Self-care and Rev. Kate Bottley
Last year I had the pleasure of hearing Rev. Kate Bottley speak at my local WI. Rev. Kate Bottley talked about her media storm with her mob flash dance performance with Bridegroom Gary and Bride Tracy in her church and how that led her to start practicing self-care.
Kate told us that she loved the attention it gave her. However, Flash mob dancing in church and being outspoken in Gogglebox threw Kate into a world of love and fame. The downside of media pressure brought her into a world of hurtful and hatred.
There were a few who did not find it funny. Those who had the negative thoughts, started using social media and even sent her letters to tell her. All through this period she kept up with her pastoral and chaplaincy work. It put a lot of pressure on her. Rev. Kate thought she was resilient and carried on being busy taking care of others. It was at a cost to herself – she started not addressing her own professional needs. She needed to find a way to self-care herself and realised that she could not this alone. She recognised she needed to have someone to talk to and help her. She therefore found a mentor who she could confidentiality share her work with, and help her address her strategies to self-care.
Importance of self-care for counsellors
Counsellors, not dissimilar to vicars, spend a lot of time listening to traumatised people. We can hear distressing things and can be affected by our clients work. Those of us in private practice can be caught in the trap of loneliness, often not leaving enough time for ourselves. We sometimes need to offload and take time out for ourselves. Private counsellors put a lot of pressure on themselves. We try to keep our waiting lists low and can spend a lot of time with our clients rather than playing. It is essential to us counsellors and our professional standards that we receive clinical supervision. We see our supervisor once a month and spend this time talking about work, our professional development and progress. However, when you are seeing 15 plus clients a week, our clinical hour and half time is taken up with reflecting on our learning often leaving no time to think about how we are taking care of ourselves.
Burnout and stress
Taking care of ourselves is important to stop burnout or stress related illness. When you become absorbed in helping other people and teaching them about self-care, it can be a challenge finding the time to self-care and take time out. I think Kate highlighted the importance of thinking and adopting techniques of self-care to keep our own mental health healthy. Putting simple practices into place on a regular basis will help build up resilience rather than leading us to a crisis point.
So, what does mean by self-care?
Self-care is about us taking care of our physical and emotional needs. To achieve this, it is taking the time out of our work to recuperate and rest (R&R). If we do not take time out, we are in danger of leaving ourselves physically exhausted and unable to function to our full capacity. It can lead to burnout and stress related illnesses. It is hard to recognise when this is happening until it is too late. It is therefore imperative that we listen to the warning signs so that we know when to stop. Implementing self-care techniques on a regular basis rather than after the horse has bolted, helps us build up resilience. IT also ensures you do not transfer your low mood or stress onto your client.
How to take self-care
Self care can happen in many ways. It is about being kind to yourself, doing things that you enjoy and taking time out. Below are 8 simple steps that you can do.
- Be kind to yourself. Speak positively to yourself and allow yourself to indulge in something that you like. I manage this by either baking or cycling.
- Meet your social needs. Working as a self-employed counsellor can be lonely. It is important that you network with other businesses or meet up with friends. A peer support group is a great way to network and to share your stresses and business dilemmas. Rather than filling in that extra time with clients arrange to meet other people – whether that is friends or colleagues. You can arrange to meet up for a cuppa or do something together that you both enjoy.
- Ensure you have a good night’s sleep. You may want to extend this to trying yoga, meditation or Pilates. I wish I found yoga earlier…. it is one of the best relaxation things I have discovered. It can be sociable too if you join a class!
- Exercise – I cannot put enough emphasis on this. I often find counsellors are very good at giving advice to their clients to stay fit and healthy but ignore their own health. When I have a full day of clients. I ensure that I have an half hour gap twice in the day. During this time, I will go for a 20 minute walk. This ensures that I get out of the office during the day, have fresh air and have some exercise. This is on top of the time I take out once a week to walk with my camera.
- Writing/drawing/playing an instrument – a fabulous way to reflect and take time out.
- Let yourself do nothing – how indulgent but how necessary! If you are a person who likes to keep busy, doing nothing can be difficult. Switching off is so important. Try doing nothing and see if it makes a difference.
- Take up a hobby – try something new or something that you used to do. I started sewing a couple of years ago. I never thought I would make my own curtains but I did!
- Learn to say no! Yes that is right…. practice what you preach. If you have a day off, do not accept that client who can only see you on your day off. Refer him or her on.
My favourite self-care techniques are cake decorating, bike riding and photography.
What are yours?