Therapists talk a lot about self-care. It’s a principle of good practice for every ethical practitioner.1 Without it, we can go under, however, we seem to talk more about self-care than do it. Perhaps our strong desire to help others holds centre stage and our needs - for rest and replenishment - find draughty space in the wings.
What are your practices of self-care?
Mine vary but something simple I routinely do is walk. After sitting for extended periods of time with clients or supervisees I find it’s essential for me to shift my energy by moving my body. We were born to be mobile. The physical action of putting one foot in front of another after sitting so long in one attitude is soothing and re-balancing. The rhythm of walking - with the metronomic-like beat of the walker’s step - feels satisfying, and I find I can put my brain into neutral in a way that feels trickier if I am stationary. Walking helps me to let go of the client material that’s featured in my working day. This kind of walk resists pressure to solve things. It’s walking-as-being.
I walk to slow down. The movement relaxes my body. Rebecca Solnit describes walking allowing us to ‘be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts’.2 It’s my drift time activity. Walking helps me tune into my body, notice areas of tension and mentally slow down.
There are other kinds of walking. I walk for exercise. The health benefits are well documented: increased mobility, better circulation, burning calories, and a reduction in stress. It cuts the risk of heart disease and diabetes. When I walk, I feel more alive and this boosts my mood, and resets my brain chemistry. 30 minutes of walking per day is a good prescription and it’s free. If we walk early in the day (within the first two hours), even better! The exposure to light helps reset our body clock.
Glimpsing a pair of bullfinches and a common lizard delighted me on a recent walk around my local patch. This kind of walk counteracts many hours working online. Getting off devices, lifting up our heads, using our senses and going for a walk to connect with nature is a remedy for the ‘always connected’ lifestyle with its accompanying ‘tech-neck’ (I have not made this up!) and for some the ‘compare despair’ of social media.
I could go on. But you get the point. Whether on our own or in a group (I do both), walking is good for us – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Walking is one of the simplest things we do as humans, yet its benefits are anything but.
- BACP, (2018) Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions.
- Solnit R, (2014) Wanderlust: A History of Walking, London, Grant Publications, p.5.
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