As a mental health professional, you can play a critical role in the wellbeing of your clients. This can result in stress. When you devote so much time and energy to caring for others, it can be easy to forget about your own needs. That doesn’t have to happen!
Self-care is vital for everyone. However, it’s particularly important for mental health professionals like yourself. You have a relatively high pressure job that can often be emotionally draining. If you don’t attend to your own mental and emotional health needs, your ability to serve your clients will be limited.
Seeing a mental health professional yourself is typically the best way to ensure you are prioritizing self-care. Other self-care tips mental health professionals should keep in mind include the following. You may even consider suggesting these same tips to your clients if you discover they have a positive impact on your wellness:
Maintain your physical health
The quality of your physical health directly contributes to the quality of your mental and emotional wellness. Unfortunately, it is far too common for busy mental health professionals to neglect their fitness and nutritional needs.
This does not have to happen to you. Ways to ensure you remain physically healthy include the following:
- Regularly seeing your doctor for checkups
- Promptly seeking any treatments your doctor recommends
- Eating well and staying hydrated
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
Some mental health professionals believe it is prohibitively difficult to maintain their physical health when they have packed schedules. This is understandable. That said, those who do make a point of staying physically healthy find that they are able to work more efficiently and effectively as a result.
Take time off
Finding time for a vacation as a mental health professional can be challenging. This is particularly true if you have your own practice. When you have a number of clients who rely on you, letting them all know that you will be unavailable for a week or so can be a daunting task.
Don’t let that stop you from taking vacations. Research has consistently shown that professionals across all industries and fields benefit significantly from taking time away from work.
Some therapists and mental health professionals are reluctant to take vacations because they worry that doing so is selfish. They want to be available to their clients whenever those clients are in need.
Don’t fall prey to this misconception. Taking a vacation is actually a selfless act on the part of a mental health professional. If you give yourself time to step away from work, when you return, you will be better equipped to serve your clients properly.
That’s not to say you need to take two weeks off at a time. This might not always be an option if numerous clients rely on you. However, even mini-vacations and weekend trips can provide a helpful break. If you schedule them for the same time of year every year, you will also find it’s easier to prepare your clients ahead of time when you know you are taking a vacation soon.
Pay attention to what you enjoy
Many lists of self-care tips recommend engaging in pleasant activities on a consistent basis.
This is good advice. If your job is stressful at times, you need to give yourself a break by participating in activities that bring joy.
Just keep in mind that the activities you find enjoyable may not be the same that others enjoy. Too often, lists of self-care tips expand upon the recommendation that a reader focus on enjoyable activities by suggesting which specific activities they should try.
When this happens, what started as good advice can actually become harmful. For example, an article on self-care might recommend that you take up painting to deal with the stress of work.
Some people may find that this activity genuinely helps them relax and recuperate. However, not everyone will feel the same way. Perhaps you will discover that painting does little to reduce your stress levels. It might even result in greater stress if painting doesn’t come easily to you.
You shouldn’t feel the need to stick with an activity simply because a list of self-care tips recommended it. What’s far more important is that you pay attention to your own interests and your own levels of enjoyment when engaging in various activities. Your goal is to identify those activities which you find most rewarding. Once you know what they are, find ways to fit them into your weekly schedule.
That’s a major point to remember. Knowing what your preferred hobbies are is just one step. Taking advantage of those hobbies can only happen if you make them priorities.
Consider this when thinking of ways to leverage the suggestions here in your own daily life. What’s most important is that you actually apply these tips. Mental health professionals who claim to understand the importance of self-care often read about the topic without taking any action.
Avoid this mistake. Once more, you might think that you must always put the needs of your clients before your own. Consistently remind yourself that this mentality is actually harmful for both yourself and your clients in the long run. By emphasizing self-care, you will optimize your ability to help your clients navigate their own life challenges.
It’s also wise to consider this final point: learning to prioritize self-care in a way that allows you to still care for your clients takes time. You might accidentally sabotage your own efforts if you judge yourself for not striking the perfect balance between self-care and client-care immediately. On the other hand, if you apply these tips and learn through trial and error, over time, self-care will come naturally.