Okay. Let’s be serious here for a moment. Being in the field of ABA is EXHAUSTING. It is hard. It is taxing. All these things are true, but those of us in the field know, it is ABSOLUTELY worth every hardship, every tear, and every heartbreak that we go through every. Single. Day. However, it is still SO important for us to take time to take care of ourselves. Without self-care, burn out becomes a very real possibility. I know, I know…. No matter what level you are at within your company (RBTs all the way up to BCBAs) you are thinking…. WHO THE F#%K HAS TIME FOR SELF-CARE?!?! I understand exactly where you are coming from, trust me. I get it. I have been involved in the ABA field for almost three years. During much of my time in the field I have been a student as well. Self-care FEELS impossible 99% of the time. Even though it feels impossible, it is not. You absolutely need to make time for yourself.
So, how do you go about making time for yourself? I cannot say that I am an expert, but I have learned a few things over my short 25 years on this earth. However, I still consistently struggle to make time for myself when caring for others. The first step in your self-care journey is realizing “I need myself too”. Once you can articulate that and truly believe it, you can start to begin your self-care process. One of the biggest things is getting enough rest. SLEEP YA’LL. Sleep is IMPORTANT. I do not care what season of life you are in, undergrad, graduate, or postgraduate and full professional life… you must make time for sleep. Period. Living life on empty is not an option, your brain desperately needs time to sleep so that it can function properly. *I’m looking at you BCBA exam studiers… make time for sleep*.
The next BIG one when it comes to self-care is… learn how to say no. Know what your limits are and set boundaries that ensure you are respecting yourself and that others are respecting you and your time. It is OK to say no. It is OK to not be available. It is OK to make time for yourself. There is no need to feel guilty. The effects of always saying yes to those around you can lead to major burn out. When you are already stressed out, anxious, and exhausted the last thing you need is more on your plate. Just say no. Once you get the hang of saying no when you have no more to give, you will begin to feel more confident in yourself. Setting these boundaries is empowering.
When it comes to my sanity, I know that spending time with my soul-sisters is an absolute must. Therefore, I rank taking friend trips as number three in my list of self-care must haves. My best friends and I take yearly weeklong trips to a destination of our choosing. This week gives us time to soak in the love that we have for one another, spend quality time rebuilding each other, and strengthen our 14-year-old bond. In adult life it is extremely hard to find time for your friends due to everyone’s lives being so full. That is why friend trips are necessary. Every time we come home from our vacations, I feel rested, I feel relaxed, and my spirits are lifted once again. Having friends that you can take a time out from life with is one of the best forms of self-care. I would be lost without these trips with my girls. The biggest lesson I have learned by doing this is that it is OKAY to take a break. The world will go on, work won’t fall apart, and your family will be fine. Take. A. Damn. Break. Ya’ll.
Last tip I am going to leave you with is this: schedule time for yourself and maintain it. Take 15 minutes to yourself daily, schedule a weekly time to do something that brings you joy- maybe this looks like getting your toes done, taking a hot bath, or spending a few hours at a bookstore. Set a time for yourself and stick to it. Do not give up this time for anything. Find ways to incorporate a small amount of time to let yourself breathe daily. For me, this looks like waking up a little earlier so I can sit on the couch with my dogs and drink my coffee in the mornings before I go off to work. Find the time to care for yourself in small ways, this will help you better care for yourself in the big ways. I know it is hard, but you can do it. Care for yourself so that you can better care for others. You got this.
Davis, T. (2018, December 28). Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201812/self-care-12-ways-take-better-care-yourself
About the Author
Cierra is an RBT in the last semester of her MS program, waiting on graduation so that she can sit for that DAMN test. She loves reading, writing, and spending lots of time cuddling with her dogs. You can follow her on Instagram at @cierra.a.jackson.