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Tree of Life Counselling

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  • Writer's pictureJoel Sherrard

Self-care

Going to therapy is a fantastic starting point in committing to your self-care. But is it the be all and end all? The truth is, as much as perhaps some clients wish it could, therapy can’t go on forever. There has to be a suitable and safe end point where you, the client, has to learn to implement coping strategies in the world, without the crutch of a therapist to lean on anymore. Of course, you can return to therapy at any given point in your life, whenever you need it, but I have found that my most effective therapy sessions have been with clients who commit to self care, both within and outside of the counselling room. These clients tend to show the quickest amounts of progress because they begin to apply coping strategies identified in therapy to their everyday lives (though it’s important for me to mention that it’s not a race, and therapy takes as long as it takes, which is absolutely ok!). 



Take time for yourself


So what does ‘self-care’ actually mean? It is a completely personal choice and it’s important that it’s meaningful to you - it definitely doesn’t look the same for everyone. I personally have had to consciously make an effort to increase my levels of self-care over the years, during periods of time where I’ve noticed my mental health taking a bit of a dip. Examples of self-care that I have implemented and have made me feel more grounded include: 


Yoga practice 

This is something I never knew I would love so much until I began pregnancy yoga during my first pregnancy! The relaxing music, gentle stretches and focussing my brain on the postures and balances, really helps me to block out any outside noise from the day and gain a sense of calm within myself. 


Exercise 

I have a love/hate relationship with this one. Love those endorphins at the end of a workout, but my goodness sometimes I just really can’t be bothered! Accepting this and not punishing myself, or feeling too guilty when I choose to skip an exercise session helps me to keep a positive mindset. It’s absolutely ok to just try again tomorrow! 


Boundaries 

This one is a biggy. I used to be rubbish at implementing boundaries - a huge people pleaser who wanted everyone to like her, so said yes to everything and anything. But actually this was entirely exhausting for someone who is an introvert (much to many of my friends’ surprise!). So I learnt to say no when I didn’t feel like doing something, 

and I also put boundaries in with people who were no longer giving me the energy that I knew I deserved. And let me tell you, I am so much happier for it, now that I’m not surrounded by people who constantly bring unnecessary drama to my life! 


Cooking. 

Since I weaned my son at 6 months, it kind of forced me to think about making more healthy meals and trying new recipes. As a result, I’ve found a new passion for

cooking and love to select recipes and meal plan each week, using healthy and fresh ingredients. I particularly love any kind of Asian inspired recipe as I can’t get enough of the spicy, fragrant and often coconutty taste! Cooking gives me a short break away 

from being Mum to a toddler, and I often dance around the kitchen with my favourite music, or listen to a good Podcast (personal recommendation is Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’) while I cook. It feels great and no longer like a chore! 



Cooking can be helpful for self-care


Therapy 

An obvious one coming from a therapist who is passionate about her work! But therapy provided me with an outlet to vent, with someone who wasn’t involved in the context of my life; someone who would listen to me without judging me, and who could always give me a new perspective which helped me to gain clarity. There’s no doubt about it, it’s undeniably helpful! 


Bubble baths 

So simple yet so effective! My ultimate down time treat is a bubble bath with candles and trash TV on my tablet (I’m a sucker for Married at First Sight and Love Island!). It’s the perfect ‘me time’ that I honestly cherish whenever I get the chance. 


Sleep 

Something I lacked for a long time with an 18 month old son, but I have learnt to put boundaries in and listen to my body, instead of staying up too late and making myself feel exhausted all the time. A good sleep routine helps me to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. Without enough sleep, I really struggle to be present with my son and I can be snappy and short tempered - not a trait I like to see! 


Nature 

I still don’t do it enough (especially in the colder months), but whenever I can I love to go for a walk, even if it is just to the local park, but even better if it’s somewhere with a forest or some water nearby. There’s nothing more refreshing than being outside in the fresh air with beautiful views! It brings me a sense of calm and helps me to connect with the outside world, rather than focussing on any negative thoughts I may be experiencing. 



Getting out in nature can help with self-care


These are some self-care ideas that are personal to me and I’ve learnt that they make me feel content and complete, whilst also giving me a sense of accomplishment. So the more I practice them, the better! You might look at my list and think ‘No thanks - I’m not interested in any of that!’ and that’s completely fine! But looking into yourself and really digging deep to find out what makes you feel good, invigorated or refreshed, can make all the difference to your life - I promise! 


I do believe that self-care outside of the therapy room has had huge benefits to my clients and I’ve certainly noticed quicker progression with those who undertake various forms of self-care, than those who rely solely on therapy. I have worked with clients who, alongside their therapy, have tried other holistic approaches like Acupuncture, Bowen Therapy and Hypnotherapy, which they’ve told me have felt amazing. Others have decided to go to their GP and have been prescribed anti-anxiety medication or Anti-Depressants to help them feel more stable (where appropriate of course). 


But it’s important to note that self-care doesn’t need to be something drastic or expensive. Some of my clients find that seeing their friends or family is helpful as part of their self-care routine, as socialising helps them to connect and feel reinvigorated, and can be a welcome distraction from negative thoughts and feelings. Some meditate, or practice gratitude which helps to calm them and change their negative thought patterns. Some clients, in particular those who are struggling with their workload in their day jobs, have found that writing simple to-do lists has helped them to prioritise tasks and put boundaries in, which has given them a better work-life balance. This has subsequently helped them to connect on a deeper level with their family and friends outside of work, and opened up more time for hobbies they are passionate about. 


Even the smallest acts of self care can have a huge impact on your mindset. Maybe it will take some trial and error to find the best self-care strategies for you, but I encourage you to dig deep and find out what resonates with you, what feels important to you and what helps you to feel more grounded. Of course, therapy may still be needed as well, but if you’re practising self-care both within and outside of the therapy room, you are likely to feel a much greater impact in your day to day life.


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