At Sheppard Pratt, we pride ourselves on taking care of others. But we also know that to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves first. Self-care can be a kind of emotional first aid, helping us to calm our nervous systems—which can, in turn, regulate our emotions, reduce stress, and help us avoid burnout. Just like a nutritious meal restores our physical energy, taking time for self-care can replenish our psychological energy.
We gathered tips and suggestions from Sheppard Pratt staff across our programs to help you stay balanced and feel good throughout the year.
Enjoy the great outdoors
Nature-based self-care is associated with lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Getting outside—or even viewing peaceful natural scenes—not only makes us feel better emotionally, but research also shows it can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones like cortisol in the body.
I suggest walking in nature. Take a 20-minute walk in the woods and notice all the beauty that surrounds you. You could also collect interesting natural elements and make an art project afterward.
— Jennifer Carberry, LCSW-C, operations director, Outpatient Behavioral Health
View webcam footage of different national parks online. You can visit several national parks virtually at nps.gov. Brew and sip a cup of tea as you watch.
—Kelly Pillard, chemical dependency counselor, Towson Adult Co-Occurring Unit
Physical activity stimulates brain chemicals like endorphins, which produce feelings of relaxation, reduce stress, and provide an emotional lift. Exercise is especially helpful in relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety. Working out with a friend or loved one can give you the double boost of endorphins and social connection!
I join friends online for Zumba or strength training classes. It helps to work out with friends. There are days when I don’t feel like joining in. Inevitably, one of my friends will text me to see if I will be working out that day. My daughter also encourages me to keep up with my routine.
—Joanna McNeely, RN, Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Unit
My favorite self-care tip is walking my dogs. It gets me out of the house and provides an opportunity to socialize with the neighbors. It is exercise as well as a form of emotional therapy, so it’s the perfect excuse to take a break when I’m working from home.
—Kim Reynolds, IEP coordinator, Sheppard Pratt School in Glyndon
Every morning, I do 20 minutes of yoga. I am proud that I haven’t missed a day.
—Karen Robertson-Keck, vice president, human resources
Engage your inner artist
Expressing yourself through the arts has been shown to boost self-esteem, improve focus and mental performance, and help us process our emotions.
A form of self-care can be making a “feel good” playlist of your favorite songs. Then dance and move your body. Emotionally, music can activate the senses and be used for grounding, as well as improving your mood. Psychologically, dancing can help increase endorphins in the brain and activate the mind/body connection. Dancing can also be a form of mindfulness and help increase awareness in the moment.
—Dr. Terri Griffith, psychologist, The Center for Eating Disorders and The Retreat by Sheppard Pratt
I keep an art journal with the aim of creating a “mandala a day.” I focus on positive images and expressions, and they are all drawn in a circular design. I vary the media and subject according to my mood.
—Robin Jones, ATR-BC, LCPAT, art therapist
Take a break
Taking time to recharge ourselves can alleviate feelings of exhaustion and burnout. Caring for ourselves—by going on vacation, taking time to decompress, and getting adequate sleep—can help us feel energized and nourished when we return to caring for others.
I use essential oils to help both emotionally and psychologically! Lavender is a favorite. This helps me to take a time-out from stressful thoughts and focus on the calming scents.
—Melissa Mainier, BSN, RN, staff nurse, Trauma Disorders Unit
The way I decompress after a long day is to read in bed before I fall asleep. I used to just scroll endlessly through my phone on Facebook. Now, I try to make a conscious effort to put a physical book in my hands. The book I’m currently reading is “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama. It provides a lot of inspiration for self-reflection about what positive change I want to make in the world around me.
—Heather Ruddick, RN, staff nurse, Thought Disorders Unit
It is beneficial to take your PTO days, even if you do not have anything exciting to do on a given day. It is good to take time to be away from work on a regular basis for your own self-care and to maintain positive work output.
—Brian Hoover, director of human resources compliance and leave management