source of releasing negative energy.

How often should someone practice self-care? 

Daily!  Most people falsely believe that self-care can only be done on weekends, vacations or when taking a “mental health day.” These activities contribute to self-care, but, for the most benefit, it should be a daily, consistent habit.  Self-care doesn’t have to take hours. Taking periodic breaks to quiet the mind and move the body is substantially beneficial, and anyone can incorporate them into their daily work schedule. May is Mental Health Month and, as we approach this time of awareness, it is important to challenge ourselves to make small changes – both mentally and physically – to create a positive impact on our overall health.

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