I recently discovered I was asking my patients the wrong question.
“What do you do for exercise?”
This question was of course done with good intentions and to help get to the root of what people do on a daily basis. Over the years, I came to dread the question as it would tend to gather mostly useless information. Some clients would provide answers eagerly, but most would provide less than effective answers. I would receive answers that clients felt that I wanted to hear.
“Oh, I walk, run, bike, swim, do weights and yoga,” would be the answer.
“Have you done any of these things in the past few months?” I would ask.
“No. not for quite some time…”
Yup… it was a question that was doomed to fail from the very start. We don’t like answering those questions because they make us feel targeted. Here’s a few reasons why:
- We don’t like being judged by other people.
- We want the therapist to like us, and we don’t want to disappoint them.
- We don’t like feeling like we failed. We feel guilt and shame around this.
After thinking more about this, I decided to change the question to something that felt less targeted, something to encourage curiosity. It was more holistic in nature and as such, it was easy to get truthful answers from clients. Clients found they could provide answers that weren’t based just around exercise and still feel validated in their personal journey. Sure, they didn’t run 5k, but they made their bed and did breath work… so that’s a win right? But what did I ask?
“What do you do for self-care?”
This small change opened up a wide variety of answers and discussion that flowed organically without anyone feeling embarrassed or frustrated. There were different avenues they could explore in their personal self-care, with none of them more valuable than the other. It was entirely about them making small consistent wins that helped them along their goal.
It turned into a massive topic, one that people needed resources for. Did I mention it was a massive topic? To make things more bite-sized, I broke it down into 8 categories and placed them into Intrinsic and Extrinsic groups. This is an important distinction, since intrinsic involves self-care that happens within our selves and extrinsic involves self-care that happens in the world around us.
This makes it easier to discover what parts of our lives need a little more attention. But what should I do to improve a certain area? Glad you asked, you can find a quick and effective list right below! Enjoy, and if you need more help, you know where to find me.
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