The Importance of Self-Care in the Helping Profession

  Photo by Giulia Bertelli

Photo by Giulia Bertelli

Recently, I’ve become very aware of a reoccurring theme in the clients I’ve been working with on private holistic healing retreats. Most of the clients I’ve seen (if not all of them) have worked in or are working towards a career in the helping profession. These women are doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, teachers, human resource workers, etc. On top of that some are also mothers, wives, and/or partners in their personal lives.

Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences, so this awareness didn’t go under my radar unnoticed. In fact, it’s really highlighted how many of you out there are doing incredible work in this field of helping others but always seem to put yourself on the back burner.

Because of this I often hear, “I’ve lost myself.”

It’s truly easy to do in a field like this which is so demanding on so many levels. You have to show up for others (literally and emotionally) and you have the demand of performing on a certain level to “prove” that the work you’re doing is effective—for some this is even dependent on keeping your job. That’s an incredible amount of pressure!

Then, for some, you have to go home at the end of the day and tend to children, husbands, wives, partners, family, and pets.

It’s no wonder you feel you’ve lost yourself.

With this cycle, day in and day out, it’s easy for everything to snowball to the point that we start to create excuses as to why we can’t take better care of ourselves. We feel too tired to wake up a little earlier to exercise. We can’t find the time to grocery shop and prep wholesome meals for the week. It’s impossible to practice meditating in the morning when there’s small children running around and you have to get the kids out the door for school (and then yourself for work!).

This is the greatest challenge I hear from clients who work in this field. There’s not enough time or the circumstances just aren’t quite.

First, we need to ditch that belief. When we look really deep we can see that a belief about our self-care (in this instance, lack thereof) is driving this cycle.

The belief that we aren’t worthy of finding the time or taking the extra time to take care of ourselves. One of the greatest lessons I learned in my master’s program, as I was becoming trained to be a therapist, is that you can only show up for your clients as much as you show up for yourself.

If I’m not taking care of myself then how can I best take care of someone else? Or in the words of the fabulous RuPaul, “If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

This applies not only to romantic relationships but to all relationships. Friends, family, co-workers, clients, patients, etc.

So when clients say things like, “I feel like I’ve lost myself”, it’s understandable as to why.

Because there’s no room in your life for you. If you aren’t doing the the self-care that you need for you, then yes, you may very well feel like you’ve lost your sense-of-self.

But this is just a feeling. And feelings can change. Especially with conscious effort and self-care. Things like diet, exercise, daily movement, meditation, breathe work, setting healthy boundaries, creativity, time in nature, etc. These are all components of self-care that we all need and deserve.

Especially, if you’re in this field.

 It’s a matter of making the time to do it and making it work for you and your life.

It’s not “selfish”, “lavish”, or “frivolous”. It’s simply taking care of you. So you can show up in the world as the best possible version of yourself.

This will look unique to each individual, based on your own life circumstances. And that’s a good thing because we are all unique beings and a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t effective.

When I work with a client on a private holistic healing retreat, I have the opportunity to really tailor a self-care regimen that works for that person. Something that’s sustainable and enjoyable.

Ultimately, it should be things you enjoy doing because then, well, you’ll want to do it!

It’s honestly that simple. It’s a matter of untangling all of the complicated stories we’ve told ourselves about what self-care is. There’s power and strength in subtleties.

It’s small, manageable steps over the course of time that create a long-lasting impact. This may be cliché (I used to hate hearing this!) but it’s the truth. In a society that wants instant gratification and quick results, we have a hard time accepting this truth.

As a therapist, it’s really exciting to see this approach work for clients. Because they finally feel empowered and are taking the time for themselves that they so deeply deserve and need.

Sometimes for the first time ever in their life. And they finally feel like themselves again. That brings me joy. Because I know, as a healer, how crucial it is to feel that and how easy it is to get lost.

Our journey to healing starts within. Choose to re-commit to yourself, again and again, each moment of every day.