We are Karen and Melissa, two mid-career(ish) psychologists who love what we do and also recognize how important it is to take care of ourselves in this work. (Read more about our professional backgrounds here.)
We know that there are so many other female mental health professionals like us who are trying to balance our careers with additional caregiving roles - whether caring for a young child (like Melissa), aging parents (like Karen), or anything in between. And who value self-care but struggle with making it a priority.
Any of this sound familiar?
If you’re reading this it likely means you don’t need any convincing about how important it is to incorporate self-care into your day, yet for many of us it continues to be a struggle. Many of us think it’s because we don’t have the time or energy or, that we just need to get through this one particularly challenging/busy week, and then things will get better on their own. Also sound familiar?
The reality is it’s not just about time or energy or waiting for the hectic pace to naturally subside (which it rarely does, as you’ve probably already realized). The fact is, most of us were never really taught about the “whats” and “hows” of self-care as it relates to our specific profession and how the messages women receive put us at a particular disadvantage when it comes to self-care. On top of all this, society (and even perhaps our training) often encourages us to think very narrowly about what constitutes self-care. Is it any wonder this is tough for us?!
At Intentional Therapist our aim is to dispel some of these unhelpful messages and embrace a much broader approach to self-care that goes beyond sleep, exercise, relaxation/meditation, and eating right (all things that are necessary but not sufficient) and truly addresses the deeper challenges and limiting beliefs that ultimately influence how well we take care of ourselves.
We recently saw a quote (author unknown) that nicely summarizes how we like to think of self-care: it’s about creating a life from which you don’t need to escape. How amazing does that sound?!
Using this as our ultimate goal, we’ve developed our '4 C's' approach to self-care that is based on four important pillars:
This pillar includes all our thoughts and actions that promote a positive connection with others (including like-minded female mental health professionals) as well as a stronger connection and understanding of ourselves (both our work and personal self). This pillar highlights the unique aspects of self-care and helps us figure out exactly what we want our lives to look like and the importance of connecting with others who will support us in developing the life from which we don’t need to escape.
This pillar encompasses our thoughts and actions that promote compassion towards ourselves and others and that foster an attitude of gratitude. Compassion (both towards ourselves and our clients) can be a particularly powerful self-care strategy in those moments when we feel we’ve had a “bad” therapy session or when we’re working with clients where we feel helpless to alter the factors that are causing pain. Compassion is also a powerful antidote for our unrealistic expectations of ourselves (whether that be within our roles outside work, like mother, wife, partner, daughter, or within our role as a therapist) and can be a welcome companion as we take other steps towards self-care that promote feelings of discomfort or guilt. Gratitude practices have the potential to reconnect us with the rewards of our work and remind us of the many things in our lives that bring meaning and purpose, whether that be in our work or personal lives.
If we think of self-care in the more traditional, narrowly defined way it doesn’t seem as though we’d need much “courage” to have a massage, eat chocolate, and get in a bubble bath. But we believe self-care involves so much more than these more traditional types of self-care activities. Truly embracing self-care involves doing things that are difficult and cause discomfort, things that may go against the unhelpful rules and messages that interfere with us creating a life from which we don’t need to escape. Fortunately, the pillars of connection and compassion are also there to help us through those moments of discomfort.
This pillar includes our thoughts and actions that foster creativity and play (including a playful attitude). Creativity and play are foundational to our existence as humans and neuroscience shows multiple benefits to the act of play, including contributing to the development of socially adept and flexible brains. We think we would all agree that these are helpful components regardless of the specific type of life we’re each trying to create. The ability to find humour in our daily lives can also be a great tool in combating the heaviness that can sometimes come with our work and with the realities of being an imperfect human in an imperfect world. And let’s face it, the heaviness in our lives is often what contributes to us wanting to escape.
When combined together, these four pillars provide a great foundation for building a life from which you won’t need to escape!
We hope that you will join us on this journey, so that your self-care can become more intentional, creative, and playful, and truly be a foundational part of your work, not just a 'nice to have'.
We also hope that through this network and the power of the ‘4 C’s’ you will find:
Here's to making yourself a priority, in the service of doing your best work for and with your clients and connecting with the best version of yourself and your life.
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