Hello, dear souls! Welcome. I’m glad you found your way here. I hope you’re having a week that helps fill your soul and leaves you grateful.  I wanted to take today to talk about self-care. It’s a kind of buzz phrase that’s getting a lot of attention lately, but not always the right kind. I see all kinds of posts about self-care; everything from telling us that self-care is creating a life we don’t have to escape from to the idea that it’s lounging in pajamas all day. There is a fine line between when rest is self-defeating and when it’s recharging. And what we do during rest is just as important as knowing what will help you feel better: rest or productivity.

I often wrap up sessions by asking clients what they’re going to do over the week to take care of themselves. Sometimes the answer is a manicure and sometimes it’s cleaning the living room. Both answers are totally valid. But the most important part is what you do with your thoughts. You can get a massage once a week for years and if you’re not watching your thoughts, you’ll still be tired and feel rundown.

Zoning Out

It is so difficult to know what’s going to be more helpful for you when you feel run down or stressed out. It’s often tempting to zone out and not really tend to ourselves when we’re not feeling our best. Zoning is disconnecting from our thoughts and feelings. We often use alcohol, food, video games, social media, and other means to tune out from our feelings.

We all want to escape from time to time and sometimes that’s exactly what we need! But sometimes we really need to tune in, connect, and feel whatever is really there. And knowing the difference can mean the difference between actually feeling recharged and feeling just as drained as when you first sat down. And the key is really to be intentional.

You will have days where you choose to rest and it might not be as restorative as you want but that’s OK. Being intentional about and choosing to rest (that means making yourself as comfortable as possible and not shoveling a bunch of “I should be doing this or that or the other thing” on yourself) is much more restorative than zoning out and scrolling social media while you think about all the things on your to-do list. There are times that the most important thing you can do to make yourself feel more relaxed is to make progress towards a goal.

Rest is OKAY

You can think “I’ll feel better once I do a load of laundry” and have that be perfectly true! Just make sure those thoughts are your own and not those of anxiety and/or perfectionism. If you’re wanting to tidy up so that your to-do list is less overwhelming, go for it! But if you feel like you’re only doing it because you’ll feel ashamed if you don’t…then it’s time to dig in a little and explore that. Maybe not right that moment, but eventually, it will benefit you to stop pushing yourself to be “enough” and realize that you already are. You are worthy of rest (actual rest, not the kind where you sit down and can’t enjoy your TV show because you’re so angry at yourself or worried that you’re a subpar human because you’re not tackling your to-do list).

If you find yourself needing some rest rather than productivity, I’d invite you to try to tune it to what you really want. It might be difficult at first. When we’ve spent a long time silencing our needs and wants in order to be “enough” in someone’s opinion (society, parents, partners, etc.), the first inklings of what we want and need will be quiet. But if you practice listening, you’ll have little sparks of thought: “what I really want is to watch that silly animated movie from when I was a kid” or “I’ve had a rough day, I really just want to curl up with a blanket and some hot tea” or “I have a lot of nervous energy; I think I’d feel better after some yoga”.

Creativity for Self-Care

It should be noted that creativity (tending gardens, painting, sewing, creating music, etc.) has elements of both rest and productivity and when you have the urge to be creative, following it is probably what will be most recharging for you.

Regular Practice

One of the most important pieces of information I can give you is this: self-care is not just a parachute. You can’t use it exclusively when you’re burnt out and lost. You have to make it a regular practice. Whether that means scheduling time for it or checking in with yourself frequently to see what you need, making self-care a regular practice is important.

Take care, friends. Whatever that means to you today. You will be a different human being in each moment of each day as our needs and wants changed based on a great number of factors. What is refreshing one day may not feel as good the next. So tune in and practice hearing that tiny voice that tells you what you really want. You can set a few times a day to check in and see what you’re feeling or just practice doing it whenever you have a free moment. If you need help tuning in and listening to your needs, please connect with us.  Good luck!

Kayla Valley is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) who works at the Highland location of Perspectives Therapy Services. She became a therapist to help people struggle with the depression and anxiety that she understands intimately. She loves being a Michigander and is an avid sewist who loves spending time with her cats and sugar gliders.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.