Deep Self Care

Deep self care is an approach to healing that goes beyond typical, prescribed activities for dealing with burnout, stress, or other concerns. Well meaning people might encourage you to find a hobby, change your diet or take some time off. These kinds of activities are important, and may be the beginning of making a positive change in your life. However, when not accompanied by inner work, self care might feel good in the moment, but the effects may not last very long. You soon find yourself slipping back into the same old patterns of negative thinking, habits, or overwhelm. That’s because these activities are only supplementary to, or one part of, deep self care. It’s like putting a bandaid on a wound that actually needs stitches.

If you are experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue, or other unresolved concerns, you might be finding it nearly impossible to even practice self care. Or when you do, you might not be able to really get into it. You might be self-sabotaging (“I overslept again”, “I drank way too much last night”, etc.). You might be flooded with anxious thoughts when you try to slow down. Or, maybe you just feel very uncomfortable or guilty about whatever self care activity you choose to do.

I believe that deep self care involves nurturing your mental and emotional health, learning to eventually let go of the guilt and discomfort. This deep self care can come in many forms, such as seeking an elder to consult with, beginning to practice mindfulness, or attending therapy. I view therapy is an act of deep self care because it involves slowing down, listening to yourself and then beginning to meet your own needs, sometimes for the first time. A skilled therapist can help you figure out why or how you find yourself in this place. Or, if you already know the “why”, therapy can also help you move forward from there. Not because a therapist can help keep you accountable (I would argue that this is more of a coaching role), but I think it’s more because sometimes you need another person, who is free from the biases of your friends and family, to help shift the perspective, to help you see your power.

Therapy also creates a safe place to process the uncomfortable feelings that accompany change and enable healing. The therapy space is a liminal space; it is in-between your everyday reality and your inner self - a practice grounds. It’s a place where you can experiment with change in a non-threatening way. Art therapy and other experiential therapies are particularly helpful, because they allow us to practice positive changes in a non-threatening way, before those changes into real life.

Cora McLachlan