Some common misconceptions about those of us working in the counseling, mental health, or care provider field is that we have it all together just because we study mental health; surely if we can counsel individuals on stress relief and de-escalation of anxiety then we must be masters of our own stress and anxiety….right? WRONG! Practicing effective coping mechanisms and self-care strategies is just as challenging for counselors and mental health workers as it is for our clients; all the same rules apply. Studies have shown that the best combatant of “counselor burnout” is by developing effective coping strategies. In this study one of the most obvious conclusions was that job demand variables increased counselor burnout while active coping strategies helped reduce job demand variables, thereby helping to decrease the feeling of burnout.
Counselors and Providers alike. who expend too much effort at work while having too little recovery time not only increase levels of burnout and stress but also increase levels of self-distraction, as a coping mechanism, which leads to disengagement. Emotional coping strategies such as venting and humor positively moderate counselor stress and burnout (Sam, Lee, & Sang, 2010). A common piece of advice I will give my clients and fellow colleagues alike is to 1.) keep on seeing the humor in things; life is hard enough and sometimes laughing it of as much as you can will make all the difference. On those days or sometimes weeks where it seems like everything is going wrong try and find that moment when you can allow yourself a little chuckle about how ridiculous it is when these things happen and tell yourself to handle one thing at a time. 2.) Treatyoself! (treat yourself) Yes this is a reference to a episode of a show called “Parks and Recreation, I use this reference a lot because in the episode some of the workers have one big day when they just go out and spoil themselves; this makes one of the workers so happy that he breaks down in tears. We all need days or moments when it is just about us! If you spend most of your time taking care of others without ever rewarding yourself then your proverbial emotional bank will become depleted and lead to anxiety, stress, turmoil, and perhaps depression. 3.) It’s ok to be selfish. Being “selfish” comes with a sort of negative connotation which can make people reluctant or feel that they are not allowed to focus on their own needs and wellbeing if there are others around them in need. If this is you then get ready for what I am about to say…. “I give you permission to be selfish” there is nothing wrong with taking care of when you need emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally first! In fact, the people in your life who depend on you need you to do this. If you are exhausted or get sick because you have worked yourself so hard that your immune system can’t keep up, then how will you be able to help anyone?
If you can take these three pieces of advice and apply them to your daily life then I assure you that your levels of stress will decrease and you will thank yourself for taking time to care for and love yourself…. Do it because you deserve it, do it because the people around you depend on a healthy and happy you.
Sam, L. W., Lee, J., & Sang, M. L. (2010). Job stress, coping strategies, and burnout among abuse-specific counselors. Journal of Employment Counseling, 47(3), 111-122. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/749503870?accountid=2796