No one -- no one -- has a bottomless well of empathy or emotional resources. When your professional life is dedicated to helping clients address significant challenges, trauma, victimization, violence, exploitation, and addiction, the well can start to run dry. Therapist burnout affects between 21% and 61%, to some extent.
How can you avoid burnout and ensure you have the resources you need to continue delivering high-quality services with compassion?
Therapist Burnout Warning Signs
Burnout can “sneak up” on practitioners. Awareness is critical in staving off feelings of distress. Do you:
- Have difficulty eating, sleeping, or concentrating?
- Isolate yourself?
- Work too much?
- Experience less enjoyment in your work?
- Feel bored, irritated, or disinterested in clients?
- Cope with other stressors (e.g., relationships, illness, finances, etc.)?
- Feel drained after seeing certain clients or at the end of your day?
- Neglect your health -- physical, mental, and emotional?
- Feel anxious, depressed, and/or agitated?
- Have generalized physical complaints (aches, headache, etc.)?
Reaping the Benefits of Self Care
If you notice signs of imminent burnout -- or even if you don’t -- it is critical that you practice self care. We are so accustomed to caring for others that we often neglect ourselves. This is a recipe for burnout. Self care is essential, and it is continuous. Make time and space to:
- Take regularly scheduled breaks -- every day. Throughout the day! Even five minutes of breathing or meditation can work wonders.
- Take vacations.
- Step away from work. Don’t bring it with you on vacations or outings.
- Enjoy hobbies.
- Eat well.
- Participate in your own therapy, if you think it might help.
Take time, each day, to engage in activities that bring you joy, quiet, and relaxation. It’s “you time.” Self care can be as simple as taking a warm bath in the evening, treating yourself to a massage, practicing yoga, walking in nature, playing with your children or pets, painting, gardening … the list goes on and on. What is right, and restful, for you?
No one has a bottomless well of resources. But through the benefits of self care, you can replenish your well daily and ensure you deliver quality services with empathy, compassion -- and passion.