This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked and it’s a great question so many people struggle with themselves or regarding a loved one. Whether we realize it or not, every single day we are flooded with hundreds of messages through social media, TV, radio, billboards, friends, family, (the list goes on) about what is “healthy” to eat and not to eat, how much exercise we should be doing, what supplements we should take, what makeup will make us look 20 years younger or fresh from the beach….It’s completely overwhelming and exhausting!
The way that our society as a whole view's nutrition, exercise, and (lack of) self-acceptance, fuels and almost supports disordered eating. How do we know when our focus to be “healthy” becomes an obsession? When is being “healthy” actually destructive? The term ‘Orthorexia’ is a term (not an official diagnosis) to describe a condition where someone becomes so obsessed with healthy eating that it can affect their well-being. Orthorexia can lead to an eating disorder and should not be taken lightly or ignored.
A few things to ask yourself or your loved one if you’re worried things are getting out of control:
If you answered yes to any of these questions you are not alone.
If you’re ready to take a turn in living a more balanced and healthful life, check out the body positive movement and Health At Every Size (HAES) on Instagram and Facebook as well as NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) for resources, tools, and support.
As a therapist, you will disproportionally see the world. More often than not, our greatest triumphs are working with individuals who’ve suffered great pain and watching them grow in spite of that pain. We are empathetic warriors who welcome any challenge and we thrive when we’re helping others.
But sometimes, our ability to be empathetic is maxed-out. As they say, you can’t pour from any empty glass.
It’s no secret that our choice to become therapists has been as tough as it has been rewarding. However, the reward of being a therapist should not outweigh the difficulties we encounter. By not acknowledging our tough days or difficult sessions, we run the risk of hurting ourselves.
You might be asking: How could we be hurting ourselves?
Well, the concept of hurting ourselves is known as secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. Secondary trauma is consistent exposure to another’s first-hand trauma; whereas compassion fatigue is when a therapist’s capacity to empathize is threatened. By dismissing the effects of tough days or difficult sessions, we run the risk of developing these conditions.
But what does that actually mean? What happens?
Well, that depends. For starters, secondary trauma and compassion fatigue are linked to professional burnout. If nothing else, continued exposure without appropriate precautions could potentially lead to one’s burnout and exit from the field.
Another implication could be potentially harming a client. For example, if a therapist develops compassion fatigue then there’s a chance their effort and energy will be diminished. If that happens, their patience, empathy, and concern may be limited – thus, providing poor support for a client in need.
There’s a long list of implications for secondary trauma and compassion fatigue. However, the prevention of these conditions is what matters most. Research has shown that self-care strategies and positive support systems are the best preventative techniques. Whether that be establishing healthy boundaries, creating time for self-care, or maintaining open communication with those around us – prioritizing ourselves as much as we prioritize others is essential.
In order to be dependable for others, we have to show-up for ourselves.
Although it seems almost obvious, we are human too. We are capable of feeling the effects of abuse, addiction, and trauma like anyone else. This means we should be encouraging ourselves, as well as each other, to seek support from family, friends, and peers.
It may seem as though we have all the answers, considering our education and training, but we don’t. We have to remember that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to acknowledge a tough day.
Being a therapist can be incredibly fulfilling, but it shouldn’t be at your expense. Take a moment and be there for yourself – you deserve it!
We’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup” but what does that really mean. If your anything like me you find yourself pouring your precious time and energies into stressful jobs, relationships, and commitments that you may genuinely enjoy, but then what? What happens when there’s nothing left to pour? If you don’t take the time to refill your cup, you end up feeling empty and exhausted which is not fair to you or your commitments. Often times we are not our own priority. I’ll say it again for the people in the back, We are not our own priority. Why do we feel the need to pour into others before pouring into ourselves? This has to change. Let’s talk about the 8 types of self-care that will help us put ourselves first, refill our cups, and be better versions of ourselves.
Physical: You may be thinking “I know, I know; I need to go to the gym more.” The gym is great but Physical Self-Care can be as simple as getting enough sleep, stretching, walking, yoga, even making one healthy food choice per day. Adding these to your daily routine will help you feel like you have more energy throughout the day and will benefit your overall health in the long run.
Emotional: Emotional Self-Care includes things like stress management, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness; and this does not just mean towards other people. Turn that forgiveness inward for mistakes you may have made in the past. Show yourself some of that compassion and kindness you so freely give others. Allowing yourself some grace in this thing called life will also allow emotional clarity which can allow you to more readily regulate your emotions.
Social: This one may sound challenging for some of you introverts out there. Social Self-Care does not necessarily mean joining a new club or picking up a new hobby but focuses more on enriching the relationships you already have. This can look like setting and enforcing boundaries, being mindful of having positive social media interactions, taking time for the people you care about, and asking for help even when it’s hard.
Spiritual: Not religious? That’s okay! Yes, Spiritual Self-Care can be found in prayer, but it can also be found in meditation, time alone, nature, or a sacred space. So, take some time for a hot bath, toss in a bath bomb, light some candles, and just take care of your spirit.
Personal: Personal Self-Care can present itself through our hobbies, honoring your true self, and your personal identity. Owning who you are can be one of the scariest things to do in todays society. However, honoring yourself to yourself is one of the bravest and most rewarding things you can do. Claim your identity, your morals, your values and live your life in a way that will make that person proud.
Space: An organized space probably doesn’t feel like much of a priority, but a cluttered space feeds a cluttered mind. Keeping your space clean and organized can actually help you think more clearly! Spatial Self-Care can also refer to feeling safe and secure in your work or home environment. This is important in being able to clear your mind and work more efficiently. If you are in a space where you do not feel safe, refer back to Social Self-Care and ask for help, even when it’s hard. Talk to a manager, HR Department, or even a loved one. You have the right to feel safe in your own space.
Financial: Financial Self-Care can look like saving money, budgeting your money, paying your bills on time, and even splurging. That’s right, the occasional splurge has been shown to reduce stress. However, this comes with a disclaimer, make sure that you are budgeting for the occasional splurge to avoid any later regret. It’s also reported to be more rewarding when the splurge is on an experience rather than a particular item. So, take the kids out for ice cream this weekend, it’s been a long week and you deserve it.
Work: Can self- care really be done at work? Of course! Work Self-Care includes good time management, setting and enforcing work boundaries, promoting a positive workplace, and making sure you are taking your break. Many people sacrifice their break or lunch time to raise their productivity. Although these intentions are good, this time is yours. Take time to eat your lunch or go for a walk around the building to get some fresh air. This allows your brain to recharge and you can return to work feeling refreshed and ready take on the rest of your shift.
Adding self-care intentionally into your routine may seem awkward or uncomfortable at first but think of it like a muscle, the more you use it, the easier it will be to put yourself first, refill your cup, and live your best life.