The routine of a therapist involves frequent exposure to stress and trauma, and without proper time dedicated to relaxation and decompression, therapists can carry these stressful feelings with them, leading to burnout.
They shut down mentally and emotionally, so self-care is critical for maintaining well-being, which is why we’ve included some self-care strategies for therapists below.
Why Therapists Need To Practice Self-Care
Therapists who don’t take time to care for their emotional and physical well-being can suffer from severe burnout. Self-care improves well-being, which in turn improves the level of care you can provide a client.
Practicing psychotherapy has many rewards, but the daily stresses of the job can take their toll.
Self-care is so important for therapists that it’s even recommended by the ACA Code of Ethics: “Counselors [should] engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being”.
Self-Care Strategies For Therapists
Self-care needs to target your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Identify The Things You Enjoy
Self-care is a personal matter. Before you can incorporate self-care successfully into your life, you need to identify the activities that make you feel good. From here, you can build a self-care plan that works for you.
Find hobbies that are both relaxing and mentally engaging. This will help you detach fully from work.
Schedule Breaks Throughout The Day
Self-care should be practiced regularly so that it becomes a habit. While you might not be able to carve out much time during a busy working day, small self-care breaks can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Don’t just think about taking a break—write it on your schedule.
During these breaks, step back completely from work. If you tend to find yourself staring at your screens, then consider disengaging from social media as well. A few minutes of meditation or stretching can help you feel relaxed.
Step Back From Work At The End Of The Day
It’s all too easy to take work home with you. Even if you shut down the computer and close your notebook, thoughts about work end up lurking in the background of personal time. Without knowing it, work worries become a part of your home life.
At the end of a working day, try and fit in an activity that takes you completely out of the working headspace. A brisk walk, time spent preparing a meal, finishing a crossword puzzle—there are many ways to shift from work mode to private time.
Get Enough Sleep
Fatigue can exacerbate feelings of burnout, as well as erode the level of care we’re capable of providing. A healthy sleep pattern is an essential tenet of self-care.
Practice good sleep hygiene, including unplugging electronics at least 30 minutes before your bedtime. Give yourself a set bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends. During the day, spend time in natural light.
Spend Time Outdoors
The job of a therapist involves a lot of sitting around indoors. There’s very little you can do to avoid this. What you can do is make an effort in your free time to get up, move around, and experience the outdoors.
During the day-to-day routine, try to get up and move around the office between clients. Take breaks outside the office and aim to get outdoors for a brief walk in the morning or evening.
On the weekends, leave the electronics behind and spend some time with nature.
Even when you can’t get outdoors, make sure to engage in physical activity. Some quick stretches in the office can be a great help.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, healthy eating can often fly out the window. Instead of taking the time to prepare nutritious meals, it’s easy to resort to snacking at the desk.
But our physical well-being affects our emotional well-being. Meal planning can help you keep up a healthy diet during a busy week.
And make sure to drink plenty of water. Good hydration helps us perform at our physical and mental peaks.
Make Time For Relationships
Some “me time” is an important part of self-care, but you also want to avoid isolation. Isolation can exacerbate stress, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy.
At work, stay in contact with a network of therapists. A peer support group can help you recognize signs of burnout and find solutions. In addition, hearing that others are experiencing the same issues as you can feel validating.
Outside work, make time for friends and family. Spending time with people who care about us can boost our self-worth.
Learn To Say “No”
Overworking yourself benefits no one. Your client care will deteriorate, your relationships will begin to suffer, and you’ll damage your own well-being.
Stay on top of your schedule and learn to say “no” when you’re at your capacity.
While we all understand the importance of self-care, actually incorporating it into our daily life is difficult. However, it’s worth making the effort. Start with small changes and gradually build a healthier way of living.