In my practice, I meet many clients who have poor self-care skills for a multitude of reasons. A common statement is that they woke up one day with the realization that their lives are not how they imagined, and they feel confused about where to begin to make changes.
Often times these clients have spent a lot of time and energy focusing on external projects — but little time and energy meeting their own needs. Examples include professionals that have spent extended hours at their desks, and adults that are members of “the sandwich generation,” meaning they care for both children and aging parents.
I like to recommend three books to help my clients learn what good self-care skills look like.
A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson, is an autobiographical book about a woman who worked hard to acquire good self-care skills. Anderson was a mother and wife who focused on the needs of her family. When she realized that her children were grown and that focusing on her husband’s needs wasn’t enough, she discovered that she needed to learn how to better care of herself.
Anderson’s autobiography reveals how her decision to retreat to a family cottage in her early 60s, rather than follow her husband to his new position in a new city, brought extraordinary changes in her life and gradually allowed her to revitalize and rediscover herself and her potential.
I recommend this book to clients to illustrate that they too can make transformative changes when they allow themselves to focus on their own needs. I also recommend the book to illustrate that the process takes a significant commitment of time and effort.
A second book that I refer to clients is titled The Art of Extreme Self-Care, by Cheryl Richardson. Designed as a practical handbook, rather than a narrative, Richardson provides 12 strategies for transforming your life one month at a time. For individuals that are seeking change and need some ideas of how to get started, this book offers practical steps that outline how to include self-care as part of daily life.
A third book, All Passion Spent, by Vita Sackville-West, presents a fictional portrayal of similar themes. All Passion Spent is Sackville-West’s most popular literary novel and was published in 1931. The book advocates, through the central character of Lady Slane, how women can take control of their own lives. This was a subject which the author was deeply concerned with in her own personal life.
Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta
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