I was listening to a podcast called Therapy Chat, on an episode about therapist self-care. The guest talked about 2 different types of self-care: macro and micro. While this certainly applies to me and other healthcare professionals, I think it also applies to everyone else, including my fellow Chronic Pain Warriors and Spoonies. Self-care is important and I’ve talked about it on the blog many times before. More recently the self-care posts have been about Activities of Daily Living. This post (and the next one) is going to broaden the definition of self-care beyond our ADLs (though I still firmly believe that ADLs is the best place to start).
What is Macro Self-Care? As an adjective, macro means “large-scale” or “overall.” So we’re looking at big ways to engage in self-care. These ways tend to be more time consuming and more expensive that micro self-care. They are usually things we can only do for ourselves on occasion – a few times a year, maybe once a month depending on your income. Though they tend to be fewer and further between, they have the ability to really help us reset. Sometimes we need to fully disengage from other parts of our life in order to come back to our problems and difficulties feeling refreshed.
Examples of macro self-care include going on a vacation, getting a massage or having a “spa day.” Spending a weekend away with a partner. Taking a class that’s of interest to you (like an art or music class). Going on a retreat. Recently I went on an 11 day trip to Turkey and Egypt with my parents and a good buddy of mine. I hadn’t taken a vacation (other than my brother’s wedding) from work in a year. I also hadn’t travelled outside the country since 2019. It was much needed macro self-care. I also spent a “long weekend” (as in we both took off Friday and Monday) with my partner in a cabin. Another great way for me to get some macro self-care in. I definitely do try to prioritize some of this. Again, sprinkled throughout the year in different forms. It decreases my stress overall and helps me reconnect with the people who are important to me.
All of these things require planning and some money. This is what makes macro self-care important but unsustainable. Which is why next week I’ll be writing about micro self-care and how we can engage in that throughout our every day lives.
Recently I read an article in a psychotherapy magazine put out by the BCACC (British Columbia Association of Accredited Counsellors) about how therapists can and perhaps should integrate health promotion into their clinical practice. Being interested in health psychology anyway, and wanting to work with people with chronic illness as well as mental health problems, I devoured the article. Then I did a quick google search to see what others are saying. And while there are not a ton of journal articles on the subject, there are a few, all pointing to the same thought – this is something therapists should do. What makes it difficult is that psychotherapists, whether they hold a Masters or PhD (or not, depending on where you live they may not need either), typically don’t have a lot of training in health outside of mental health (always a little bit as it relates but rarely a large amount). This makes me curious as to what everything thinks about therapists encouraging health promotion, in some way, during counselling.
What this article really looks at is not just physical health or mental health but all components of health. A holistic approach. Sometimes people go to therapy for things like weight loss, which in that case, health promotion and education seems necessary. Other times someone might bring it up as a secondary concern. There’s also, of course, the interrelation between things like exercise and nutrition and mental health. As well as sleep and mental health. See where I’m going with this? It actually might be almost impossible for therapists to not integrate health into counselling. So, while I usually save this kind of stuff for my premium blog, I thought I would share some health behaviours I’m going to put extra effort into this week, and I hope everyone reading thinks about some that they can as well! Body-mind connection week indeed!
nutrition: I’m going to go with making sure I eat fruit everyday (which I typically do but sometimes stumble on the weekends)
exercise: putting yoga back back into my routine at least 2x/week
sleep: ensuring I don’t have anything to drink after 8pm (part of sleep hygiene!)
other (social, hobbies, gratitude, mindfulness): playing the piano daily (I haven’t been playing as much as I would like)
As you can see, integrating health is rather inclusive and definitely extends beyond just physical aspects. Medication adherence can be another really important one for chronic illness warriors. The article I read speaks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. We need to take care of our basic needs in order to take care of our higher needs. The three basic components of physical health I mentioned above are so important. So here’s my question (and I’d love answers in the comments), would you want your therapist to help you with aspects of health promotion that you are neglecting? Why or why not?