This is an alert(!) for the healers out there: the herbalists, witches, reiki practitioners, energy workers, therapists, doctors, social workers, activists, massage therapists, hair stylists, mothers, fathers, teachers, empaths, volunteers, and friends. Whether we can acknowledge it or not, we have willingly chosen the role of ‘healer’ either within our social circles or as professional practitioners. While we may have received our empathic spirits as gifts, we (the listeners and menders) have chosen to practice them via the prioritization and validation of the peoples’ mind, body, and spirit experience. It’s honorable work to be a caretaker. It’s seemingly selfless, rewarding, and “good.” But we are human and neglecting that fact would be a disservice to not only ourselves, but also to our loved ones, and our patients/clients.
Most healers recognize that they perform best when they make time for self-care – this is, in my case and many others’, knowledge obtained only shortly after having lived through a burnout. Burnouts are the result of emotional and physical exhaustion which then leads to a motivation and often times the longing to give up. I consider all healers to be activists. And to be an activist of health and positivity in a world of ebb and flow, progress and disappointment, newness and death, can be a heavy load to carry. We might resent ourselves as empaths, question our existence, or consider quitting and giving in to “the system.” This is normal; in fact, if you consider yourself to be a healer and you have never experienced this kind of frustration, I’d presume that you’re not paying close enough attention to the world or to your own community. So, what do we do when we feel this depletion? Some of us continue to heal but in resentment, others abandon their love of healing altogether, some take time off to find new inspiration, and some of us alter our daily routines to prevent future burnouts. Depletion is there to remind us of our human need of nourishment! As members of the holistic community, we openly recognize and honor the mind-body-spirit connection, so therefore must nourish all aspects of the self. As an herbalist, activist, witch, and reiki practitioner, I won’t say that I’ve cracked the code of maintaining a balanced lifestyle quite yet, but the healer in me wants to give thanks to the healer in you by suggesting some acts of self-care that I, myself, have found sanity in.
Try performing self-care for yourself and only yourself.
The wellness community is a bubble. While other life dedications and careers reward “getting ahead,” we encourage success through collaboration and the genuine admiration of each healers’ strengths and specialties. Specifically, in the holistic circle, practitioners of healing value selflessness, community, and commitment to the lifestyle. As healers, it can be more comprehensible to take care of ourselves for the benefit of others, our work, and the greater good. So, while we draw our herbal self-care baths under the light of the full moon or treat ourselves to a vacation, our empathic spirits may still be prioritizing others on a subconscious level. There is nothing wrong with self-prioritization; you are not selfish when you want to take a break, you are not selfish when you need to take a break. While penciling in your self-care routines into your calendar may help revive your healing work, I ask that the next time you partake in self-care to do it “selfishly.” Act on your instincts: the exhaustion, the frustration. Shut off your phone. Do it just for you.
Accept and express your anger.
Self-validation is self-care. As healers we know that emotional repression can lead to serious psychological, physical, and spiritual injury, but when it comes to anger, frustration, or aggravation – emotions that have been deemed as potentially violent to others – we attempt to breathe those pollutants out. This awesome circle of health that we are a part of promotes peace towards others, towards the environment, and also towards the self. Anger repression is violence to the self. It is neglect. Anger is within all of us for survival; it alerts us when we feel unsafe or uncomfortable. When anger arises, which it will, take care of yourself by expressing it safely. Join a boxing class, head to a break room, or scream by the ocean or next to a tree. Honor yourself by honoring your anger.
Set clear boundaries with clients and/or loved ones.
Those we heal are vulnerable to us, and what a lovely gift that is! While we are passionate about promoting health and happiness in the world, it is a laborious dedication. Healing requires mental and physical preparation, tuning into intuition, impeccable listening skills, grounding work, and, of course, reference to the acquired knowledge needed for the practice. As our general society particularly still struggles to accept the holistic ways of health, many confuse holistic healing as being a hobby or for fun. This is invalidating! Healing, whether through reiki, herbalism, crystals, or activism, requires great commitment to study and practice. While some overlook the validity of healers, others acknowledge it but with unrealistic expectations. To choose the path of healing is to choose to work for the betterment of society, this is true. But not all healers/practitioners can financially, physically, or mentally afford to give their labors without compensation or transaction. As a healer, myself, I can’t tell you how often my friends, family, and even strangers approach me with their concerns: “What herb will cure my Crohn’s Disease? Can I mix these two herbs together? Teach me the reiki symbols, please, so I can perform them on myself.” Our modern civilization promises us quick cures and results, so I understand these requests to be innocent. Although naïve, this ethos is still dismissive of the very real work healers put into their cause.
Boundaries are crucial when taking care of the self. When a loved one asks for your advice or for a session/appointment, it’s okay to ask for compensation, schedule it for a more convenient time, or simply say “no” and suggest another practitioner. In casual conversation it is okay to say, “I’m not on the clock right now. Would you like to schedule a formal appointment?” It is okay to ask your clients to not text your personal number, etc. If the recipient fails to understand your rejection of this discourse, simply let them know that it would be irresponsible of you to give them an answer without considering all aspects of their mind, body, and spirit. You are not “not doing your job” if you refuse to be objectified. You are not an encyclopedia of healing.
Work with other healers.
Healing was intended to be communal. There is so much to learn from one another. Support yourself while supporting others in the community that you care about by working with a healer that is not yourself. Try to not feel burdensome or weak when asking for help; this is the cycle in which healing was meant to grow. Partake in group sessions, seek out a therapist, and barter with practitioners you respect.
Stay grounded with certain foods and tisanes.
It’s no big secret that food is medicine, and therefore is an act of self-care when we eat well! There are certain foods and herbs that help to nourish our bodies and connect us to our root chakras. Make sure all of your ingredients are ethically sourced, grass-fed, and organic. Certain dishes to consider are dense meats or proteins, blood-building foods like beets and dark greens, and hearty stews and bone or seaweed broths. I correlate these filling meals with home; they’re warm, heavy, and like a mothering hug. They keep me from floating off of the ground. Some of my favorite grounding herbs are stinging nettles, hawthorn berry, reishi mushroom, motherwort, rosemary, and holy basil. Experiment with an herb a week by prepping an infusion or decoction and allowing it to act as your ally during your journey of healing.
Work with flower essences and amulets for extra support.
Flower essences are an ideal way to connect with plant energy for emotional and spiritual support. Different flower essences promote different emotional responses in their taker; the therapy they provide is gentle. Rather than abolish negative emotions, flower essences allow us to ruminate on them – appreciate and learn from them. Some of my favorite flower essences for healers are crab apple, holy basil, water violet, blue vervain, agrimony, passionflower, and rose or wild rose. Work with an individual or blended flower essence at a time to notice its impact on your mood and overall energy. Here at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, we carry flower and gem essences. They are each blended for intentional use, my favorites for healers being Lilac and Lungwort. Incorporate them into your practice by taking an essence after a healing session or conversation to clear negative energy, heaviness, or stagnation.
Another method for benefitting from our plant allies is through herbal amulets. Amulets are vials, necklaces, or sachets that have been packed with plant magic to serve as charms. Throw an amulet making party with your friends and fellow healers. For protection consider utilizing yarrow, honeysuckle, angelica root, or rosemary. For love and healing try rose, lavender, St. John’s Wort, or chamomile. For connecting with your higher power, experiment with mugwort, kava kava, blue lotus, or jasmine. Carry your amulet(s) with you as an act of consistent self-care and earthly assistance.
Actively caring for ourselves can even feel taxing at times. When we enter solitude after a long day of labor, it’s not uncommon to just want to veg out, watch a movie, and pass out. Turning in, allowing yourself to just be, etc. are absolutely all forms of self-care. Budgeting for a massage, scheduling your own healing session, or getting together an herbal bath can be too much sometimes; that’s okay. Sleep is medicine. It is so important to make time for rest not only to fuel your physical body, but also spiritual essence. Sleep and dreams allow our subconscious to process all that we have taken in. If you find that you struggle with falling or staying asleep, turn to herbs for assistance. Do racing thoughts keep you up at night? Passionflower is a wonderful nervine that assists anxiety most commonly affiliated with racing or obsessive thoughts. Field Apothecary and Farm’s Deep Sleep Tincture uses passionflower alongside lemon balm, valerian, chamomile, poppy, and milky oats to help you catch some ZZZ’s. Tinctures not your thing? Anima Mundi’s Lucid Dreaming Tea and Elixir are great alternatives, both formulas working with passionflower, kava kava, ashwagandha, skullcap, tulsi, blue lotus, cornflowers, and more rest supporting herbs. CBD oil and capsules are both ideal for tuning down the mind and body. If falling asleep is your weak spot, I’d suggest CBD full spectrum oil; ingestible oils are fast-acting and more bio-available. If staying asleep is more your issue, try CBD capsules; the release time is about an hour, but the benefits last for 8-10 hours (the recommended sleep time).
There are so many methods of caring for the self: diet, exercise, meditation, body work, herbal medicine, sound baths, gua sha, IV drip, sauna, and much more that are just waiting to be discovered. As awesome as these opportunities are, I want to emphasize that the key to self-care lies simply in listening to and respecting the true desires or needs of your body, mind, and spirit. Self-awareness is a skill that takes mastering. Surround yourself with people who actively check in on you and check in with yourself on a daily basis by setting reminders on your phone or in your schedule. List the ways your body, mind, and spirit feel: is there tension anywhere? Say your emotion out loud and don’t settle for “fine.” When we treat ourselves as a lover, family member, or friend, our healing nature will do as it needs to do.
Check out offerings from The Alchemist’s Kitchen’s Season of Gratitude Collection for healing ideas!