As mental health professionals, you may suggest the importance of self-care to your clients, but do you have a difficult time implementing a practice in your own life? During the last year specifically there’s been an increase in demand for mental health services as individuals are navigating the effects of the pandemic. It’s essential as a counselor, therapist or clinician that you recognize any signs of stress or fatigue and implement self-care into your daily routine.
This may differ from person to person, but look for the following:
- Losing your sense of humor
- Problems developing at home
- Having low or no energy
- Becoming irritated with clients
- Other physical and mental signs of stress include change of appetite, trouble
sleeping, feelings of overwhelm or that things can never seem to go right
Consistently as a mental health professional, you give so much of yourself to your clients. This has every potential to leave you feeling emotionally depleted if there is an absence of other forms of support or self-fulfilling activities. Further, the cumulative stressor of an ongoing pandemic has been a shared trauma experienced by both client and clinician concurrently. This has presented us with an environmental parallel process while engaging with our clients. As such, it becomes increasingly more vital for us, as helpers, to ensure that we find ways in which to enrich our lives outside of session as a way of practicing self-care.
Outside of your career, you’ll want to be sure that your relationships are not “one-way streets.” It may be second nature for you to always listen and always give, but your personal relationships need full participation and commitment from all parties.
Why is practicing self-care important for mental health professionals?
When mental health professionals do not consider their emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing as a priority, their outlook on their careers or the profession itself can change which may lead to severe stress or burnout.
Here are ways to implement talking the talk and walking the walk:
- Join a peer group
- Consider attending counseling
- Create boundaries with clients
- Set office hours (and stick to them!)
- Take vacations/holidays
How can mental health professionals incorporate self-care into their daily practice?
Nurturing your wellbeing looks different for everyone and also may differ in the various stages of your life. Look for moments within your day-to-day to reflect and care for yourself. Make it a part of your routine and non-negotiable on your calendar.
Small acts of daily self-care include:
- Go for a walk
- Meditate, pray or practice mindfulness
- Journal or write down thoughts and feelings as they arise
- Nourish yourself with water, movement/exercise and nutritious foods
- Set priorities on your to-do list ensuring there’s time for yourself
It may feel difficult or selfish at first to make yourself a priority. However, when you take proper care of your wellbeing, you’ll be able to increase the quality of care, impact more lives, and serve your clients better. That starts with taking care of yourself on a consistent, guilt-free daily basis.