While learning how to assist others manage their mental health, have you stopped to think about how you tend to your own?
As a psychologist, prioritising self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout is essential. Working as a psychologist comes with significant mental and emotional demands, and we must take extra steps to care for ourselves. But what are the best self-care strategies for psychologists? Here is a summary of some key strategies to manage your self-care:
Practice emotional regulation: Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and improve emotional regulation. Mindfulness can be effective in reducing symptoms of burnout, anxiety and depression. Implementing it at the beginning and end of a workday can help to keep you centred and ward off any stress before transitioning back to your personal life.
Prioritise self-compassion: Self-compassion involves being kind and understanding towards oneself during difficult times. Are you treating yourself as well as you treat others? Having a job that focuses on others' needs, it can feel unnatural to check in with yourself and ask, "What is it that I need today? How can I show myself some grace?" Do you find that you put unnecessary pressure on yourself to perform, whether professionally or in your personal life? Practice self-compassion and ensure you are not holding unrelenting standards of yourself.
Engage in physical activity: Regular physical activity can reduce burnout symptoms and improves overall wellbeing. As we teach our clients, it's one of the best natural anti-depressants! Engaging in regular physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing.
Seek supervision: Supervision can provide a supportive environment to reflect on your work and receive guidance and feedback. Working as a psychologist can be isolating, as it is relatively independent. Engaging in supervision ensures that you have someone as a sounding board and helps you feel less alone when navigating trickier clients. It will also help you build your skills and competence to practice.
Connect with others: Building supportive relationships with colleagues and other psychologists. Sometimes talking to people who 'just get it' is validating. Regular peer supervision, or networking with other psychologists, is a great way to feel connected.
Take time for yourself: Psychologists should set boundaries around their work activities and make time for leisure. Engaging in activities that bring joy and pleasure can help to reduce stress and create balance. What is it that you are doing just for fun? Ensure you are still finding time to connect with the things you value outside your career.
Set Boundaries: Are you adequately maintaining boundaries both in your professional and personal life? If you are someone whose 'helper mode' extends to their personal lives, you may need to take extra precautions to ensure you have healthy boundaries in your relationships. Exerting all your energy tending to others' problems may put you at risk of compassion fatigue and burnout. At work, you need to consider whether you are maintaining appropriate boundaries with your clients. Maintaining boundaries is important to safeguard both you and the client's wellbeing. Be mindful of your boundaries around session duration, communicating outside of session time, and even the mental load you take home at the end of the day.
Self-care is an essential component of a healthy work-life balance for psychologists. It is beneficial not only for you but for your clients. When we are well, we are more likely to be practising competently and ethically. It is important to note that self-care strategies that work for one person may not work for another, and finding what works best for you is important. If you struggle to manage your self-care, consider contacting your supervisor or therapist for support. I have an upcoming group supervision topic on self-care for psychologists. If you are interested in joining this, please click here.