Pick Yourself! On Attending To Your Own Self-Care First .

Not very many years ago at all, I found myself at a crossroads. I was working at a job that was highly fulfilling and meaningful, but also grueling, exhausting, and crisis-oriented. I wanted badly to continue doing important work, but found my own health and self-care failing as I tried to keep up. If I was to remain in that position, it would mean making physical, emotional, and financial sacrifices over time, truly letting my own needs go in the process. So I went rogue.

I picked myself.

Those of us in the helping professions (including everyone in healthcare and education) know the guilt that comes up when we choose ourselves. This is probably why, so often, we don’t – we are oriented to serve and trained to put those we serve first and ourselves last. Work 14 hours to attend to a crisis? No problem. Fill in for a sick colleague on your only day off? Of course. Place your own safety in jeopardy to keep everyone else safe? OK…

To put it bluntly, this is an unsustainable way to do work(and to do life, for that matter). We cannot be caretakers for others 100% of the time and expect our own emotional and physical health to keep up. Where do we begin in changing this pervasive mindset that serving others means sacrificing ourselves?

It’s not “selfish” to take care of yourself

We first need to challenge, in a significant way, this idea that it is somehow “selfish” to take care of ourselves, or even to put ourselves before others. The word “selfish” comes up all of the time in therapy to describe incredibly benign acts – “I selfishly took a day off from work when I was sick.” “I was selfish and said ‘no’ to working when I was on vacation.” Sheesh. You’d think “selfish” is a term that applies to anything having to do with the self at all.

So here’s the dictionary definition of ‘selfish’: “Lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” I can think of almost no one to whom this term applies; certainly this does not describe me or any of the people with whom I have worked. So when it comes to describing self-care, let’s get rid of “selfish” already. It’s an unhelpful and inaccurate descriptor.

It’s not an either/or proposition

We do not need to pick from either being a helpful, compassionate, loving person, or being a self-centered, greedy, unkind person. There’s a whole lot of grey in there. In fact, we can choose to be a mixture of lovely things from the grey column that both support others and ourselves.

For instance, we can choose to practice good boundaries by saying ‘no’ often, being thoughtful, and helping out when we are able. We can choose to financially prioritize ourselves and our families, and be generous with a certain percentage of our earnings. We can choose to opt out of an optional meeting if it means sacrificing our ability to work out and have a good breakfast. We can choose to spend less (or no) time with people that bring us down emotionally. So many choices – and not one of them makes us a bad person!

We are no good to others when we’re a mess ourselves

If I still haven’t convinced you, let me appeal to your other-oriented nature, and confirm that we truly are less able to serve others to our best ability when we ourselves are worn out, sick, tired, unfulfilled, depressed, anxious, etcetera. The airline rule of the adult putting on their own face mask before attending to their child’s is true – if we can’t breathe, we can’t help anybody else breathe, either. If we aren’t able to justify caring for ourselves simply because we deserve it and it’s worthwhile (and we do and it is), then we must at least agree that, if we want to do the best job possible, we probably need to sleep a little bit, eat some nutritious things, and keep ourselves mentally well enough to avoid a nervous breakdown. At minimum.

We can and should consider our needs and wants as we decide how we want to move forward in life. If you are considering making a life change to improve your own well-being, I applaud and support you. You are not selfish – you are bravely taking steps to love yourself, which is just as worthwhile a mission as helping others. Why choose one or the other? We can do both.

Originally posted on my blog, Common Humanity, at Psych Central.com. To read more, visit https://blogs.psychcentral.com/common-humanity/


Useful Information

Some frequently asked questions and useful answers.

Online therapy works in the same way as in-office therapy, but is done online, similar to a Skype or FaceTime conversation. Clients are able to have sessions from home, work, or any other convenient location. We meet with clients using a HIPAA-compliant secure platform.

Online therapy allows you to work with us from the comfort of home, or any private location of your choosing. For some, the screen provides an added layer of comfort that makes the challenging work of being vulnerable in therapy a little easier.

Online therapy also creates the unique opportunity for you to work with us without the constraints of proximity! The practice was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but has since grown to service clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Online therapy is a great option for clients that travel for work, for college students that go home during the summertime and do not want a break in their sessions, and for anyone with a challenging or inconsistent day-to-day schedule. It is an excellent choice for clients seeking a therapist with a particular specialty that they are unable to find support for locally. Some of our clients report that online therapy makes the vulnerability element of therapy a bit less intimidating.

No. For some clients with more complex symptoms or safety concerns, having a local therapist that is readily available is important in case of crisis or the need for a higher level of care. Online therapy is also a challenge for clients that do not have access to a private, quiet space to be “in session” for the hour, or for those that do not have adequate internet connectivity.

There are several reasons why we don’t accept insurance. The most important are:

Confidentiality. Insurance companies require that your information be shared with them in order to pay for services. We prefer that clients’ information is kept as confidential as possible.

The pressure to diagnose. Insurance companies require that clients are given a mental health diagnosis in order to pay for therapy. We have found that many clients benefit from therapy, but do not meet criteria for a diagnosis. Not using insurance allows clients to access therapy without being given a mental health diagnosis.

Flexibility and freedom. Insurance companies dictate the length and number of sessions they will authorize, as well as when a client is no longer eligible for the benefits of therapy. Because we do not work with insurance panels, you and we can collaborate to determine your individual needs regarding session length, frequency of sessions, and when to terminate therapy.

While we do not accept insurance, many clients choose to submit receipts to their insurance companies to receive reimbursement via out-of-network benefits. We are happy to provide these receipts for you! Please check with your insurance company for details on your benefits.



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