There is no doubt that this ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, impacting us in different ways: physically, emotionally, socially and behaviorally. This is especially true for mental health professionals.

Mental health practitioners are not only helping clients cope with stress, anxiety and massive losses related to the pandemic, they’re also helping them process their needs and situations as they relate to social, racial and political unrest, which continue to influence their symptoms.

All these factors can be overwhelming to mental health professionals, who are likely struggling with their own similar challenges while also providing support for their clients.

With so many clients having so many needs, mental health providers have less time to engage in self-care. As a result, many mental health professionals are recognizing symptoms of burnout.

Which leads me to the main topic of this blog post: Self-care.

We hear about self-care all the time. Many of us may think we practice self-care to some extent every day. But do we truly practice self-care as we should, especially during periods of stress?

To do so, let’s identify what self-care means. Self-care is defined as the practice of taking a good care of our well-being and happiness on several levels, such as physical, emotional and social.

Ethically, it is highly recommended that counselors practice self-care to nourish their wellness. That way, they are more likely to connect with their clients, be more attentive to their needs, and less likely to cause clinical errors or violate boundaries.

Self-care can include many positive and fun activities. Examples include having an adequate sleep each night, consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and spending time with family and friends—even if it’s done virtually, it can still count.

Self-care can also include relaxing activities, like meditation or yoga, playing with a pet, doing art, reading a book, and so much more. It can also include anything that’s positive and healthy for your mind, body, heart and spirit.

Personally, I think the most fundamental part of self-care is setting limits and using assertiveness to maintain healthy boundaries.  While it is difficult for those of us in the helping professions, sometimes we need to say “no” in order to maintain our own mental health. This might mean rescheduling or declining obligations if you feel you are too burned out to accommodate something else in your schedule. This is a part of balancing professional and personal life commitments.

Finally, it’s important for psychotherapists and mental health counselors to monitor their well-being and actively incorporate self-care activities into their daily lives.

An employee assistance program is a good way to explore possible self-care techniques. If you have an FEI EAP, please reach out to your EAP Services Center for mental health counseling and referrals.