Therapists have the best advice to help others practice self-care and positive boundaries. But how often do you practice your own advice? Be honest: how often do you take time for yourself?
It’s no surprise that research indicates mental health professionals frequently suffer from compassion fatigue. Carrying others’ burdens on your shoulders is no small task! But when you’re burned out, you're less able to connect emotionally. Meaning you aren’t bringing your best self to each session. (The version of your starry-eyed-grad-school-student self went through all of that training to bring!)
You’re likely inundated with the mandate to “Take time for yourself!” But, if it were just that easy, we wouldn’t have research suggesting therapists are burning out at unprecedented rates. Would we? You’re managing a business (your practice) on top of the demanding work of practicing therapy. But you do actually have to take time for self-care, so we’ve rounded up a few ideas to help you recharge that take as few as 40 seconds.
5 Self-Care Tips for Therapists
Your daily practice of self-care need not feel like a time-intensive chore. From cracking a smile to getting therapy yourself, we’ve listed out a few quick and easily implementable ideas to point you in the right direction to taking care of you!
Laughter can improve brain health and make you feel better. Really! There is published research supporting this statement. So give yourself permission to laugh, even on tough days. Facetime for 15 minutes with a good friend after work (and DON’T let yourselves talk about work!), or just binge a comedy to de-stress. (We like Seinfeld, the quintessential existential comedy about nothing, and you can watch anytime on Hulu!)
Let’s admit it, we all tend to spend most of our days indoors. Getting outside, even for a few minutes, can help clear your mind. One study suggests that looking at greenery for as few as 40 seconds can improve your ability to focus. Yes, you read that right. Less than a minute!
Consider taking a walk around the block at lunchtime or planning a hike on the weekend. At the very least, snag an indoor plant for when you need a break and can’t get outside. (Food for thought: Love the smell of herbs? Snag a rosemary, basil, or thyme plant at the grocery store so your greenery experience can be full-sensory. See, touch, smell, and taste! Often those plants need a little room to spread their roots, so give it a new home in one you already have or consider a charming new pot like these from Hilton Carter for Target.)
You spend most of your time talking with (and listening to) other people as a therapist. When you’re not working, do you find that you still take on the therapist’s role for your friends and family members? We aren’t judging — once a therapist, always a therapist! But sometimes, you just need a break!
Schedule alone time and protect it. Put it on your calendar (yes, even if it is 15 minutes!) to make it a priority and prevent getting deterred. Do you regularly enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or water in the am to recharge before your day begins? Make this your "solo" time (and don't check your schedule or email during these precious 15 minutes!)
You heard right: you, my therapist friend, need a therapist! Find someone who can help you the way you help others! You know the importance of therapy. Talking to someone outside of your social circle can help you avoid burnout or compassion fatigue. Plus, by working on your own issues, you can improve the care you offer your clients. It’s a win-win.
You spend a LOT of time reading the latest mental health research and journals. Don’t forget that reading can also be fun! Find a good, fun book or magazine article, then set aside six minutes a day to read it. That’s how long it takes to de-stress. We hope it’s a page-turner you can get lost in, but everyone has six minutes!
You spend your days listening to other people’s challenges and guiding them so they can have rewarding and fulfilling lives. But who is taking care of you?
You need to take care of yourself before you can offer your care to anyone else. By practicing self-care, you will be able to have more meaningful relationships with your clients, your friends, and your family.
Of course, reducing your workload is one way to create more time for yourself: for self-care and to share with the people who matter most. Try Therapy Appointment free for 30 days to see how it can streamline your practice and keep you from reaching the point of burnout!