Self-care is a term that you hear a LOT, especially if you work in a helping profession. Before I started taking my overall well-being really seriously, I laughed off self-care and the stereotypical activities associated with it — taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, etc.
However, not prioritizing self-care has led to some really unfortunate and even scary situations, including going into early labor during my second pregnancy. I’ve experienced several bouts of professional burnout as well, each of which I’ve attributed to a lack of self-care.
During this month of September, taking care of my mental, emotional and physical health is even higher on my priority list than usual. My family is adjusting to the new school year, my husband and I are buying a building (more on that soon!), my private practice is in a season of expansion, and I’m in the middle of writing a book.
So…yeah, self-care is essential right now.
We all have our own definitions, ideas, and maybe even misconceptions of what self-care looks like, so I’m going to share what it is for me at this moment in time and how it’s having a positive effect on my life.
Protecting My Time
Ooh, this is a BIG one. I’ve always had trouble with it, and the struggle has only compounded now that I have 2 kids, a growing business with 12 team members, and several big projects on my plate.
In the past, I very rarely placed boundaries around my schedule and the time I was willing to give to others. I replied to client and customer emails on nights and weekends (still trying to kick this habit), volunteered to be places at times that really weren’t convenient, and took on way too many responsibilities that left no time for my own priorities.
And by past, I mean as recently as this summer. My schedule completely got away from me, which means I am now playing catch-up in pretty much all areas of my life.
The first thing I did to get back on the right path was tackle my calendar. I use iCal, since I can access it on my phone, computer and iPad. I have dedicated colored-coded calendars for home, MTC, Listen & Learn, and one for work-related obligations outside of those two categories.
I gathered the kids’ school calendar, the various dates related to contracts, class sessions, and other events at MTC, and my personal schedule for the entire year, and then put EVERYTHING on my iCal. I also designated specific writing days for my book, putting them in ALL CAPS so I wouldn’t be tempted to schedule other things on those days.
Just a couple of weeks in, this is making a huge difference in my life. I don’t feel overcommitted the way I usually do, nor do I feel guilty about saying “no” to things that don’t fit my already established schedule.
Exercising Every Day
I completely dropped the ball on working out this past year. Despite having a membership to the YMCA that is less than 5 minutes away from my house, I just didn’t go nearly enough as I needed to. As a result, I felt sluggish, lazy, and out of shape, which didn’t do much to boost my overall self-esteem and happiness level.
During the summer, I got fed up with feeling that way and started taking daily 30 minute walks. I love that I didn’t have to get in my car and go anywhere or see anyone (two of the downsides of working out at the Y), and walking felt almost meditative to me.
I quickly became addicted to my walks, so I would get super bummed anytime the weather didn’t cooperate. I started getting anxious about what I would do when winter hit and I wouldn’t be able to walk outside anymore. So in the name of self-care, I quit my Y membership and bought a treadmill.
Yes, it was a big purchase, but I had wasted a ton of money not going to the gym over the past year that would be much better spent on something I’d actually do. Since buying the treadmill, I’ve used it consistently at least 4 days a week (alternating with my outdoor walks) and even added weights to my home workout.
Not only do I feel and look better physically, but I can tell a huge difference in my emotional and mental health. I will never again let regular exercise fall by the wayside, especially since I have made it so convenient and eliminated any possible excuses.
Seeking Guidance & Accountability
I do not consider myself to be an expert in the area of self-care. Thankfully, though, I have a friend (and fellow music therapist!) who is. I had the good fortune of meeting Ami Kunimura at a national music therapy conference several years ago, and we have solidified our friendship by staying in touch via email and social media.
Ami’s book, Resilience Over Burnout, is in our collection of resources at MTC, and has encouraged my co-owner Katey and I to not only practice what she teaches in her book, but also convey the importance of self-care to our entire team of therapists.
In just a few days, Ami will be starting The 5-Day Self-Care Challenge, which I will absolutely be taking part in along with many other music therapists, helping professionals, and people from all other walks of life who want to prioritize their own self-care.
During the challenge, Ami will be sending daily emails that include a video discussing the self-care steps for that day, along with tips to support our success. There is also a community for everyone going through the challenge, which is where the accountability piece comes in.
I will be there sharing my progress every day, and I hope that if you join the challenge, you will do the same. It begins on Sunday, September 15, but the community is already active :)
I am officially calling this exciting, busy, and potentially stressful month SELF-CARE SEPTEMBER. Who’s with me?!? I would love to hear how you are taking care of yourself this month, so please feel free to share in the comments, send an email, or better yet, jump into the 5-Day Self-Care Challenge with me.