Resiliency Blog Part 6: Self-CareOne of the 5 Core Resiliency Factors
Written by Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP
Drawn from Dr. J. Eric Gentry’s Professional Resiliency and Optimization Training and used with his permission.
“Self-care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship
of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”
When I first entered the mental health profession, I had the misguided assumption that if I just cared for myself, I’d be fine. So, I ate healthy, regularly laced up my running shoes, tried to get to bed at a decent hour, made space for meditation/prayer, laughed with friends, etc. It felt great…for a while. And then, life happened as it always seems to do. When I got busy, felt overwhelmed, sad or anxious the first things to go in my days were those related to self-care. I told myself that I didn’t have time to work out or cook a healthy dinner. I felt yucky. Then I got smart (or so I thought) and tried the opposite; I significantly increased the time I spent caring for myself, mainly by running. And, as you might suspect, my body revolted and I experienced a series of overuse injuries. I just couldn’t win! Self-care wasn’t working for me anymore. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the concept of resiliency that it all made sense for me. I was erroneously trying to be resilient by practicing only one of the five resiliency factors. Self-care in isolation is not effective. I encourage you to engage in self-care as part of your desire to live a resilient life. Don’t forget about self-regulation, living with intention, shifting your cognitions, and your support network!
The concept of self-care is relatively self-explanatory; it means caring for ourselves. My mentor, J. Eric Gentry, PhD, often describes self-care as doing things that are hard on the front end but will yield health, vitality, wellness, joy, insight and peace in the long run. Here are the categories of self-care and some examples:
Physical Body Care: regularly going to the dentist, getting a colonoscopy and/or a mammogram, eating right, exercising regularly (at least 20 minutes of cardio for a minimum of 3 days a week), sleep, etc.
Emotional Care: allowing ourselves to feel all emotions and express them in adaptive ways
Spiritual Care: having a regular spiritual practice, prayer, meditation, reflection, being a part of a spiritual community, etc.
Cognitive Care: learning new things, challenging yourself, reading, attending lectures, etc.
Relational Care: engaging in healthy relationships, practicing healthy boundaries, etc.
Vocational Care: engaging in tasks that embody your Mission Statement (hint: this doesn’t necessarily have to refer to your job, it can also encompass volunteer work, etc.)
When I teach my clients and workshop participants about self-care, I often utilize a self-care assessment tool. Assessments can be a helpful way for us to identify areas of self-care that we are doing really well in as well as areas in which we can grow. Here’s one of my favorites; I encourage you to take a few minutes and complete it!
You can use your self-care assessment to make specific goals for change and to celebrate what you are doing well. Pick one or two things you’d like to improve on over the next month and work towards them.
I really like what Jean Shinoda Bolen has to say about self-care: “When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
We only get one crack at this thing called life; let’s be mindful about what we do with it. For me that means choosing to be resilient by practicing self-regulation, living with intention, challenging and changing my perceptions, having meaningful relationships and engaging in self-care. What does it mean for you?
Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP has over a decade of experience working in the mental health field. Her professional interests include: promoting resiliency, trauma recovery, anxiety, depression, and couples counseling. Following her passions, she completed advanced training to become a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional (CCFP). As a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling at the University of Montana, she balances her studies, a part-time private counseling practice, and psychometry work. Additionally, Julie facilitates parent education and compassion fatigue seminars. She can often be found along a mountain trail with her beloved husband and dogs.
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Bonus content: "Just Breathe"