The Importance of Being…Selfish

by Kimberly on June 25, 2009 · 4 comments

I am taking a short hiatus from publishing new posts. Well, not for long – just for two weeks while I am on vacation. We’ll be spending time with family on a beautiful lake. I plan on reading, playing with my kids (which is surprisingly hard to do in our everyday life), relishing the sun, and cruising on a boat.

I am not very good at relaxing. I work hard. I play hard. I relax only when I need to (like I did last week…after I got sick). Even now, the kids are in bed, my husband is out-of-town, and here I am, sitting at my laptop at 10:53pm, writing this post when I should be in bed. See? Not good at relaxing.

Yet it is so important! As therapists, our jobs revolve around helping others. In order to best help others, we need to take care of ourselves. We need to be a little selfish. This may be counter-intuitive, buSummer Laket in order to be self-less and give ourselves to others, we need to maintain some selfishness, or we will have nothing to give.

We need to take care of ourselves physically. Much of this is common sense: eating a moderate, balanced diet; get plenty of sleep (maybe starting tomorrow night?); drink lots of water; exercise; eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

We need to take care of ourselves emotionally. We need to make sure our emotional cup is consistently filled. What fills your emotional cup is individualized and unique to you. You may benefit from having quiet reading time at home or from drinking margaritas with your friends. Maybe spending time with a loved one fills that cup or maybe going to a movie by yourself on a rainy Sunday with a small popcorn (no butter) and small Diet Coke does the trick. Maybe you spend time savoring cajun fries from Five Guys or sitting on a park bench watching people pass by. You need to find what works for you. You need to fill your cup.

(On the flip side, you also need to be aware of when your cup is too empty. I have had days where I had to cancel sessions because the session I just completed was too emotionally draining and I had nothing else to give. Self-awareness here is key.)

We need to take care of ourselves mentally. I feel it’s important to be cognitively challenged in ways that are different than your job. Reading (in areas other than, in my case, music therapy) is an idea, or maybe you have a hobby that challenges you. You can play board games and card games, or work on getting that new swing set built for your kids. Challenging and engaging yourself in these ways will help keep you fresh and stimulated and on top of your game.

And so I am off. I expect that when I return, my emotional cup will have runneth over (and my diet likely will have runneth away…but I will worry about that when I get back home). If you have other suggestions that you feel might benefit others, please share them here.

See you July 14th!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TheCrazyMusicLady June 25, 2009 at 10:38 am

I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I have actually had to explain to my boss why I needed to be able to have a breather in the day, and why sometimes I just pull out an out of the box activity. She didn’t seem to understand that this is draining work, especially in a psychiatric setting. I’m just glad I finally made her see the light.

Kimberly June 26, 2009 at 5:08 pm

You make a great point. It’s not always about being aware of it yourself – it sometimes takes educating our supervisors on what we need to best take care of our clients.

Roia June 30, 2009 at 8:58 pm

First of all, Kimberly, I hope you’re having a wonderful vacation (from the sound of things on Twitter, I guess you are! Yay!).

Second, I had the opportunity to observe two music therapists when I was in high school, and the thing I remember both of them saying to me was how important it is to take care of yourself musically as well. One played flute in an orchestra, and the other was a church organist or something to that effect.

I think you bring up a very excellent point (as does the “Crazy Music Lady”) in acknowledging how important it is to not drain ourselves entirely. I think the only other two things I’d want to add to your excellent list are getting your own therapy when you need it and getting ongoing professional supervision.
.-= Roia´s last blog ..The trouble with "quality" when one starts to think about it for too long =-.

Kimberly July 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm

What a pleasure to visit my blog again and see your nice comment. I completely agree with all of your suggestions. It’s hard to make time for ourselves – musically, therapeutically, personally – but VITAL to our professional longevity.

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