September happens to be self-care awareness month! Self-care is one of those buzzwords that has been thrown around the last couple of years for sure. But what does self-care actually mean? And how do you practice it?
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is the concept of taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve your overall health, both physical and mental (National Institute of Health, 2021). When it comes to mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, feel rejuvenated, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.
Self-care activities can benefit everyone, but especially those who work high-stress jobs. And many clinicians and professionals who work in health care and mental health services face high-stress situations and encounter secondary trauma when working with clients. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another” (NCTSN, 2022). The development of secondary traumatic stress is recognized as a common occupational hazard for clinicians and professionals who work with clients who have experienced trauma like abuse, violence, natural disasters, and other adverse events.
What are some self-care activities that can help you prioritize your physical and mental health? Many resources online highlight prioritizing regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and getting quality sleep. Another big activity is to explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Journaling along with setting and prioritizing personal and professional goals can keep you grounded as well as planning for the future. Finally, practicing gratitude and staying connected with friends, family, and your local communities can go a long way in building up self-esteem and self-worth.
Self-care is essential in anchoring ourselves, regulating our emotions, and balancing the varying stressors of personal and professional life. Hopefully, these resources and more are a start for many clinicians and professionals in our audience to start prioritizing their mental health and self-care.
National Institute of Mental Health (2021). “Caring for Your Mental Health.” Retrieved from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
Pexels [Woman Doing Hand Heart Sign by Hassan OUAJBIR, August 21, 2018, CC0]