Prioritize self-care this summer!
Summer seems to be flying by. Sadly, the Back to School gear is already on the shelves at my local Target store! But, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy summer. It’s the perfect time to put your needs first and schedule some summer self-care.
The summer slow down
Does your private practice slow down in the summer? Schedules naturally shift in the summer as clients and clinicians take vacations and children go to camp or take the summer off from therapy. However, some therapists are busier than ever in the summer. Over time you may find patterns in your own private practice, but flexibility is always important to cope with the inevitable unknowns of running a small business. If your practice has slowed down in June and July, you may feel pressure to spend your summer marketing your practice, writing blog posts, networking with colleagues, or redoing your website. Any or all of these may be a good use of time as long as they don’t come at the expense of your self-care.
The elusive work-life balance
One of the great joys of being your own boss is that you get to make your own schedule and take as much time off as you want and need. That sounds fantastic; but in reality, most of the private practice owners and entrepreneurs that I know, work extremely hard and often sacrifice sleep, real meals, hobbies, and weekends off.
As a psychotherapist, healer, and entrepreneur, you are your business. I’m all for delegating and outsourcing some tasks, but no one can run your business for you or provide the same clinical treatment that you do. Your clients come to see you, which means you need to protect your time and energy and treat yourself with loving care. Self-care is an investment not only in yourself but also in your business.
What does summer self-care for social workers and therapists look like?
Clearly, we all have different needs, personalities, lifestyles and interests that influence the kind of self-care we practice. But here are a few of my favorite summer self-care ideas:
- Take a real vacation. Pack your bags and get out of town! Enjoy seeing new things, relaxing by the pool, or visiting family.
- Take a staycation. If going away isn’t in your budget, try taking a week (or part of a week) off and staying home. You can enjoy some local attractions, catch up on movies and novels that have piled up, or finally check some projects off of your to-do list.
- Consolidate your client schedule and reduce time in your office. Perhaps with a little maneuvering, you could take Friday afternoons off or cut back your evening appointments. Due to some client attrition, I didn’t have any clients scheduled on Wednesday evenings. So, I decided not to schedule new clients on Wednesday nights and reserve it as personal time through the summer.
- Take real lunch breaks. How many times have you scarfed down a protein bar or cheese stick between clients? Try scheduling a full hour or even two in the middle of the day to eat mindfully and nutritiously. I know I always feel better when I have a proper break and meal.
- Take a mid-day walk. Get outside and get a bit of exercise! I will admit I’m terrible at this one. I have a beautiful trail right outside my office and I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve used it. I need to leave some sneakers in my office so I don’t have any excuses!
- Enjoy a leisurely morning coffee or tea. One of the great joys of my summer is not having to rush around getting kids to school in the morning. So, for me, a simple summer pleasure is to enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea in the morning – and actually, drink it all before running out the door.
- Practice yoga or stretching between clients. I don’t know about you, but I get stiff and sore from all the seating during sessions. Doing a bit of stretching is an excellent use of 10 or 15 minutes. It feels great and gets my blood flowing again.
- Hire someone to help with the clerical or mundane tasks. Sometimes the nicest thing we can do for ourselves is to ask for help. If being a one-man-show is burning you out, hiring even a little bit of help can make a big difference. It could be help in your practice (answering the phones, doing billing) or at home (housekeeper, babysitter, meal delivery).
- Go to bed on time. Sleep is such a foundational piece of our physical and emotional health that I include it on any self-care plan I make for myself or my clients. I have a tendency to stay up too late, so it really helps me to set a bedtime alarm to remind me it’s time to rest.
- Reconnect with friends and family. Sometimes our relationships suffer amidst our busyness. Often friends and family have more free time during the summer, so use this opportunity to grab lunch or chat over Facetime.
- (Re)discover a hobby or interest. What do you like to do for fun? Do you make time to do it on a regular basis? Schedule some time to scrapbook, knit, hike, or sign-up for a class or group if that will help to make it happen.
- Have some summer fun! Go to the beach, farmer’s market, drive-in movies (yes, we still have one in my city), have a BBQ, go to a water park, make homemade ice cream, or whatever represents summer to you!
Sometimes it helps to remember that self-care is a practice and we don’t have to do it perfectly; it’s always evolving. Fitting self-care into my schedule is a work in progress and I’m constantly adjusting with the seasons of my life.
I hope the remainder of your summer is restful, fun, and productive!
©2017 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.