5 Ways Mental Health Professionals Can Practice Self-Care
Do you burn the candle at both ends, whispering to yourself that serving clients is the priority? Maybe you feel duty-bound, always compelled to say yes? Do you place others before yourself at work and home?
Ask yourself this question…
How would you advise a client who answered yes to these questions, driving themselves and their health into the ground while doing so?
Except you, as a therapist, carry additional responsibility; you are accountable for your clients’ mental health. This comes with an ethical duty to stand in your strength. To lead by example and remain robust in your professional capacity.
The extended stress associated with the pandemic has placed a considerable psychological strain on the general population. Worry, anxiety, depression, suicide; your expertise is greatly needed.
With this in mind, self-care is not a luxury for therapists. It is an unquestionable necessity. You must maintain ample reserves to be of service and avoid burn-out. And, as you offer your much-needed skills, you deserve to stay happy, healthy, and abundant too.
So, how can you practice self-care in a stress-fueled world?
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1. Go “back to basics”
As Maslow described, there is an ascending order of security required to fulfill our needs. We must ensure the stability of each foundation before we progress. At times of great stress, it helps to focus on the footings.
Ensure your physiological needs are met.
Just as your employees need access to vital services and opportunities while at work, so do you.
- Eat restorative foods that nourish body and mind
- Drink sufficient water
- Rest well
- Enjoy fresh air
- Immerse yourself in nature
- Exercise regularly
- Prioritize sleep
- Remember that physical touch and sex are not luxuries; they are an essential part of the human experience
Ensure your psychological needs are met.
Love, belonging, and safety are essential for well-being. But in the hubbub of modern life and meeting what we deem to be our home and professional responsibilities, we can place our mental health last, even though we know this is unhealthy on an intellectual level. Instead, recognize that (and act like) you matter too. You do!
- Monitor your own stress levels and emotional well-being
- Ensure your home acts and feels like a sanctuary
- Ask for a hug when you need one
- Take several deep breaths in and out. Surrender the monkey chatter and be present in the moment
- Take time to build meaningful relationships
- Take time to engage with experiences you love
2. Seek professional support
Caring for clients can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. Even with the best self-care practices, stress can linger and accrue. Whether to work on a specific issue or debrief, therapists need professional support too!
This is especially so in our pandemic world. You deserve the care, comfort, and expertise that you provide to others. As you know, this can quell stress, alter perception and improve quality of life. The effects are manifold; you will be more present, conscious, calm, and effective in your home, work, and personal life.
3. Schedule time to unwind
Do you run from ‘go’ to ‘whoa’ with little time in between?
Often, we get caught up in the ‘doing’ and forget that we are each, in fact, a human being. It’s the being that brings us into the body and into our lives. But we must treat this knowledge as the gold it is; we must schedule and stick to timetabled leisure!
Wonderful options include:
- Mindful breathing
- Reading a good book
- Enjoying a long soak in a warm bath
- Sipping on green or Chamomile tea
- A much-needed nap
- Acupressure, massage or reflexology
- Walking through a garden, along the beach, into a forest
- Instigating the giggles by watching your favorite comedy or YouTube clip
4. Practice self-compassion
How much compassion do you extend to others? Likely bucket loads.
Now, how much tenderhearted mercy do you offer yourself?
The human experience is challenging, particularly when under duress. We all err. We are unable to be present for everyone all of the time. We can be less than empathetic, present, kind. Go easy on yourself. You cannot be all things to all people and always act nobly. Neither can anyone else.
Plus, when you practice self-compassion, you become a way-shower for others, including your clients.
5. Maintain a structured schedule
Setting a schedule helps you plan your days… To set appointments for clients, your loved ones, and self-care… To plainly see when you would have overextended and make different, healthier decisions… To stick to a balanced and restorative schedule.
Structure is an underutilized tool that aids focus and productivity while reducing stress and guilt.
- Set appointments and stick to them
- Opt for a scheduling tool
- Use handouts or PDFs to provide the valuable information that you often repeat
- Harness the power of simple technology to diminish time spent on professional tasks vastly
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Determine the usual time required for tasks. With this in mind, set a schedule you can stick to in an order that makes sense for you. While this may seem like overkill, you will regain much-needed time and sanity by increasing efficiency.
Consider how long it takes to:
- Dress and prepare for the day
- Drop the kids off at school
- Create delicious meals
Take note of your daily routine; brainstorm. Now, set a schedule and give it a whirl. What works and what doesn’t? What’s important to you and what isn’t? Ask yourself, “what could I offload or do in a more efficient way?” Rejig until you find the best fit for you.
As a mental health professional, you hold an ethical requirement for self-care. You are an example to those you care for; be a shining light. More than this, though, you deserve a fulfilling, flourishing life.
Returning to basics, receiving professional support, enjoying time to unwind, maintaining a structured schedule, and showering yourself with abundant self-compassion; are the things that will help you to achieve both. Because your work matters, and so do you!
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