Why self-care is important

Natalie Clark - Thursday, March 01, 2018

Is making time for self-care being selfish?

Tracey Bratton, LCSW

I can answer this question in one simple word, “NO!” Taking care of yourself is not about being selfish. As a matter of fact, it’s actually quite the contrary. If you’re practicing routine self-care, you’re preparing and enabling yourself to continue nurturing others.

If you’re an empathetic, caring, loving, nurturing human being, you need to seek ways to find balance in your life. Caregivers and nurturers give so much of themselves, mentally, physically, & emotionally, that they forget to care for themselves, or may even believe that caring for themselves is selfish. If this is the case, this can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth. If my intuition is guiding me correctly, I would say that, if you’re reading this, you fall into one of these categories: caregiver, nurturer, empath, and may even be in a profession that you were called to do because of these amazing qualities you possess.

Having these qualities, you may excel in helping others, but you also may carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. You’re like an emotional sponge absorbing all the emotions, moods, and energy around you. Unfortunately, you absorb the negative with the positive. Since you take on so much of others, YOU get lost in the mix. This is why practicing self-care is so important. In order to continue caring & nurturing, you MUST find balance, and once you find it, you MUST maintain it. I don’t often use words like “should” and “must,” because it can lead to negative thinking, but I take exception in the case of self-care.

If you lose yourself in caring for others, you’ll burn out quickly & thoroughly. The negativity that you take on will take a toll on your mind, body, and soul. You’ll become stressed out, depressed, and fatigued. Your immune system will take a wallop, and you won’t be able to bounce back. You’ll become imbalanced & unfocused. You may already be at this point.

Practicing self-care is not about being selfish, it’s actually a way of ensuring you can continue your journey in helping others. Self-care can not only assist you in achieving balance but is at the core of finding and maintaining balance in your life.

You’re probably wondering, “How can I prevent this from happening?” or “How can I crawl out of this steaming, smelly heap of negativity I’m already in?”

The answer is fairly simple: GOOD SELF-CARE. Repeat after me, “I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of myself.” You’ve taken such good care of others but may not know where to begin in taking care of yourself. That’s why I created this list of tips below. Once you get started, you’ll be able to identify your own list of self-care activities.



Unselfish Self-care Tips:

  • eat nutritious foods
  • drink plenty of water
  • avoid sugar
  • moderate caffeine intake
  • physical activity
  • dance, dance, dance
  • listen to uplifting and/or relaxing music
  • take a leisurely stroll
  • enjoy nature
  • take photos
  • look at photos
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • buy something for yourself, however small
  • eat a piece of chocolate
  • play with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, friend’s child
  • treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, or all three, or DIY
  • read an inspiring book, story, or article
  • write yourself positive affirmations to read when you’re stressed or down
  • write yourself an uplifting letter, as if you’re writing to your best friend
  • enjoy the company of a pet
  • go window shopping
  • do an internet search for “self-care activities”
  • watch videos of babies or animals
  • watch a comedy
  • bake cookies/brownies & share with a neighbor
  • take a long, warm bubble bath
  • get a check-up with your doctor/eye doctor/dentist
  • take your meds as directed by your doctor
  • look in the mirror every day & find 3 things you love about yourself, then tell yourself
  • learn a new skill
  • find a hobby, or restart a past hobby
  • talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend, not your enemy
  • get to know yourself
  • recognize & use the talents you’ve been blessed with

Add to this list once you’re able to recognize how self-care works. It’s not about extravagance or selfishness. Self-care can be simple & inclusive of whatever nurtures your mind, body, and soul. Keep your light shining brightly by practicing routine self-care.


How to Help Your Child Through a Tragedy

Natalie Clark - Thursday, February 22, 2018

How to help your child through a tragedy

Tracey Bratton, LCSW

School shootings have become a major worry for children and youth across the nation. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your child to help him/her feel safe and secure when tragedy strikes. They look to you for this felt safety already, and it becomes even more important at these uncertain times.

Here are a few tips for staying connected with your child through traumatic events:

  • Open, honest, age-appropriate communication
    • Talk at key times –during commuting, dinner or at bedtime
    • Ask them how they are dealing with the news –don’t wait on them to talk about it
    • When they’re communicating their feelings. thoughts, concerns, etc., actively listen without interrupting
    • Validate and normalize their feelings
    • If they have misinformation, gently, but honestly correct them
    • Console them with a hug and let them know they are safe
  • Ensure your child feels safe
    • Make sure home is a safe haven and a comfort to your child
  • Watch your child for changes in mood and/or behaviors
    • Fear, anxiety, grief, increased stress
    • Changes in appetite and/or sleep, nightmares
    • Difficulty concentrating on school/homework
  • Ensure your child is not over-exposing himself/herself with news reports, internet searches, etc. about the traumatic event
  • Model self-care for your child
    • To take care of your child, you will need to take good care of yourself
    • Keep routine schedules
    • Make time for exercise and fun family activities

These are just a few tips for helping your child through a traumatic event. If you or your child feel stuck, reach out to your support system and talk to a close friend, relative, or pastor. If you’re overwhelmed and your daily routine is disrupted, it may be a good idea to consult with a mental health professional.




Natalie Clark - Thursday, August 04, 2016

August 15th is National Relaxation Day! A lot of us live a fast-paced lifestyle. We often neglect time for ourselves. As this occurs, our physical and mental needs are not met which moves us actually away from achieving our life goals. Overall health is more than just the physical component; it involves an emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. All of these components either complement or work against each other and one area can impact the others.

Counseling techniques, when warding off stress or burnout, can start off simple but require a change in habits. The person must actually engage in the effort of utilizing coping skills. Change is difficult especially with a busy lifestyle, but quite necessary if new results are desired. Positive coping skills are essential for everybody, not just individuals seeking counseling. However, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, if gardening is not your passion, it may not be a suggested coping skill. However, if you are open to the suggestion of incorporating it, then it could be.

Other examples of positive coping skills include: listening to music, playing with a pet, going to the movies, taking a hot shower, writing/painting, praying, and engaging in outdoor activities. Many coping skills are available and can be individualized. Negative coping skills include: driving fast, biting fingernails, drinking alcohol excessively, eating too much, smoking, avoiding friends and family, and many more. The negative coping skills are the ones that are to be avoided. However, all coping responses have limitations (WebMD, 2015-2016). They have to be used on a regular basis to be effective or sometimes can even lead to new stress. Even overuse of something once positive can become ineffective. A vacation to the beach can sound relaxing but could start off being stressful with all of the planning details. Even taking the same yearly trip could become monotonous and not present itself as an effective coping skill.

There are more detailed relaxation techniques available via counseling. If you feel overwhelmed with every day or chronic stressors, please see a counselor who can introduce you to deep breathing, positive self talk and cognitive coping, visualization and/or mindfulness techniques. Those may sound like foreign concepts but anyone with the attitude for change can learn and utilize them. If you are in the Monticello area, please call the Laurence E. Schmidt Counseling Center for more information or to schedule an appointment 870-367-9035.

Common Coping Responses for Stress - Topic Overview (2015-2016). Retrieved August 4, 2016 from:

-Cynthia Polk


Mental Health Month

Vera Lloyd - Monday, May 09, 2016


Take care of yourself during National Mental Health Month

by Cynthia Polk, Director, Laurence E. Schmidt Counseling Center

May is National Mental Health Month. Our mental well-being is a component of overall positive health. Life can get so busy juggling extra responsibilities and stressors. When it becomes excessive to the point of negatively influencing every day functioning, it may be time to consider seeing a counselor/therapist. Work, school, family life and other relationships can be impacted by unresolved stress.

According to a recent article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology (2016), many stigmas exist about seeking mental health counseling. A therapist? But I am not “crazy!” Other resistant mindsets include being strongly motivated to protect self-concept, minimizing issues, gender resistance, family, friend and co-worker attitudes, seeing it as a sign of weakness, being worried about confidentiality and not believing it will be effective.

Think of it as another confidante (who will not tell your business) and will provide advice and suggestions to promote positive living. Therapy can also promote improved inner peace, help identify goals, assist with learning new patterns of behavior, clarify the thoughts and feelings of self and others, and provide an impartial sounding board and a safe and friendly ear. 

If you are someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with life, I encourage them or yourself to make an appointment to see a licensed professional counselor. 

Lannin, D.G., Vogel, D. L., Brenner, R. E., Abraham, W.T., & Heath, P.J. (2016). Does self-stigma reduce the probability of seeking mental health information? Journal of Counseling Psychology: (63): 3-351-358.