One of the advantages of therapy is that it forces you to take an hour a week for yourself. But if this is the only time for ourselves that we set aside then we are missing out.
I first realised this when my therapist began to get strict with me about working in between sessions. I was spending so much time trying to “work out” emotional puzzles, and living in moments of past pain, that I was limiting the amount of time I could indulge in pure uncomplicated pleasure.
We all need care-free moments of self-care.
We all need care-free moments of self-care. Time free of demands. This includes time free of the demand to be engaged in therapeutic work.
This is about the self-care rooted in our senses. The smell of a nice candle, the sound of a dawn chorus, the sight of a vase of flowers, the touch of a soft blanket, the taste of our favourite tea.
It is about the self-care rooted in experiences too. The cosy comfort of reading an absorbing book, a free afternoon in which cooking becomes a pleasure rather than a chore, time spent smiling and laughing with friends.
Finally, it is about the self-care rooted in boundaries. The boundary of allowing yourself time where you take priority over work, family and friends. Time that cannot be interrupted by the beep of your phone nor by ticking off whatever is at the top of your task list. Time where you do not allow yourself to fall back into unhealthy habitual cycles.
Whether or not you are in therapy, it is worth booking into your week as much time for this simple self-care as you can manage.
This is valuable time but without the cost of engaging an expert.
This is valuable time but without the cost of engaging an expert. For you are the expert of this hour. This is time for you. Time to get in touch with how you are feeling and what you need. Time to take steps towards meeting those needs.
If you are a therapist, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy ethical guidelines make clear that time for you is a non-negotiable activity. There is an explicitly stated responsibility to take precautions to protect your physical safety; monitor your psychological and physical health; seek professional support and services as the need arises; and to keep a healthy balance between your work and other aspects of your life. These are sound guiding principles for anyone and they are important. They matter because they allow us to act with care, compassion and consideration. Both towards ourselves and others.
So don’t feel guilty about booking in time for you because “if your compassion does not include yourself then it is not complete”. To be the best version of yourself, independently and in relation to others, this particular form of sensual, experiential and boundaried self-care is essential.