In therapy circles, we often talk about burn out and self care. We all know it's important, and we know that if we DON'T practice self care it there can be nasty consequences, but the jury is still out on what self care and burn out prevention actually LOOKS like. I love a massage as much as the next person, but how about a self care practice that does NOT have to be bought?
I want to share about something I call my "do nothing days". These, for me, are the backbone to my week. I must must must have at least one "do-nothing day," or otherwise my energy and motivation go KA-PUT my first day back. (Spoiler alert: I DO actually do stuff on this day. :))
Before you read any further, please understand that although this practice works for me, something different may work best for you. Always listen to your own body, consult with your own therapist/doctor, and do what meets YOUR needs best.
How to Have a Successful Do Nothing (Self Care) Day
1) Reserve 24 hours with NO COMMITMENTS.
And I mean it. No appointments, no things to do, no where to go, no people to see. For me, I find that I MUST have this big block of time without needing to be "on" in order to be able to fully turn "off" and relax.
2) Get 9+ hours of sleep.
Don't set an alarm, go to bed early, and PLAN on sleeping in. If I plan to sleep in till 10am, and wake up at 8am, I sometimes just revel in the fact that it's still bedtime and just go back to drifting in and out of sleep until that time actually roles around.
3) Messy Bun Updo + PJS
This step may not be for everyone, but as a person who often has to get ready (shower, makeup, look professional) in the morning, I LOVE mornings where I can stay in my PJs. On "do nothing days" I give myself permission to be okay with PJs all day, messy hair and even the au natural body odor.
4) Meditative Activity
For me, I've found that I get the most out of my "do-nothing-day" if I DO engage in a meditative activity (preferably one that doesn't require screen use). Recently I've been loving puzzles. In the past, I did journaling and paper crafts, and adult coloring books. I usually do try to avoid reading, podcasts, and other content-heavy activities that will cause me to think about work.
5) The night before - Stock the Fridge and the Pantry.
I find it's much easier to turn off all the way if I know everything I need is at home, and that I won't be running to the store for food, medications, or toiletries. Stock up on these things the day or night before! I usually try to treat myself on the do-nothing days to food that I really enjoy, to food that also makes me feel good in my body.
6) TURN THAT PHONE ON SILENT.
Because I sometimes take my "do nothing day" on Mondays, and I run a private practice, I do check my phone even on do-nothing days to make sure there are no fires to put out. However, I find that putting my phone on silent/Do Not Disturb makes a HUGE difference in allowing my attention to move completed away from work.
7) Asana (or sticky note) those To-Dos
When an email or text comes in and suddenly I have the urge to do a work thing, I make a task in Asana (our project management software) and assign it to another day. This gives me peace of mind, knowing that I won't forget about the task tomorrow, but that today I can totally forget about it and get back to doing nothing. For someone else, this might mean doing a written "brain dump" or putting that task on a sticky note to look at tomorrow.
8) At the End of the Rest Day, Treat Yourself to Kind Self Talk
As a recovering over achiever, I've noticed that days when I DO NOT accomplish things can lead me to feel anxious and guilty, like I've wasted the day, even though a rest day was immensely needed. Try reframing this identifying the number of restful things you did that day, such as hours of sleep, how rested you feel, and imagine how much MORE productive (and motivated) you will be when you get back to work.
Bonus Self-Care Tips for Music Therapists:
1) Treat yourself to silence. It's okay... really.
Anybody else just need silence after a long week of doing a LOT of music? Yes. You are not alone, this is a thing. Release any guilt or weird feelings you have about this... and treat yourself to some quiet.
2) Reconnect with your OWN music.
It's easy to allow music to become mostly a work-thing. Try reconnecting to the music that YOU love. One easy way to start this process is by engaging with the music you loved as a kid. For me, this includes 70s music, and some a christian artist my parents listened to at the time. Try jamming out a little just for you, just because it feels good.
3) Engage with your hobby.
Get excited about something that is NOT work, and NOT Netflix. This does not have to be expensive, and it does not have to require a garage. Here are some of my favorite hobbies:
Bullet journal page designs & journaling
Adult coloring books and similar paper crafts
Curating custom playlists on Spotify
Editing together videos from vacations to make montages.
Anything and everything hot air balloon related.
Yoga + Aerial Arts
4) Even extroverts need alone time.
Again, release any guilt or weird feelings about this. EVERYONE needs alone time or "me time" where they are not interacting with other humans. If you are a therapist of any kind, you spend a LOT of time every week interacting with people. Give yourself some time and space without (even your favorite) humans. You'll appreciate the company even more after your brain gets that R&R!
Esther Craven, MT-BC is a board certified music therapist, and the founder and CEO of North Star Therapy. She is passionate about using music to help young adults who are struggling with their mental health so that they can level up in life, be their best selves, and live well. You can connect with her via Instagram @northstartherapy or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.