Author: Madeline Weber
Self care is not a required practice in many jobs. It is a personal responsibility that can easily be overlooked, yet have a major impact. When we aren’t self-caring, we can experience fatigue, lowered productivity, lowered capacity for empathy, and less presence with clients. This is the beginning of a road to impairment.
Many times, the effects of burnout will compound with the emotions we are likely to feel during times of stress, such as guilt, shame, disappointment, and fear. These will interact and further the weight of burnout.
There are things we can do in our daily professional and personal lives to counteract the slow and invasive symptoms of burnout. While we can’t always rely on self care being incorporated into our daily practice naturally, we can create a self-care plan!
This will involve authentic conversations with yourself and a nonjudgmental attitude toward your current coping strategies.
There are 6 aspects of self care that we can consider:
To start, we will identify the healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms that we use for each aspect of self care. When burnout begins to occur, it is likely that one of our personal needs is not being met. We create on-the-go coping mechanisms that feel like they are relieving our stress or burnout, but are actually contributing to it. An example of this is week-night drinking. If our idea of relaxing is having one or two drinks at night, we might feel like we are more relaxed in the moment, but drinking is proven to reduce the quality of sleep substantially, leading to further fatigue (Kenny et al., 2013).
Once we have created a list of new, healthy coping mechanisms, we will evaluate what current behaviors or obstacles are in our way that might prevent us from being able to proactively self-care. If we discover that some changes are necessary, we can begin to set new boundaries in interpersonal relationships, working hours, or structured times and methods of communication with clients.
The key to self-care is setting yourself up for success through proactive planning and authentic self check-ins. Prioritizing yourself as a clinician, will benefit you professionally and personally, as well as benefiting your clients by making sure you are showing up as your best self.
Kenney, S. R., Lac, A., LaBrie, J. W., Hummer, J. F., & Pham, A. (2013). Mental health, sleep quality, drinking motives, and alcohol-related consequences: a path-analytic model. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(6), 841-851.