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Self-care: What your therapist really means

As a therapist, I often encourage my clients to work on their self-care. Self-care is an integral part of healing, maintaining, and working on good mental health. If you have been around the internet at all in the last several years, then you know that self-care has also become a trendy topic outside of the therapist office. However, the version of self-care that is often advertised online and in magazines is not the self-care that your therapist is asking you to work on. Self-care is much more than going to the spa, doing nails, or going on vacation.

Self-care is working on challenging negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. You can do all the salt baths in the world and still not like yourself. It is intentionally identifying those negative beliefs that you hold about yourself and actively challenging them in your mind. Negative beliefs may feel like they are true, but that doesn’t make them so. Feelings are not always facts and beliefs about yourself can change.

Self-care goes hand-in-hand with self-compassion. When you are vicious and cruel to yourself, you are actively engaging and triggering cortisol (the stress hormone) in your brain. Self-care is being kind to yourself, saying kind things, and believing those kind things. Compassion elicits the oxytocin hormone, which helps you to feel good. Work on engaging your natural and internally build feel-good-system.

Self-care is doing things that you might not want to do. Who said self-care had to be things that are enjoyable or fun? Sometimes it is the things that we don’t want to do, but will improve our quality of life. That means creating and living within a budget, paying bills on time, eating intuitively, cleaning and organizing your living space, prioritizing time, etc. These things are not the most ‘fun’ ‘trendy’ or ‘exciting’, but they will help you to enjoy your life more if these stressors are taken care of.

Self-care is feeling your feelings. If you have read my posts before, then you know that I include this idea in every. single. post. I do it because it is SO IMPORTANT to your physical and mental well-being. Emotions are energy in motion, they aren’t going to disappear or be squashed down. They WILL come up one way or another. You might as well give them their space now, because they will eventually take up space.

Self-care is boundaries. Again, this is one of those things that I will continue to bring up. Boundaries keep you safe. Boundaries keep you sane! Say no to things that you don’t need in your life, say ‘yes’ to asking for help, and don’t sacrifice your mental health for someone else’s needs or comfort.

Self-care is believing that you are allowed to take up space. You, your flaws, your mistakes, your perceived imperfections are allowed in this world. Start believing that you are worthy enough to grow, to learn, and to change as things come your way.

Self-care can be unglamorous and unexciting, and that is OK. It doesn’t need to be trendy or Pinterest-worthy. True self-care is doing things to make your life feel sustainable and healthy. Self-care is what you do so you don’t feel like you have to avoid or run away from your life. It is facing life head-on, working through tough or challenging times, and giving yourself space to feel and to grow. It may not feel good all of the time, but it also makes it possible for you to find and accept joy when it does come.

Kylie Chaffin, Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

information from this blog is not intended to treat, diagnose, or substitute as therapy. If you have concerns regarding your mental health, please seek out treatment from a trained professional.

This post appears originally on the Cor Counseling and Wellness website by the same author.

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