I’m calling this my Summer of Self-Care, not because I had a lot of time to dedicate to self-care, but because I launched my new eBook, Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Guide for Music Therapists. Designed specifically for music therapy professionals, interns, and students, this eBook addresses burnout in the music therapy profession and self-care practices to support clinical effectiveness, career success, and personal fulfillment.
Because of the time and energy this took, I needed self-care more than ever.
This eBook took years to research, conceptualize, develop, design, create, test, and revise. It took heart, soul, and passion to create, and I was fueled by the desire to support my colleagues by creating something that was needed and did not yet exist. Working on this project, on top of maintaining my clinical work, was a challenge, and I could have easily burned myself out. Writing can be tiring and stressful. So can creating videos and being in front of a camera. But overworking myself was not an option because of the nature of the subject. I couldn’t possibly let myself get too stressed because I was immersed in the subject of self-care and was constantly reminded of its necessity.
Here are three lessons I learned about self-care during my summer of self-care:
1. Hard work and self-care can co-exist.
You don’t have to choose between working hard or caring for yourself. You can do both at the same time. In discussions on self-care, sometimes it seems like caring for yourself and working are things that happen separately. However, it is important to keep in mind that self-care can be practiced while you are working. And, the harder you are working the more important it is to make sure this is happening. So as work increases, self-care does too.
Working on my eBook meant long hours at my computer and decreased leisure time. I practiced this idea of simultaneous hard work and self-care by staying hydrated, taking breaks to stretch, diffusing essential oils while I worked, drinking lots of green smoothies, and eating healthy food to support my brain’s ability to function for long periods of time. I also bought a new chair which tremendously helped my posture and physical comfort. Even though I had less time for leisure, I made exercise a priority and kept variety in my physical activity to keep my energy levels up. Setting deadlines for myself and launch dates for my projects were also important to my self-care so I knew this period of hard work was just temporary and I had a plan in place to rejuvenate after.
2. Listen to your loneliness.
Both my eBook and online course came from the work I did in graduate school. While getting my master’s degree in music therapy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the support from my cohort and professors played a huge role when I wrote my thesis. The encouragement and mentoring from my professors made the process less intimidating, and our cohort leaned on each other, went through our frustrations together, and pushed through together.
Once we graduated, I started working on converting my thesis into an eBook, and this time I was writing alone. The loneliness slowly crept up on me, and made me feel anxious, ungrounded, and I had a harder time meeting deadlines when I wasn’t accountable to anyone. Loneliness can be a big contributing factor to burnout, especially for music therapists who are a professional minority. However, when listened to, loneliness comes with some important messages. For me, my loneliness was telling me that I was trying to do too much on my own and that it was time to start asking for support and seeking sources of inspiration. So, I started listening to podcasts on writing to help validate my experiences, and I joined an online writers group. I also hired an editor and allowed other people to take a look at what I was creating. The feeling on loneliness decreased and was replaced with motivation.
3. Self-care is simple, but not always easy.
Self-care is not complicated. It can be as simple as rolling your shoulders back right now, and then taking a deep breath in, and slowly exhaling. Self-care can be as simple as asking for help, taking a nap, walking outside, saying no to a request, meditating for five minutes, or picking up your guitar and playing a song. Although these things are simple, it’s not always easy to remember to do this or to find the time for it. Sometimes it is easier for our actions to default to being busy, to push through without taking a break, or to tell ourselves we will do self-care later. We need to be very careful of this.
I caught myself many times this summer wanting to work one more hour before going to sleep, wanting to work on a project instead of going to a pilates class, or telling myself I’ll do my meditation at the end of the day. And this is a common struggle for many of my coaching clients. Sometimes it’s not easy to say no to ourselves, or to other people. Sometimes it’s not easy to remember to pause and take a breath once in while. But if we can focus on self-care being simple, we can make it easier for ourselves to practice self-care rather than making an excuse not to.
Take a moment to reflect on what self-care looked like for you this summer, and feel free to share.
Resilience Over Burnout: A Self-Care Guide for Music Therapists eBook