Therapists dedicate their time and energy to helping others improve their mental health and reach their full potential. This work is very rewarding, but it can also be mentally and emotionally tiring. When you spend all day focusing on others, it’s easy to forget yourself. Self-care is vital for anyone in a helping profession. Neglecting yourself can lead to burnout, which may affect the quality of care you offer to your clients. To thrive both professionally and personally, you need a self-care routine.
The first step toward developing good self-care habits is understanding what self-care means for you. There are many different definitions of self-care. Some therapists define self-care as engaging in practices that rejuvenate or fulfill you. Others define it as regularly self-reflecting and taking action to meet unmet mental health needs.
Some people like to take an entire evening, day, or weekend to dedicate to self-care, and some build smaller self-care habits into their daily routine. You can spend money on products or experiences for self-care, or you can practice it for free. As long as you stay healthy and safe, there is no wrong way to engage in self-care.
Finding and maintaining a self-care routine can be difficult. It may take some time to figure out what you need, but there are plenty of strategies that you can try out to get started. Here are eight self-care tips for therapists:
1. Know If You’re an Introvert or an Extrovert
Introverted people tend to feel refreshed and recharged after spending time alone, and extroverts feel energized by spending time with others. These personality traits are a spectrum, so you may fall somewhere in the middle. Figuring out whether you’re more introverted or extroverted can help you find your ideal form of self-care.
If you’re an introvert, your self-care probably should involve alone time. You may enjoy spending time in nature, reading a favorite book, or simply spending a quiet night in. This doesn’t mean that you never enjoy spending time with others, but you should make sure you get the quality alone time that you need to feel fulfilled.
If you’re an extrovert, your self-care may involve spending time with friends or family, joining a club, or taking a workout class. Extroverts tend to feel better after connecting with others, so spending quality time in social situations can be a great way to practice self-care. Be careful not to overwork yourself with too many activities, though.
2. Add It to Your Schedule
Therapists are used to dedicating their time to others, so you may have a habit of putting yourself at the bottom of your list of priorities. When you get busy with work or personal matters, it might be easy to neglect self-care.
Writing self-care into your schedule can help you stick to it. Instead of having a vague plan that you may follow through with if you have the time, build self-care into your day by blocking it off on your calendar. It may be just one hour in the evening, but adding it to your schedule will encourage you to commit.
3. Have at Least One Hobby
It’s important to have at least one activity that can relieve stress and take your mind off of work. Some people prefer active, social events, and others prefer individual hobbies they can do at home. Here are some ideas:
- Music, art, or writing
- Plants and gardening
- Running, yoga, or other exercise
- Community sports team
- Learning a language
Not only do you need a hobby you enjoy, but you also have to make time for it regularly. Try to participate in your hobby at least once a week.
4. Say No
Therapists pursue the profession because they want to help people. This is incredibly meaningful and fulfilling work, but you cannot let your desire to support others prevent you from taking care of yourself.
Giving yourself permission to say no to things is one of the most important self-care tips for therapists. If you’re already overwhelmed at work, you don’t have to add another client to your caseload. If your friends ask you to go out when you’re truly exhausted, you can decline the invitation.
It can be hard to turn people down when your natural tendency is to give and support. Saying no will help you conserve your mental, emotional, and physical energy so that you can give enough care to your current responsibilities.
5. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Your mental health and your physical health are closely connected. While there is much more to self-care than eating well and exercising, taking care of your physical health can help you feel better mentally and emotionally.
Working out is an especially powerful way to strengthen your mental health. This is time that you can entirely devote to yourself and your own personal goals. Try to find a form of exercise that is physically and mentally engaging enough to take your mind off of work or other stressors.
6. Find Small Moments
Self-care doesn’t have to take up an entire day. While it can be great to dedicate a large block of time to self-care, you can also find small moments throughout the day to lift yourself up.
Listen to your favorite music or podcast on your commute. Disengage from work during your lunch break. Find five minutes during the work day to take some deep breaths. You could even write yourself a note or set reminders on your phone to take a moment for yourself.
Humor can be a powerful coping mechanism for stressful events. There are definitely times when it’s inappropriate for therapists to laugh. However, when you’re in private, finding the humor in a difficult or frustrating situation can help you feel better for at least a moment.
Find the people around you who share a similar style of humor. Laughing with others is one of the most fulfilling human experiences, and sharing a good joke with a friend or colleague can turn your day around.
8. Reach out to Other Therapists
Being a therapist is a social profession, but working with clients isn’t the same as connecting with friends or colleagues. Also, because you adhere to strict privacy laws, you may feel isolated or lonely at work.
Other mental health professionals can relate to how you feel. You could join a support group or connect with therapists through online forums. Although you can’t discuss the details of your job, you can listen, encourage each other, and share resources.
Because everyone has different personalities, values, and priorities, some self-care tips may work better for others than they do for you. Self-care is a personal experience, so it takes time to find the habits and practices that help you feel fulfilled and energized. Once you find what works for you, make it a part of your regular schedule so that your professional and personal life are healthy and sustainable.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy services for seniors. Our counselors specialize in working with older adults who are facing depression, anxiety, grief, stress, and a number of other concerns. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, reach out to us today to learn more about our senior counseling services.