At SimplePractice, I have spent hundreds of hours interacting with and helping our therapists. And a recurring theme that I see from talking to therapists and interacting in facebook groups is the constant threat of burnout or overwhelm, coupled with a feeling of never having enough time.
And who is surprised really? Therapists spend a 50-minute “hour” absorbing conflict, trauma, emotional breakdowns, and maybe even the dreaded long, petulant silence (if you’re working with adolescents), followed by a 10-minute break for admin or staring into space. All this is done mostly sitting in a chair, which adds physical stress on top of everything. In order to be most effective, it’s our job as therapists to model self-care practices and diffuse mounting stress before it flattens us. Nobody feels good about using the ole “do as I say, not as I do” intervention.
If you’re like me, 10 minutes might as well be 18 seconds. What can you possibly get done in 10 minutes? Actually, a lot. You don’t have to escape to a cave dwelling, fork out money for a retreat or do a 90-minute power yoga sequence to get the ball rolling with self-care. You DO need to turn off social media for a few minutes and make the decision to put your own mental health first.
One thing to keep in mind is that an important foundation of self-care is learning to set clear boundaries with your clients so you can end your sessions ON TIME with a full 10 minutes to spare in between sessions.
Here are some ideas for self-care that you can do in 10 minutes or less:
1. Take a walk around the block: You probably need to get out of your office. In fact, you definitely do.
2. Call a friend: Plan something fun or just catch up. Choose a friend who doesn’t drain you.
3. Watch something funny: This clip of Louis CK talking about flying is one of my favorites (warning: bad words). Give yourself permission to laugh.
4. Brain dump/Journal: Hoarding stressful thoughts is masochistic. Create some white space in your brain by setting a timer for 5 minutes and just get it all out on paper. If you must, you can come back to it later.
5. Try 5-10 minutes of coherent breathing. Turn on this video, close your eyes and allow your breath to sync with the rhythm. It’s extremely relaxing and meditative.
6. Do a guided meditation. Try a body scan to bring some relaxation to your whole body from head to toe. I love the Insight Meditation Timer app, which has a ton of great guided meditation options.
7. Eat a healthy snack: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs! Go back to the basics. Try eating slowly and with no distractions.
8. Turn on some music and dance like no one’s watching: Salsa, interpretive dance, wild Elaine Benes moves – doesn’t matter! This can often seem counterintuitive when all you want to do is take a snooze, but movement fires off endorphins is a natural mood booster and an excellent form of self-care.
9. Practice mindfulness: Try some simple breathing, while bringing focus to the tip of your nose where the air enters and exits. Stay with your breathing. As you notice thoughts entering your awareness, just allow them to roll on, like clouds passing by. Gently bring your attention back to the breath.
10. Write your session note: Yes, getting work done can be a form of self-care. Crossing off something from the “to-do” list can be a huge relief. And using structured notes templates is a quick and easy way to do it. Reload your last note, fill in a couple drop downs and exchange the narrative, and you’re good to go.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear more about how you’re feeling in your private practice. What have you tried from this list? What would you add? How does self-care factor into the work you do?