Therapy is designed to help individuals better manage a given problem, from depression to anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship issues, career concerns, eating disorders, mid-life crises, and so on. Sometimes it takes months or years of therapy for an individual to break real ground and progress in a promising direction—but at others, a simple piece of advice resonates with patients and helps them immensely. Here are five pieces of advice therapists shared with their clients that proved to do just that:

1) Treat yourself.

Emily Jones, Operations Manager at Onno T-Shirt Company, says she learned about the importance of self-care from her therapists: “I’m a divorcee and single parent. When I was going through the breakup of my marriage, I was exhausted, tapped out, and completely neglectful of myself due to caring for my addict spouse for 11 years and being the sole caretaker of our three children. I worked with a fantastic therapist and she gave me one piece of advice I’ll never forget. In fact, I now tell everyone I know who is going through a rough patch to do this simple exercise: write down 40-50 activities that make you happy, that are just for you. Then commit to doing one thing on your list every single day, being mindful of the joy that it brings you and claiming that time (even if it’s 5 minutes!) just for yourself. I’ve been doing my one thing for a solid year now, and it’s become a habit I will probably continue forever, no matter my circumstances.”

2) Don’t take life too seriously.

“I think that the best advice I’ve ever received from a therapist was to remember to let go from time to time,” says Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. “Although I’m still totally unaware of what this actually means, I’ve learned to not take life too seriously all the time—something I’m guilty of more often than not. This won’t really make sense to you unless you really try to understand what’s causing you to feel stress or uneasiness, but being able to take your mind off all the responsibilities we’re faced with on a daily basis is a great way to remember that you can unwind and build up your strength again without the risk of having everything derail completely.”

3) Take a simpler approach.

Hollis Heavenrich-Jones of Lincolnwood, IL received life-changing advice from a therapist after her friends bailed on plans for a year-long trip through Europe. Hollis had quit her job, thrown everything in storage, and moved back home to prepare for the trip. “I went to see a therapist who was also a family friend. We talked for a while about what I should do, how I could plan, whether I had the courage to do the trip on my own, etc. Finally, she told me she thought I was making the whole thing too big in my head. She pointed out that the trip didn’t have to be for a certain number of months or years—that I should take it one step at a time. She advised me to plan to go; maybe find a group to start with and see how it went. If things were going well, I could stay, and if not, I could come home. So simple, yet at the same time it lifted a tremendous weight off my shoulders. The trip didn’t have to be life-changing or years in the making. It just needed to be a trip. I could determine the parameters around it—both physically and emotionally. I ended up living in Barcelona for close to three years and ultimately, working at the Barcelona Olympics. It did end up being a life-changing adventure, but the therapist’s wise words were the real catalyst that got me going.”

4) It’s not always about you.

Zach Ager, healthcare strategy consultant and adviser to Focusmate, says the best advice he’s ever received from a therapist is, “don’t immediately conclude a conflict is about you. Before you react, stop to consider alternate explanations for another’s unexpected actions or statements. Did someone just cut them off in traffic? Is today the anniversary of a loss too painful to speak about? Are they anxious or distracted by a loved one’s health? Do you remind them of someone who once harmed them? We all have more going on beneath the surface, so every relationship will be easier if you assume there’s relevant information you may never know. Often the things that have the greatest impact are those which are the most traumatic to talk about—so, by definition, we usually won’t know.”

5) The past does not dictate your future.

“Some of the best advice I was ever given while I was a client at CAST was that my past, and all the baggage that came with it, did not have to dictate the trajectory of my life, unless I allowed it to,” says Michael Arndt, Resident Advisor at CAST Centers. “That I did not have to continue being a victim of what had happened to me before entering treatment. That was such a powerful thing for me to hear; it helped me shift my perspective on what I was struggling with. It was a message of empowerment and of taking responsibility for myself and my actions from that day forward. I believe it was one of the most important turning points I had on the road to recovery.”

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