Week 8:
Self-Care as Healthcare

Karin L. Bostrom Fellow in Art Therapy

Institute for Therapy through the Arts | Evanston, Illinois

August 2, 2019

What is self-care? Many healthcare professionals, psychologists and general practitioners alike, emphasize the importance of self-care, but why?  Self-care is any sort of activity that we do in order to take care of ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally, and it looks different for everyone.

ITA emphasizes self-care for clients, therapists, interns, administrative staff, and everyone else! We take part in many all-staff trainings focused on self-care, including things like personalizing our handmade journals. Once a month, we hold a process group, in which we discuss our emotions, thoughts, and opinions. We also focus on self-care during intern supervisions, where we often meditate and reflect.

A painting I created about self-care

Last Friday, the interns and I completed a wholeness-reflection exercise, where we examined the six areas of our lives: social, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, physical, and emotional. We saw the areas where we put the majority of our energy, and the areas where we wanted to put more energy. I realized I have been neglecting certain aspects of my life related to self-care because I’ve been so busy both inside and outside of ITA. Don’t get me wrong, I run daily, which is a terrific form of self-care, but other kinds of self-care are lacking. I don’t socialize much because I either don’t have time or am exhausted after work. Not seeing my close friends and my partner has really taken a toll on me mentally, so I decided to actively try to change my social habits in order to better my self-care. On Saturday, I made plans and went to Lollapalooza with my best friend, Michael. After dancing and hanging out with him, I felt so much better!

A selfie of Michael and me at Lollapalooza

ITA is an organization that focuses on mental health, and self-care is incredibly important for us because the work we do is heavy. If we took the negative emotions we encounter on a day-to-day basis home with us, we would eventually reach a point where we could no longer do our jobs properly. This got me thinking about what ITA’s staff does in order to self-care, so I did an informal survey via email and word-of-mouth in order to find out.

The Development Director told me she cares for herself by meditating daily, listening to music that inspires her, practicing deep breathing and counting to 10, journaling, and attending therapy weekly. A music therapist emailed me about balancing self-care, which for him includes activities from a variety of areas like listening to and creating music, exercising, and focusing on mindfulness and spirituality. He also recommended the resources at National Wellness Institute to be valuable for self-care goals that allow anyone to keep their personal balance in check. Some other staff members chose to self-care by leaving work at work and shutting down their computers on the weekends. An intern talked to me about how important self-expression is to her self-care. She encourages self-love and expression by dressing in a manner that is comfortable for her, which includes a wickedly cool pair of tights each day.

The ITA staff expresses themselves via their clothing choices

Self-care is important because it helps us handle life’s stress, reinforces our self-worth, and enhances self-esteem, which can reduce negative self-talk. It also increases self-knowledge, which can help us discover our passions. Self-care is not selfish; it is essential to mental and physical health. It comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms, so figuring out what works best for you may take time. I would like to issue a little challenge to you: take the time today to try a few different self-care techniques. Your body and soul will thank you later.

Alexa Ferenzi '20

Alexa is a psychology and studio art double major and art history minor from Chicago, Illinois.