Tag Archives: Self Care

Self Care for Enhancing Well-being

calmI’m in my second year of practicum placement and I feel really burned out. What can I do to keep going in this career without constantly feeling depleted by my work with clients?

This blog continues the topic of self care, which I introduced with suggestions about work habits. We’ll look at additional strategies for self care to enhance physical, mental and emotional well being. As I mentioned before, I recommend that you choose one or two small steps to try out first, see if they are helpful, modify them if necessary, then build on those after you have had some success. It may seem as though making drastic changes is necessary, but it is easier to start with something small. You are more likely to be successful and less likely to feel discouraged by the enormity of what you are taking on. Remember you can always start again if you slip back into old habits.

We’ll start by looking at physical health and well-being. This is an area that is easy to neglect especially with the pressure of classes and practicum or internship training. However, neglecting your physical health will take a toll on your mental and emotional health as well. Examine how you are caring for your basic needs for nutrition, movement and rest. Small changes in eating, exercise and sleep habits can yield significant benefits. I find that paying attention to my body’s signals results in being more productive since I’m bringing more resources to bear on my work.

Being in graduate school is a time for developing the mind. You are gaining knowledge and putting a lot of attention to your intellectual growth. This may mean that your mind is working at maximum capacity and you may find it hard to shift out of a preoccupation with your thoughts and ideas. Introducing a mindfulness practice may be helpful in balancing your mental energy. Meditation, progressive relaxation, stress reduction, and guided visualization are all readily available in online formats if taking a class isn’t feasible in your schedule. If doing a structured mindfulness practice doesn’t fit for you right now, simply spending time in nature is a great alternative.

Your emotional equilibrium will continue to be challenged as you progress through your training. Supportive relationships are the most helpful resource for building and restoring your emotional reserves. Personal psychotherapy gives you a chance to talk confidentially about the emotions that are triggered by your clients as well as your academic courses, trainings and supervision. Supportive relationships with peers and mentors in the field can help you share some of the experiences common to clinicians. In addition, strive to maintain and establish supportive personal relationships both individually and in community. It is important to engage in relationships and activities unrelated to the mental health field to provide perspective and balance.

It may seem like a big task to attend to these three areas of your health, but you can choose one activity that serves several functions. For example, following a YouTube yoga instruction will move your body and still your mind. Sharing a healthy meal or going on a hike with a good friend will meet your physical and emotional needs. In addition, any change you make that improves your health in one area will help in other areas because our physical, mental and emotional well-being are interconnected.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful in sustaining and improving your health in all aspects. Please email me with comments, questions or suggestions for future blog topics.

Self Care in Work Habits

Iimg-article-are-you-too-stressed-out’m in my second year of practicum placement and I feel really burned out. What can I do to keep going in this career without constantly feeling depleted by my work with clients?

Your concern is a universal one for clinicians. We tend to enter this field with a predisposition for caregiving others and neglecting ourselves. The emotional demands of doing psychotherapy with highly distressed individuals and families are intense and most of us reach the limits of our previously developed coping strategies during our training. This is a good time to create new routines and habits that will serve you throughout your career.

In this blog, I will suggest some general strategies that will help to build your emotional reserves and detach in a healthy way from the intensity of clinical work. The next blog will address more specific ways to attend to your physical, mental and emotional health. I recommend that you choose one or two small steps to try out first, see if they are helpful, modify them if necessary, then build on those after you have had some success. You will probably find it hard in the beginning to give attention to yourself, as you go against longstanding patterns. Be gentle with your expectations and remember that you can always start again if you slip back into old habits.

It will be easier to sustain your physical and emotional energy if you build in breaks for yourself, both on a daily basis and throughout the training year. Look at your daily routine and schedule one or two breaks if you have a full day at your placement. Use your break to eat a meal or snack, take a walk, read or watch something unrelated to your work, or talk to a colleague. Turning your attention away from your work for a period of 15 minutes to an hour will enable you to be more engaged when you return to it. If you have classes and clinical work in the same day, give yourself some transition time in addition to your commute.

Another aspect of your routine to examine is the structure of your day. It is helpful to alternate more and less demanding tasks throughout the day. Consider taking an hour to work on paperwork or do some research into resources for a particular client to break up your client hours. If you have several particularly complex or challenging clients, schedule them on different days or at different times of the day so you have other work or less challenging clients between them.

Clinicians often have a very hard time taking a vacation from clinical work. Because of our pattern of caregiving, we often feel as though we must be available at all times. We don’t feel comfortable having someone else provide coverage. However, we cannot maintain our own equilibrium if we never take a break to restore ourselves. Throughout the training year, take vacation time as it is permitted at your agency and have a colleague provide coverage for your clients so you can be free of responsibility and preoccupation. It is tempting to check voice mail or email when you’re away from the office but you will benefit more from your time off if you fully detach. Keep in mind that taking a vacation means being away from the office and not having any client contact for at least a week. Taking short periods of a few long weekends will not allow you to truly rebuild your reserves and return feeling restored.

I hope you can use these tips for developing some work habits that counter your feelings of depletion. The next blog will continue on this topic, addressing specific ways to care for your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Please email me with comments, questions or suggestions for future blog topics.