The importance of self-care was drilled into me during my time in graduate school. The message is clear: we need to take care of ourselves so we can better care for our clients (think of the trite, yet appropriate analogy of airplane oxygen masks here).  Sometimes we forget this message, especially when we are starting a private practice.  Therapists are often the last to ask for help, which leads to poor therapy.  Poor therapy leads to fewer clients and more stress. Keep your self-care game strong with these six tips:

Put it on Your Calendar

Just like the Business Planning Hour, put time in your schedule to take care of yourself.  Set it in stone. Do not double book.  It is important.

Find What Works for You

We know this from our clients, not every strategy works for everyone.  Figure out your plan.  Whether it’s a weekly yoga class, daily meditation, bubble baths, painting, journaling, or a long run, experiment until you find things that help your stress melt away.  

Keep it Healthy

We see unhealthy coping mechanisms daily in our practice.  Make sure you’re making choices that are truly helping your stress level, not creating new problems.  I’m not saying don’t imbibe in a glass of wine or enjoy a decadent dessert (I would never condone that kind of tomfoolery).  If you notice if that one glass of wine is turning into three or four each night,  rethink your strategy.

Consult, Consult, Consult

Professional consultation is never over!  Call a trusted colleague when you have a tough case, the particularly draining one, or the client you can’t stop thinking about.  We all have those clients that are hard to leave at the office.  That’s the perfect time to call a peer.

Go to Therapy

It’s imperative we keep our personal issues at bay so we can be fully present for clients.  Even if you’re not experiencing anything traumatic or “therapy-worthy”, it’s a good outlet. It may just be a monthly check-in appointment.  When your personal life is in order, you can focus–and it shows. Your clients will know you are with them.

Read a Book

We recommend The Art of Extreme Self Care to help you better take care of yourself.  This book offers monthly action steps to help you integrate self-care into your everyday life.

Prevention is key, but be aware of warning signs that you need more time to care for yourself. Disturbed sleep, isolation, dissatisfaction with work, or self-medicating all mean it’s time to step back, employ your strategies and breathe deep.