A Psychotherapist's Recommended Tools For Self-Care

Self-care is an important part of maintaining our overall health and wellness. "Self-care is not selfish," says Christine Kotlarski, LCSW, psychotherapist, and founder of High Note Counseling, as she jumps into her exclusive interview with Health Digest. However, this mindset can be difficult for patients to let go of. "This is the most common obstacle I come across when encouraging clients to take the time to focus on self-care," she says. "Especially parents, [who] seem to struggle with this false belief."

"Self-care is not optional, it is a requirement to care for our overall mental, physical, and spiritual health," Kotlarski explains. "Self-care is an act of self-love. It benefits us, but it also benefits those around us. When we show up as the healthiest version of [ourselves], everyone wins."

However, Kotlarski states that what works for one person may not work for another. "Self-care is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing," she says. "As vast and unique [as] we are as humans — so are self-care strategies." A quick internet search will reveal just how limitless these strategies can be. "You can Google top five self-care strategies and find some good tips, but if the action doesn't relax, replenish, or energize you — then it's not right for you."

Make the time, and practice saying no

While there is no one method of self-care that will be successful for everyone, Kotlarski tells us which strategies she finds to be most helpful for her and in her line of work. Her first tip is to actively make time for self-care. "Schedule self-care time on your calendar. I have blocks of 'me time' on my very busy calendar throughout my week," she states. "Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I meditate or write in my journal, sometimes I call a friend, take a nap, or catch a sunset," Kotlarski suggests. "It varies depending on my mood and what I need, the key is that the time is carved out for me."

Kotlarski's next tip is to practice saying "no." "Sometimes the only way to create any space in your life for self-care is by saying no to others. Each time you say no — you are saying yes to yourself," she says encouragingly. While this may feel uncomfortable at first, she reminds us that doing so ultimately serves our health for the better. "If your automatic response is to say yes to everything, you can start by saying 'let me think on it and get back to you,' or 'I'll check my schedule and get back to you,'" Kotlarksi suggests. "Buy yourself some time to be intentional with your decision and consider how this serves your highest good."

Try something new and care for your physical health

Kotlarski tells us exclusively that her third self-care tool is trying something new. She states, "Is there a hobby you have always wanted to try or a skill you have wanted to learn?" This can include seeking out a group or team to join. Alternatively, Kotlarski suggests, "Tapping into your creativity, socializing, or intellectually stimulating activities are excellent self-care tools." She goes on to share a personal example. "Be open to new experiences. Many years ago a friend quite literally dragged me to a drumming workshop. I was a reluctant participant but stayed open enough to the possibility of enjoying the experience," she shares. "Drumming has become one of my favorite self-care activities. You probably won't find that on an internet list of self-care activities!"

Concluding the interview, Kotlarski encourages individuals to tend to their physical health in order to support their mental health. "Most people overlook the basics. I'm referring to an adequate amount of quality sleep, staying well-hydrated, nourishing your body with healthy food, moving your body in way[s] that feel good to you, asking for a hug when you need one, and breathing," she notes. "Yes, we are all breathing if we are alive, but often not deeply enough. Anyone who has ever cared for a child — just think of what you would make sure that kiddo was getting on a daily basis and be sure to be doing those same things for yourself."