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Last Updated on May 15, 2023 by Randy Withers, LCMHC
Mental health professionals help others navigate life’s most challenging paths, but they have personal journeys too. People often forget that self-care for these professionals is just as important as their patient’s self-care.
This guide explains more about why it’s so crucial and which tools experts can use to prevent the burnout that happens after periods without self-care.
What Is Self-Care for Mental Health Professionals?
Supporting clients and patients through problems like depression, low self-esteem and unhealthy relationships can add emotional weight that even the most renowned experts have to carry. It’s important for mental health professionals to be honest with themselves about their own needs. If you are burnt out, you are no good to your clients.
Why Is Self-Care for Mental Health Professionals Important?
A recent study found that 67% of trained mental health experts struggle with a diagnosed condition like anxiety or depression. Understanding how the mind works doesn’t make anyone immune to conditions that become worse with workplace burnout.
The emotional toll of supporting people during challenging times intensifies any expert’s mental health condition. Helping others drains a person’s energy and leaves them feeling exhausted. It happens to everyone, so it’s never a sign of weakness or unprofessionalism.
Still, many people choose to push through their burnout rather than address it. When burnout gets to fester, the increased stress leads to health complications like high blood pressure, circulation problems, weight gain and even an increase in back pain.
Benefits of Reducing Burnout
Preventing burnout with healthy coping mechanisms will improve any mental health professional’s personal well-being and how they’re able to help others. They’ll immediately experience positive effects such as:
- More natural energy
- A positive mindset
- A better outlook on life
Strategies that promote self-care for mental health professionals can also reduce the severity of health conditions that were a result of burnout alongside prescribed treatments or therapies.
Tools to Prevent Burnout
These are some of the best tools to prevent burnout, especially for mental health professionals. They’re easy to fit into busy schedules and customizable to every person’s unique burnout symptoms.
1. Read Books About Burnout
Many people become more invested in their self-care after studying it more closely. Reading books on the subject of burnout could reveal what specifically triggers each reader’s symptoms and how to best address them.
Look into reading some of the most recent books about the subject, like:
- “Exhaustion: A History” by Anna K Schaffner
- “The Weariness of the Self” by Alain Ehrenberg
- “Non-Stop Inertia” by Ivor Southwood
- “Hikikomori: Adolescence Without End” by Saito Tamaki
- “Against Nature (À Rebours)” by JK Huysmans
Diving into topics like feeling exhausted or overwhelmed is an excellent first step in self-care. The books will also provide unique tools to investigate the cause of each person’s burnout and recommend self-care activities.
2. Use Self-Care Apps
Anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a reader can try self-care apps. They approach burnout in different ways, so each one will present a new experience. Download free apps that are popular with people striving for better self-care, like:
- Stretch Timer
- Aloe Bud
Trying the various approaches to self-care that each app suggests could help each user experiment with different solutions. Getting better sleep, setting up reminders for healthy habits or simply stretching every day could be what mental health professionals need to get started on their wellness journey.
“Just because you take breaks doesn’t mean you’re broken.”Curtis Tyrone Jones
3. Reevaluate Daily Schedules
Many mental health professionals manage their time well. It’s easy to navigate daily routines when every patient sets up an appointment. How those experts balance their time outside of their professional schedules could result in burnout.
Focusing on work too much will reduce how much time anyone spends on their well-being. Separating those parts of anyone’s life takes practice. Reducing, eliminating and preventing burnout starts with efforts like:
- Leaving work at work
- Avoiding conversations about work at home
- Reserving even 10 minutes of time for relaxing hobbies
- Staying flexible about time delegation
- Looking at time as a personal investment
When balancing time becomes easier, burnout will become a thing of the past. It’ll become easier to notice when exhaustion or depression starts cropping up again because it will disrupt the self-care for mental health professionals that already exists.
Types of Self-Care and Burnout Prevention
There are many types of self-care anyone can use while preventing burnout. Along with the previous three tools, consider trying these self-care variations to see what works best.
Physical Health Care
The first thing that helps many people feel better is improving their physical health. Consider eating a more well-rounded diet by swapping processed foods for whole, organic meals. Walk a few times each week and get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
Sometimes burnout gets worse when someone’s body isn’t healthy enough to maintain its vital functions. Easy steps like these will give anyone the strength they need to maintain their mental health.
Mental Health Care
There’s also the mental wellness aspect of self-care. Scheduling personal therapy in-person or online is an excellent way to unravel burnout. There are also simple at-home tricks like leisure reading and journaling negative thoughts instead of ruminating on them.
Emotional Health Care
Emotional weight can require efforts apart from improving physical or mental wellness routines. Positive affirmations immediately address negativity and make healthier thoughts a habit. Releasing emotions can also vent burnout symptoms, so don’t be afraid to cry.
Combining these tricks with efforts like journaling or working alongside an app will make emotional wellness much easier for anyone who needs a helping hand.
Spiritual Health Care
Even people who don’t consider themselves religious have a spiritual side. It has to do with a person’s values and inherent beliefs about themselves, humanity and the universe. Writing personal values and reflecting on them is only one way to embrace this type of self-care.
Mental health professionals can also practice being okay with not knowing everything about themselves or the world. Patients expect mental health experts to have all the answers, but nobody does. Letting go of that expectation can help someone work through burnout more freely.
Investing in spiritual health care and beliefs establishes a foundation that becomes a grounding point during times of stress. Feeling untethered may make burnout worse because there’s no sense of identity to act as a starting point for healing.
When to Create Self-Care Plans
It’s best to make self-care plans when loneliness, exhaustion or stress make life seem unenjoyable or unending. Seek help when necessary and never be afraid of trying something new. Experimenting with self-care plans is the best way to find effective solutions and feel permanently better.
Preventing burnout takes time, practice and experimentation. There is no one-time solution for such a complicated condition.
Mental health professionals can all use these tools to improve their mental health and establish a self-care routine that works long-term. By doing so, they improve their own quality of life and all but guarantee they will be able to continue to provide high quality and much-needed services to their community.