[Editor's note: The thought of starting to take better care of yourself can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. These interviews feature individuals who have successfully incorporated self-care into their daily routines. Read them, be inspired by them, and take on the challenge of self-care!]
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I just finished my masters in Marriage & Family Therapy (yes, that is an actual degree!) - I graduated in June and I’m very excited! In this role I work directly with individuals, couples, and families in therapy helping them through difficult situations and bearing witness to their pain. I also author an blog (I like to call it an online journal) called With A Little Grace in which I write about topics such as faith, food, style, relationships, beauty, and other common concerns of girls or women.
What is a typical day like for you?
Being in grad school, I don’t necessarily have a typical day, but I do have a typical week! Work-wise, I spend the weekdays in class, seeing my clients, attending meetings or workshops that enhance my clinical skills, or a combination of the three. I also teach a barre class once a week, on the side. The rest of my weekdays are filled with exercise, quiet time in prayer, partaking in a Bible study group, doing lots of reading or writing assignments for my class, and of course spending time with my husband, Anthony.
What has your relationship to self-care been like throughout your life? Did you always make it a priority?
My relationship with self-care has changed so much! Through most of my life until my masters program, I didn’t intentionally engage in much self-care, unfortunately. I don’t even think I knew what self-care was! I was someone who totally was into the glorification of busyness and wore my lack of sleep like a badge of honor. Any self-care I engaged in was not intentional, I didn’t even realize it was self-care, or it happened out of necessity (due to burn-out). I think implicit in that is that my definition of self-care has also changed. I no longer assume self-care is an indulgent practice such as getting a massage or mani/pedi. I see the ways that I incorporate self-care into my everyday life now (I will get into specifics in the next question). Through my masters program, in which I was not only busy but giving a lot of myself in different areas, I learned that self-care can be as simple as taking a break after a long, emotional day, or planning when I’ll do assignments throughout the term so I don’t get overwhelmed when they’re all due around the same time. I learned that if I don’t engage in at least simple acts of self-care, I won’t be able to care for others, whether that means my husband, my family, or my clients. Now, I’m happy to say that every single day includes several self-care practices or decision points.
What is your favorite self-care practice?
My favorite self-care practice is that every morning I start the day sitting on my couch, light shining through the windows and a cup of coffee in hand, with prayer. I usually spend about an hour in this quiet time, praying and journaling. However, other beloved daily self-care acts include going for a run or walk in which I listen to a podcast, sitting down for dinner with my husband, starting to get ready for bed at 10pm (no phone or computer past this time!) and getting eight hours of sleep, and setting boundaries. Boundaries is one of my favorite things to talk about because I am a total people pleaser and “yes” person—at least that’s my tendency. So I’ve really had to intentionally cultivate a sense of self in which I can say no to people or activities if I have too much going on that week or if I need a mental health day (or evening). One of my favorite quotes is, “Say no to something good so you can say yes to something great.” Boundaries and saying no is not about being mean or selfish, it’s about prioritizing and being realistic for what I actually have time or energy for.
Is there any area that you struggle to take care of yourself? How do you want to grow in that area?
As I mentioned, I like to take care of others (that’s my people pleasing part), so learning to say no (especially when I want to say yes!) and setting boundaries was tough for me! Even setting seemingly simple boundaries like setting my phone on Do Not Disturb every night at 10pm so that I generally don’t take calls, texts, or emails past that time was hard when I wanted to be able to respond to friends or family right away, especially if something was going on for them. Likewise, not picking up my phone until after my prayer time (you’re seeing a trend here…) required breaking a habit I didn’t even realize I had developed—and it didn’t even require saying no to someone specific but to something! I’ve grown in this area by recognizing that I can’t be everything to everyone, and that’s a good thing. I’ve had to learn to tolerate others disappointment with me—whether it’s for not answering a text in a timely manner or not being able to go to an event for or with them—and to tolerate my own innate guilt about that. I’ve also had to "let go of being perfect in order to be good,” as one of my supervisors says. I’ve had to accept that I don’t have to be perfect or do perfect work—and accept that isn’t even possible to begin with—I just have to do things well… big difference! That one has been crucial for actually engaging in some of those self-care practices I mentioned such as getting sleep and spending intentional time with loved ones.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self when it comes to self-care?
Hmm… I wish I could tell my younger self that it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself—it’s necessary! I wish I could help her learn sooner that caring for others doesn’t mean she has to be a martyr—it’s not only okay but necessary to set limits and boundaries. Finally, I would urge her actually to get enough sleep—in fact, protect her sleep. Time spent with activities and people will easily chip away at your sleep if you let it, so I really believe you have to be intentional in protecting your sleep. I know I’m not my best self when I’m running on little sleep, so I would tell her to make that a priority now.
Coffee or tea?
COFFEE! I’m addicted
Current favorite TV show?
This Is Us, hands down. What therapist (or person) doesn’t love it?!
Early bird or night owl?
I was always a night owl (I didn’t protect my sleep!), now—I can’t believe it—but I’m an early bird.
Currently, it’s “Let go of perfect, in order to be good".
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
Smooth, definitely! My favorite is Jif :)