This blog continues the topic of self care, which I introduced with suggestions about work habits. We’ll look at additional strategies for self care to enhance physical, mental and emotional well being. As I mentioned before, I recommend that you choose one or two small steps to try out first, see if they are helpful, modify them if necessary, then build on those after you have had some success. It may seem as though making drastic changes is necessary, but it is easier to start with something small. You are more likely to be successful and less likely to feel discouraged by the enormity of what you are taking on. Remember you can always start again if you slip back into old habits.
We’ll start by looking at physical health and well-being. This is an area that is easy to neglect especially with the pressure of classes and practicum or internship training. However, neglecting your physical health will take a toll on your mental and emotional health as well. Examine how you are caring for your basic needs for nutrition, movement and rest. Small changes in eating, exercise and sleep habits can yield significant benefits. I find that paying attention to my body’s signals results in being more productive since I’m bringing more resources to bear on my work.
Being in graduate school is a time for developing the mind. You are gaining knowledge and putting a lot of attention to your intellectual growth. This may mean that your mind is working at maximum capacity and you may find it hard to shift out of a preoccupation with your thoughts and ideas. Introducing a mindfulness practice may be helpful in balancing your mental energy. Meditation, progressive relaxation, stress reduction, and guided visualization are all readily available in online formats if taking a class isn’t feasible in your schedule. If doing a structured mindfulness practice doesn’t fit for you right now, simply spending time in nature is a great alternative.
Your emotional equilibrium will continue to be challenged as you progress through your training. Supportive relationships are the most helpful resource for building and restoring your emotional reserves. Personal psychotherapy gives you a chance to talk confidentially about the emotions that are triggered by your clients as well as your academic courses, trainings and supervision. Supportive relationships with peers and mentors in the field can help you share some of the experiences common to clinicians. In addition, strive to maintain and establish supportive personal relationships both individually and in community. It is important to engage in relationships and activities unrelated to the mental health field to provide perspective and balance.
It may seem like a big task to attend to these three areas of your health, but you can choose one activity that serves several functions. For example, following a YouTube yoga instruction will move your body and still your mind. Sharing a healthy meal or going on a hike with a good friend will meet your physical and emotional needs. In addition, any change you make that improves your health in one area will help in other areas because our physical, mental and emotional well-being are interconnected.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful in sustaining and improving your health in all aspects. Please email me with comments, questions or suggestions for future blog topics.