Capitalism and Self-Care

Capitalism and Self-Care




I know that practicing self-care is important for my well-being. But…self-care is hard.

Before I began my MSW program, I was working as a case manager with youth experiencing homelessness. It was an emotionally draining and demanding job, but I loved it. There was one period of time where I was working non-stop. I took my work home with me and continued to work off the clock. Even if I didn’t bring work home, my mind always seemed to wander back to all the work I needed to do for the job.

There was one moment when I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with my dog at my feet. I was doing absolutely nothing productive, and it felt…weird. I began to notice my body’s strain. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I hadn’t slept much. I was stress eating. I stopped going to my yoga classes. I wasn’t taking care of myself.

I was burned out.

The next day I made the decision to ask my then-supervisor for a day off to recuperate. He gave me three days off and told me how important it is to take care of myself.

I took the three days off. It was so hard for me to not be working, to not be productive. It made me feel like I was lazy.

What does it mean to be productive?

As a person who struggles with anxiety, one of the ways I’ve shamed myself is when I believe I haven’t been productive enough. If I’m not being productive, then I start to feel like I’m not good enough.

Productivity is rooted in capitalist ideas about an individual’s value. Our value as people–as human beings–is defined by our level of productivity. The capitalist narrative asserts that we must be productive at all times and in all areas of our lives.

I come from an Italian family. Before I was morn, both sides of my family immigrated to the United States from Italy. Both sides had humble upbringings: mom grew up on a ranch and dad grew up in a big family that struggled to make ends meet. The Italian way is to work hard and think big. I was always surrounded by hard workers in my family. Dad would epilogue his stories with, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps so I could give my children the life I didn’t have.” The message is clear: work hard and I can achieve anything. It never occurred to me until I was an undergraduate student that it is a privilege to be able to pull oneself up by their bootstraps as well as an ideology rooted in systems of power, privilege, and oppression in the world.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is a myth constructed by the capitalist narrative. It is the myth of meritocracy. If a person does not “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”– they are labelled as “lazy” “unproductive” and “undeserving.”

For myself, when I am not productive, I’m hit with this myth of meritocracy and my family’s ideals of hard work (which are both interconnected!). My brain races: I must be lazy. I should be doing A, B, C…I should have done X, Y, Z. Why didn’t I do the thing?

Why do I feel guilty when I take a day off to practice self-care?

Why do I determine my self-worth using the productivity measurement?

I know I’m not alone in this.


The capitalist narrative asserts that productivity is not…

  • sitting online all day
  • playing games
  • binge-watching TV shows on Netflix
  • taking a break
  • sleeping, relaxing
  • doing anything “unproductive”
  • things that don’t have a clearly defined goal

One tumblr user (“youarenotyou”) posed the following questions: “Do you have a huge to-do list that doesn’t include taking time out of the day and being kind to yourself? Do you typically not cross off most of the things on that list, and then feel upset over it, like you’ve wasted your day?”

I answered “yes” to both of these questions. What were your answers?

Has anyone noticed that being productive never includes self-care? As a person who struggles with anxiety, as a person who has several loved ones who have mental health struggles, and as a person who works in the mental health field– I see so many people be hard on themselves for not producing enough, especially if their reason for not doing so involves mental health issues. We are comparing ourselves to others and then determining our self-worth using the productivity measurement.

Kind of reminds me of how businesses compare their level of productivity with other businesses, then determines their success based on that production. Time is money. Money is time. The more productive you are in the least amount of time, the more successful you are.

Why isn’t it productive to take care of ourselves?

Because we are told we aren’t good enough to justify taking time away from productivity to practice self-care.


Lorde, give me strength!

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” ~Audre Lorde

When we practice self-care, we are taking time away from being productive. When we practice self-care, we are prioritizing our needs and not allowing productivity to measure our sense of self-worth.

Self-care is the antidote for burnout. It is also an important factor in transforming our capitalist world into a more just place to live in. I want to live in a world that asserts my value as a person not by my level of productivity.

If we collectively practice self-care by taking time away from being productive, what would the world look like? What would happen?

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What do we do next? Here’s what I (try) to do…

****Practice self-compassion. In a previous post on self-care,  I wrote about practicing self-compassion as a way to transform negative self-talk into positive/reality-based self-talk.

“I should be working.” –> transforms to –> “I am taking a break right now. It’s okay to take a break.”

“I should be doing the thing.” –> transforms to –> “I’m taking time for myself right now. That doesn’t make me selfish or lazy.”

“I’m a failure for not doing the thing.” –> transforms to –> “Taking care of myself does not make me a failure.”

****Practice self-care every single day, not just when you’re about to burnout or already burned out. Taking time for yourself is practicing self-compassion because you are acknowledging that you need a break, that you are important, that you are worthy of love and care.

****Create a Self-Care Plan.  What calls to your soul? What nourishes your body? What calms your mind? Who can you turn to for support?

This self-care plan (below) is available for free download here.



I’m not perfect. I don’t practice self-care every day. I’m not always compassionate to myself. Sometimes I shame myself when I’m doing my self-care thing because I’m not working. Sometimes I shame myself when I’m working because I’m not doing my self-care thing. It is a cycle of shame that I continually try to break. I ask myself whether I’m practicing self-care because I need to or because I shamed myself to. That’s not the answer. I can’t replace shame with shame.

Radical self-compassion is…

  • Being kind to myself
  • Realizing I’m not alone in my struggle
  • Observing life as it is (mindfulness)
  • Honoring my feelings

I practice radical self-compassion by…

  • Asking myself what I would say to a friend/loved one going through a similar situation…then turning those words back to myself.
  • Being mindful of my language and self-talk. Replacing phrases like “I should have..” or “I should be…” replaces negative self-talk with kinder self-talk.
  • Telling myself it’s okay not to be productive because I am important.
  • Honoring my feelings through art creation or journaling.
  • Nourishing my body and giving it a good night’s rest.
  • Taking breaks during my workday.
  • Stopping to smell the flowers.

How do you practice radical self-compassion?

How do you practice self-care?


Survivors Support Coloring Book

I stumbled across this awesome resource the other day when looking for creative interventions for survivors of sexual violence. It’s a coloring book for survivors and supporters.

It was created by Ryerson University in Canada for their Consent Comes First campaign.


I love this campaign because it also discusses the ways folks can support survivors of sexual violence.



Here is the coloring book to download for FREE.


Printable: All About Me Ice Cream Cone

Printable: All About Me Ice Cream Cone

FREE printable on my Teachers Pay Teachers store: the All About Me Ice Cream Cone!

Each layer of this ice cream cone represents a different character trait of the client’s choice. They can color in the ice cream layers to their liking too!

I’ve used this with clients aged 5 to age 18.

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Download for free on my Teachers Pay Teachers store! Click here.

Termination Art Activity: Personal Pizzas

Termination Art Activity: Personal Pizzascollagepizza1lg.jpg

It’s my last week as a Clinical Social Work Intern with children and families, which brings up termination with clients. Many of clients responded well to my nature termination activities, but I had a few clients who wanted to do something different. So, I decided we could make personal pizzas together…paper pizzas, that is!



Therapy Type: Individual, termination

Materials Needed:

  • Various colors of construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Crayons, markers, colored pencils


I provided the client with various colors of construction paper and directed them to cut a circle for their own personal pizza. Next, I directed them to cut out their own  toppings, whether it be pepperoni, cheese, pineapple, mushrooms, etc. etc. etc.

Once all the toppings were cut out, I directed the client to write on them words and/or phrases about how they’ve grown over the course of therapy. They can write words that describe them, turning points during therapy, values, and so on.

I also shared with the client my own observations of their personal growth.


Picture source: Huppie Mama

The client then glued their toppings onto their personal pizza. Using the metaphor of the pizza, we talked about how all the components of the pizza (toppings, cheese, sauce, crust, dough) make a unique pizza….just like how all the life experiences, personality traits, values make up one unique individual.

Here is the personal pizza I made with one of my clients:


In bocca al lupo!

*Examples shown are not client work.

Therapy Directive: “All About Me” workbook

Therapy Directive: “All About Me” workbook

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 7.51.56 PMWhen I first started working with children during my Clinical Social Work internship, I wanted to find an intervention that built rapport with the client and was a self-esteem building activity and incorporated art (naturally).

The result was this “All About Me” workbook.

At 11 pages, this workbook contains directives which prompt the client to write and draw about various aspects of themselves.

My favorite part of this workbook is that it is designed to direct the client to think about who they are in the present moment of time. How have they grown? What
are their strengths? What do they like to do for fun? How do they describe their family?

Therapy Type: Individual

Number of sessions: Varies on the client. Generally I’ve done 1-2 pages per session.

Materials Needed:

  • “All About Me” workbook (purchase and download at my Teachers Pay Teachers store)
  • Colored pencils, markers, crayons, etc.
  • Yarn
  • 3-Hole Punch


  • Introducing the workbook to your client
    • When I introduce the workbook, my intent is to focus on building rapport and to increase their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.
    • “[Client], I want to get to know more about you.”
    • “We’re going to make your very own book together. It’s going to be all about you!”
    • “I can already tell you are a unique person, that’s why we’re going to make a special book all about you!”
  • Working on the pages together
    • Direct the client according to each page’s directive. For example, the first page is entitled “This is me!” Ask the client to draw a self-portrait. If you have a client who is focused on their future self, direct them to draw their self-portrait as they are in the present moment. Sometimes I provide a mirror so the client can view their reflection and draw what they see.
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    • Remove all erasers from the art suppliesOne technique I’ve come up with when working with children who have low self-esteem and self-worth is to remove all erasers from the art supplies. The intent of this is to allow the client to flow through their creative process instead of worrying about achieving perfection.
      • “You’ll see there’s no erasers in the room. This is because what you draw the first time is perfect the way it is and you don’t need to erase it.”
      • If you see the client becoming discouraged over a “mistake” they made, encourage them to work through it… “I don’t see a mistake, I see a work of art in the process of creation. How can you work with what you’ve drawn so far?”
    • This is not graded. I had a client whose main source of anxiety was from school. They believed that their grades were a reflection of their self-worth.
      • For example, when a client became distressed if they couldn’t spell a word, I would reassure them: “This isn’t an assignment for school. I’m not going to give you a grade. Remember this is your special book that is all about you.” This became a perfect opportunity for the client to become more self-confident in their ability to write and spell. After a few sessions, the client was writing and spelling words without becoming distressed about whether it was correct or not. Eventually, the client was able to ask for help with their spelling without experiencing anxious distress.
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    • Every page opens the door for further conversation. Take the opportunity to explore more about the client. For example, one page is about the client’s family. This becomes the perfect opportunity to discover how the client perceives their family–both in drawing and in writing.Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 8.25.58 PM
  • Bind the pages together when the book is complete. Use a 3-hole punch to poke holes in the pages. Use yarn to bind the book together. Bam! The client has their very own book that’s all about them.



Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase and download this workbook for your own use.


Worksheet: Writing about feelings…with cars

Worksheet: Writing about feelings…with cars

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 9.59.29 PMI had a client who had a hard time sharing their feelings and loved playing with toy cars.

I made this worksheet specifically for them. (picture at left)

Here’s how it works: give the client the worksheet and direct them to circle the emotion they are currently feeling. Ask them the reason behind this feeling and direct them to write about it.

When the client was done, I had them read what they wrote. The intention behind this was to give them an opportunity to practice communicating verbally their feelings. This then proved to be a perfect gateway to more conversation.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 9.58.55 PMI also created this second worksheet. (picture at right)

I introduced this worksheet when the client was becoming to feel more comfortable talking about their feelings. Notice it uses the following format:

I feel __________ when __________ because ________. I need _________.

This format identifies…

  • the feeling(s) being felt
  • the situation that sparked the feeling(s)
  • why that situation sparked the feeling(s)
  • what is needed from that point (e.g. coping skills)

Like the first worksheet, I provide it to the client and direct them to fill it out. Once completed, they read aloud what they wrote. This opens a door for further conversation.

Eventually, we were able to include additional emotions on this worksheet. In fact, my client added more feelings as they became more comfortable identifying their own feelings!

I’ve also used these worksheets during family therapy with this particular client. The client completed the worksheet and read it to their parent. This opened up a conversation between the client and their parent. Additionally, I coached their parent how to engage in active listening when their child was sharing their feelings.

You can download this worksheet for free on my TeachersPayTeachers store! I’d love to hear about how you use the worksheet for your own interventions.

Therapy Directive: My Anger Book

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 9.08.42 PMTherapy Directive: My Anger Book 

During my work as a Clinical Social Work Intern with children and families, I worked with a kindergartener for anger management skills. It was the first time I worked with a client at that stage of development. I was nervous, anxious, and of course excited! After one session, I found myself wanting a creative workbook to discuss anger with them. So, I created My Anger Book to use during our sessions together.

Here’s how it works: the workbook is separated into four sections. Each counseling session, we completed one or two pages per section.

The first objective was identifying scenarios and situations that made the client angry.


The second section of this anger workbook is focused on somatic symptoms when angry as well as angry actions. I divide this section into 2-3 counseling sessions, depending on the client.

After identifying the scenarios and situations that made the client angry, the next step was exploring the body. When we feel emotions, we often feel them in our body. This is called somatic symptoms. For example, when a person feels anger, they may experience chest pain, sweating, a rise in body temperature, etc.

Why talk about somatic symptoms? Because physical symptoms can inform our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Because physical symptoms can also act as warning signs to our decompensating behavior.

In this section of the anger workbook, the client identifies any somatic symptoms they may experience when they feel angry. Most notably is  a page that features a blank human body template. The client draws on the human body where they experience their anger.

Here is an example:

After the client identifies somatic symptoms, it becomes time to identify angry behaviors, or their actions when they are angry. It is important for the client to be aware of their behaviors, especially if they involve harm towards the self or others. This portion of the workbook incorporates drawing the anger actions.

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Anger is always accompanied by other emotions. This is why I incorporated the Anger Iceberg activity: to explore other emotions the client may be experiencing when they are angry.

I created this portion after seeing a similar iceberg from the Creative Social Worker. That particular iceberg can be found here.

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The last portion of this workbook involves learning and practicing self-soothing skills. It incorporates the Anger Iceberg. The client becomes Captain of the Self-Soothing Sailboat. When the captain spots the anger iceberg, they have four options to choose from to calm down.

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“When you see your anger iceberg, which direction will you steer the ship?”


Check out my TeachersPayTeachers store to purchase this workbook!