Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Every counselor has an ethical responsibility to practice self-care. It sounds contradictory, since a good counselor’s concern should be for the client first and foremost. Yes. And no. A counselor who is impaired--burned out, exhausted, overworked, depressed, anxious--will lack the energy to be effective, will make mistakes, use work to block out problems, disrespect the client, use the client to meet her own needs. So, every counselor needs to take time out to replenish her unique well of energy, strength, creativity and joy.
Sounds like a plan for each one of us, no matter the role we have in life. I nearly lost my mind the winter of 1995--endless snow, housebound with young children, my husband having a long commute each day in our only vehicle. I can’t say that I practiced good self-care that winter. Instead, I told myself I didn’t have time to read a book or the ability to spend time with friends (both critical elements of my current self-care). Staying home with my kids was a choice I had made five years before--not an easy one for someone who really wanted a professional career. But as soon as the maternity nurse handed me my son in the delivery room, there was no way I was giving him to anyone else to raise.
But that winter, I knew I needed some breathing room. So, each Saturday for four hours I became the person who accosts you at Macy’s with perfume samples. I loved it: I was paid well to look nice, talk to people, and not a diaper or messy living room was in sight. Working part-time for me was self-care. It helped me to replenish the well and to be a better mom and spouse when I returned home that evening (thanks to my sister-in-law Michele for getting me that job!).
Ethically pursuing our roles is crucial for each one us: loving others as we love ourselves. But let's not forget the first part of the Great Commandment: when we turn to our Creator and worship Him and pray, putting our circumstances and strife and anxiety in His hands, that is the very best in self-care!