M & I have had a couple crazy weeks. We’ve been posting less on Instagram and haven’t had time to write posts. I was sick and have had long days on days I was able to work. After talking with several of my favorite BCBA’s, we all have weeks like this. Multiple reports due, starting new clients, training staff and parents, providing direct service while you wait for more staff to onboard. It’s common for most of us to put our health and wellbeing on the backburner. We wouldn’t be in this field if we didn’t care about doing the absolute most for the people we serve.
How do we define “self-care”? Here’s my proposed definition for myself:
Self-care: Engaging in highly preferred activities and turning off work electronics at the appropriate time (i.e., 6pm after the last client of the day).
Schedule your activities
One way I like to protect my sanity is blocking off on my schedule time to balance the longer days during the week. It’s important for me to be able to have a balance between the amount of time I’m spending at work versus spending time with my family. With the company I work for, I’m able to block off time on my schedule that everyone sees and knows that nothing can be scheduled during that time. The exception, of course, is if there is an emergency or unexpected meeting with a client’s team.
It also helps to schedule time to engage in my highly preferred activities. I like to add blocks on my personal schedule denoting when I will be going to the gym, seeing friends, or other activities I enjoy. My husband works a typical work day and I sometimes go until 8:30 at night. Talking with him throughout the week about things we want to do together during the weekend helps when I’m feeling deprived of his attention.
If you were to fill out a preference survey for yourself, what would it look like? My low effort list would look like this:
- Play soccer
- Get coffee with friends
- Walk my dogs
- Watch The Office
- Walk around Target
There are things I definitely prefer that require more time, money, and planning. But it’s important to have things on your list that are accessible. The only thing on my list that ~technically~ requires money is getting coffee. There’s things on my list that can be done any time of year, solo or with company, and varying locations. Think about these variables and how you can make your list accessible.
I spend So. Much. Time. in my car. It’s incredibly tempting every day to stop at the drive thru to get fast food. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll see lots of Insta-stories about caffeine and coffee from me. I’m trying to be better about drinking water instead of coffee! My favorite water bottle is a 40oz Hydroflask. I try to drink one in the morning and one in the afternoon. After a couple Pamplemousse LaCroix after work, I easily hit my water target for the day.
I hate using the bathroom at client’s homes. I try to avoid it at all cost no matter who the family is or how long I have worked with them. I’ve shifted my usual fast food stop to taking a pit stop at a grocery store or Target to use the bathroom and grab some fruit and/or an protein bar. It gets me out of the car briefly to stretch my legs and I can usually fill up my water bottle again for the rest of the day. I also like to keep a box of Tone It Up protein bars from Target in my car/work bag to decrease the likelihood I’ll stop at McDonalds.
Keep yourself healthy and happy to be the best clinician you can be!
We aren’t always great models for our colleagues, staff, and clients. So often I tell my staff to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, staying healthy, and having fun daily. I’ve told staff to go home and rest while I’m blowing my nose and spending the next ten hours working. I tell them to look at the sick policy for our clients and see if they also fit the criteria for canceling. It can create a snowball effect when one person comes in sick and it can take a month or more before everyone on a child’s team is healthy.
Never feel guilty about taking a sick day. Never feel guilty that after spending 40-50+ hours working that you weren’t able to finish making stimuli cards for a client. Always take time to recharge to be the best clinician you can for your clients and staff. Always advocate for yourself when you find that you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything completed. Maybe you need to stop taking on new clients. If you don’t have enough time to provide quality therapy to your current clients, you certainly do not have the availability to add more cases. Have a coworker that has a lighter caseload? Ask to have a case or two transferred. It may also be a great time to add a mid-level provider or another BCBA.
What are some preferred activities you have? Do you have any other tips for “self-care”?