Archive for May 2013

In each of my social work classes, in both graduate school and in undergrad, my professors have mentioned self care as an important facet of professional life. I found it easy to disregard self care. I always told myself that I simply don’t have time to do self care. In one sense, I did myself a disservice. In another, I did myself a favor.

Through my experiences, especially recently, I’ve learned the necessity of intentional, well-planned self care. I am what you might call a “perform-aholic”, because I am bent on doing absolutely everything I can, even to my own detriment, in the time that I have. In fact, I spend all of my conscious time thinking about things. It could be anything, but there is very little time I spend with my mind in an absolutely neutral zone. I spend very little time watching television or film for this reason. If the television is on, I am likely not the primary one watching the program, or I am multitasking, which isn’t the most effective use of time. I think until I go to bed at night, at which time I have to distract myself and immerse myself into a book, an article, or a game that is unrelated to anything serious in my life. I do this so that thoughts of my life and all the tasks I am working on don’t plague me and keep me too alert and on edge to sleep. Needless to say, I need to do self care very meaningfully and very intentionally. It won’t work to do something halfway because it won’t be enough to pull me out of my element.
The act of relaxing myself is very difficult to do. Even when I am “relaxed” I am normally somewhat tense. I recently went and got my first massage ever. I was happy and it felt great, but the poor massage therapist repeatedly had to tell me to relax myself and various muscles. I consistently carry tension and rarely relax my body.
I need self care just like other social workers do. The chosen activity is much less important than the act of treasuring yourself and your own mental health, so the activity does not have to be the same each time. The beauty of a routine, however, is that it becomes habitual.
While I figure out a decent routine I do know of a great self care exercise to try. It’s called progressive muscle relaxation.  Those who practice it are guided through a track of soothing sounds and step by step instructions to contract, then relax, each muscle group throughout the body. The practice requires great focus to be effective at training one to relax and to distinguish the difference between holding tension and being in a relaxed state. When I do this exercise, I often find I am already halfway tense when I begin and must focus greatly on the relaxation. However, it is a worthwhile and effective exercise to wind down and distracts the mind from worry and stress.