Learning How to Incorporate Self Care in Your Life
Everyone is talking about self care, but what is it really? Well as mental health has become a less taboo topic in many communities, so has the idea that taking care of yourself can be your number one priority.
You’re probably thinking, “What?? I’m allowed to put myself first?!?” YES!
Self care is not equivalent to being selfish. I repeat, self care is NOT selfish. It is simply the term used to describe the fact that if you are in a healthy state both physically, mentally, and spiritually, then you are better able to show up in the many roles you may play in your life. Whether you are a student, employee, entrepreneur, mother, wife, caregiver, etc., prioritizing taking care of YOU means you are putting your best foot forward in all these areas. Ultimately you are serving those relationships better.
“So how do I do this ‘self care’ you speak of??”
Well let me tell you, it is simpler than you think. Self care lives on a spectrum from merely meeting your basic needs to full on pampering yourself. It can be free or very expensive, but that is up to you. It is all about partaking in activities and being intentional about doing things that make you feel good.
“Where do I sign up!?”
Hold on. Before you start booking massage appointments and buying face masks, you need to identify what is it you really need. Pause and get in tune with your body. What are the things that would make your soul smile? Taking the time to really get a grip on your needs allows you to be more intentional about your self care.
Maybe you have been feeling really low, and been having a hard time even getting out of bed. Maybe your self care is just opening a window or taking a long shower. Maybe you have been pulling non-stop overtime at your job and what you really need is a vacation day or two. Maybe you are a new mom who hasn’t gotten a good nights sleep in ages and calling a family member over to watch the little one while you nap is what you really need. This is ALL self care!
“Wow. I didn’t even realize it was that deep.”
Yeah. Taking the time to prioritize yourself and shift your mindset can almost be more work than actually doing the things that make you feel your best, but once you figure this all out the relief it brings is so worth it. Consider getting some help along this process by finding a therapist that fits your needs and can collaborate with you on creating a unique plan for taking care of yourself. Having someone to talk to in and of itself can be just the self care you needed.
Too many times people feel alone in their darkest times and never receive the support that they need. COVID-19 brought to light for many the importance of social interaction as a human being. I want you to know that you never have to be alone. There are crisis resources available to help in those darkest hours.
An important part of the therapy process is safety planning for those dark moments. A safety plan is not a guarantee of safety, but when practiced regularly and incorporated into day-to-day life, it can be an important way of minimizing harm. Safety plans often have 5 steps: Identifying triggers, using coping skills, reaching out to supportive friends/family, utilizing warmlines/crisis lines, and calling emergency services.
When you are able to identify the things that ignite dark thoughts or feelings, you are able to recognize what coping skills to utilize. Sometimes that isn’t enough though. I encourage those with a safety plan to really lean into those support persons. Notifying them when you originally make your safety plan with your therapist that you are identifying them as a support person. Talk to those individuals about how they may support you during a difficult moment. What can they do/say to help increase your safety. You could even supply them with a copy of your safety plan. Having a “safe word/phrase” so you can quickly and discretely notify them that you need assistance (the “notOK” app is a free application that can do this for you). This prepares both yourself and your loved ones for a crisis situation.
There are lots of ways to access mental health resources in a time of need…
Reasons to Offer and Participate in Virtual Mental Health Services
Being quarantined means being open to alternative forms of everything you normally do outside of your home. Trips to the gym are now Youtube workouts, brunch with friends is now group texts with an exponential amount of emojis, and trips to your therapist’s office is now teletherapy from the comfort of your couch. For therapists and those participating in mental health services, this can be an unwanted, but necessary shift. Participating in telehealth therapy services is a great way to connect however, and access mental health services for both the professional and the client.
Reasons Why Teletherapy is a Positive Alternative
Ease of Access: Utilizing telehealth therapy services means you can access therapy appointments from virtually anywhere. For mental health professionals licensed in California, that means being able to provide mental health services to any resident in California from Sacramento down to San Diego. It also means clients don’t have to travel too and from an appointment or find parking or hit traffic or miss their appointment all together.
Best Fit with Therapist: Over the years, I have had many clients move to find better opportunities for their life, but a sense of continuity was felt when they knew they could continue seeing me from their new location within the state. Teletherapy also allows you a wider selection of therapists/clients to work with as you are not confined to those located within a 30 mile radius. Having options means being able to find the therapist that can best understand your story and guide you to the change you want to see in your life.
Feeling Comfortable: Being able to talk to your therapist/client from the space that is most comfortable for you can make a huge difference. Having control over your space can be a invaluable part of being able to open up in your therapeutic process. I have personally noticed that from my first sessions with a client to my closing session with a client, there is definitely a difference in how they and I dress (yoga pants make a regular appearance) due to finally feeling more comfortable in that therapeutic relationship. Utilizing teletherapy means having some of that comfort on the front end of your journey and meeting your goals on your terms.
The Downside of Teletherapy
As with anything there are pros and cons to telehealth therapy, and highlighting one side with out the other would be unfair to you. Fortunately, the major cons of teletherapy have less to do with the therapeutic process and more to do with technology’s short comings. At the end of the day, teletherapy is a fancy term for Facetime with your therapist. Although, teletherapy should be used on a HIPAA compliant platform (such as doxy.me, Simple Practice, Vsee, etc.), if you’ve ever used a video conferencing application you know that poor connections, cyber security, and “hello. hellloo?” moments can all be a damper on a good conversation. Making sure you are in a safe space with a good connection is an easy fix to this problem however.
For therapists, our number one priority is always your safety, so it is smart to go over the nearest emergency room, emergency contacts, crisis line numbers, and any other safety precautions that can be made prior to starting your mental health journey.
With all this in mind, feel free to reach out for a 15 minute phone consultation, so you can see if teletherapy will be a helpful tool on your therapeutic journey!
Sometimes on our journey of growth we find ourselves at a stand still contemplating a change. Whether you are seeking therapy for the first time, restarting your therapeutic path, or finding a new therapist to continue your journey, finding the right person for your unique story can be vital to the therapy process and I am humbled that you may have considered me in that time of need. Unfortunately, I am either unavailable to new clients or I may not be the best fit for your individual needs, so I hope I can continue supporting your therapeutic journey by referring you to some trusted colleagues and resources in the community. Please take the time to contact and follow up with the provider of your choosing from the trusted referrals below.
San Diego Based Centers and Colleagues
Urban Restoration Counseling Center: Provides culturally-competent, low cost therapy and group therapy services from Licensed & Associate therapists. Some types of insurance taken.
New Life Counseling Center: Provides a range of Christian oriented services from various Licensed Professionals who accept various insurances and sliding fee scales
NISD Counseling: Provides culturally-competent services on a sliding fee scale from both Licensed & Associate therapists
Inclusive Therapists provides a nation wide directory of inclusive and diverse therapists specializing in diverse populations with unique needs
Open Path Collective provides a nation wide listing of therapists providing low cost services for individuals or couples of various backgrounds
Mental Health and Other Resources in your community can be found by calling: 2-1-1
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
California Warmline: 855-845-7415
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Trevor Project (LGBTQ Youth Lifeline): 1-866- 488-7386 or Text “START” to 678678
National Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453
In case of EMERGENCY, dial: 9-1-1
I hope that these trusted referrals will help you create the life that you find most fulfilling and valuable. If you would like to work with me in the future, feel free to check back in the next few weeks to inquire about openings!
Worried Wells to Severe Mental Illness. What is “mental health”? What does it look like? Is it a permanent diagnosis or is it an ever changing state of mind?
The answer is…it depends. I will admit this answer was something I heard a lot as I studied for years to become a therapist. That is the nature of the work however. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it is not treatable in the same ways. “Mental health” is on a spectrum. Some individuals go to therapy to discuss small issues that come up on a day-to-day basis. While others go to therapy to manage chronic on-going mental illness. Mental illness is a diagnosable, physiological illness that manifests itself in psychological ways, such as clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and many other diagnosis that are manageable with the correct assistance from a professional.
Example time. If you have a common cold, you will most likely be taking the same medicine as someone else who has a cold. And you both will most likely get better in approximately the same amount of time. Now if you are depressed, you may not be utilizing the same treatment as someone else who is depressed. Because each person’s mind thinks differently, handles stress differently, and responds differently to external stimuli. Therapists have the unique job of taking the time to figure out the right treatment for your mind specifically. Therapy is completely individualized.
There are various ways to approach mental health issues including : self care, talk therapy in an outpatient environment, medication management with a psychiatrist or primary care physician, inpatient care at a rehabilitation center or hospital setting, as well as multiple holistic approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Self care can be a simple solution to managing stress and minor mental health concerns on a day-to-day basis. This often emphasizes the holistic approach to maintaining a healthy mental state. A change to your diet, regular exercise, incorporating self care activities, and socializing with trusted family/friends can all help maintain a lifestyle that encourages a healthy mental state. However, for many managing all these aspects of your life can become overwhelming or maybe you have never felt quite balanced in all of these areas of your life.
Seeing a mental health professional in an outpatient environment (such as a private practice setting or local mental health clinic) can help assist you in getting on the right track in all these areas. Mental health professionals include Marriage & Family Therapists, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, and Clinical Psychologists. Seeking out one of these professionals allows you to dedicate an allotted amount of time to talking through the aspects of life that are causing stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, and a plethora of other emotions. Exploring with a therapist where these emotions stem from, how they are affecting you, and solutions to managing these feelings better can greatly improve your mental health. You may see a therapist for a few months or a few years, but the ultimate goal is to get you to a place where you can manage on your own with self care techniques and greater knowledge of your emotions. A mental health professional can also help you discover if a mental illness is what is encroaching on your ability to cope with your life.
When managing a true mental illness, you want to seek out a Psychiatrist, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, or your Primary Care Physician to consult with your therapist about the possible inclusion of medication in your mental health treatment. These individuals play a vital role in order to coordinate with your team of mental health professionals. This team works with you to find out what methods of treatment will work best for you as an individual. No two mental illnesses look the same or are managed the same way. Whether it is various dosage levels of medication or frequency of therapy appointments, each individual managing a mental illness will have a unique treatment plan. This team will most likely assist you over an extended period of time and teach you how to reach out for additional help when needed, as a mental illness is often chronic and needs to be managed over your life. Remember though that you are the coach of this team, informing your providers of what feels right, what works best, and describing the experience you are having with all aspects of the treatment.
Inpatient care is what mental health professionals often refer to as “the highest level of care”. Some of the autonomy of the individual is lost at this level because it often dwindles down to the safety of the individual and those around them. The treatment is often decided for the individual by a team of professionals trying to diminish the client’s symptoms and protect them from any harm. For some clients this process begins with a threat of harm to themselves or another identifiable person. Police often become a partner in this treatment process, as they are often the first responders when someone calls for assistance during a suicidal or homicidal threat. They are also usually the ones who admit a client to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. Hospital staff at that point become that individual’s treatment team. This is considered a short term treatment option. The goal is to stabilize certain symptoms and identify a “lower level of care” that can help the individual learn how to cope with their symptoms regularly and prevent emergency situations.
This spectrum of mental health is what makes finding the right fit with a therapist so important. Depending on the challenges you face, your background, the level of care needed, and many other factors one mental health professional may be more helpful than another. You walk on a unique mental health path, and must choose the right team to walk alongside you. Where are you on your mental health journey, and how can therapy be of assistance to you?
If you are in a crisis or emergency situation please contact the Access & Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240 or call 9-1-1.