A few months ago I noticed those all too familiar signs that I was starting to burnout. Burnout can look different for all of us, but for me I notice increased stress and anxiety, impatience with loved ones, difficulty turning work off after hours, and difficulty sleeping. I do my absolute best to prevent burnout from happening, but despite my good intentions, sometimes I forget to do the things I need to do. The dangerous thing about burnout is that if we don’t do something about it, burnout can affect the care we offer our patients, and secondly affect our own wellbeing.
The most effective way to prevent burnout is to have a well-rounded self-care regimen. Self-care includes emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. The key is finding a way to address all of these areas. It doesn’t have to be something ground breaking. For example it can simply be saying the Serenity Prayer between each patient, or doing a deep breathing exercise on your lunch break. The key is routine, intention, and longevity.
When I noticed my own signs of burnout, I evaluated my self-care regimen and realized I needed to make some changes. First, I needed to cut back on the number of patients I was seeing per week. I also needed to make sure I was able to get to the gym 2-3 times during the week, which meant making sure I could leave work in enough time to get to the gym and pick up my daughter from preschool. There were a few other things I decided to do as well. I decided to cut my caffeine intake in half. Caffeine is a stimulant and will increase anxiety, so I decided it would be worth a shot. The final change I made was to increase the time I spent doing yoga and meditation each day. My hope was that if I committed to practicing yoga and meditation each day for 15 minutes twice a day, I would see a faster reduction in my burnout symptoms.
A month later, I’m feeling much better. I’m feeling more rested, more relaxed, and I’ve created a much healthier work life balance. To be honest, I felt better after just a couple of weeks. I think all of the changes I’ve made have contributed to feeling better. However, I feel that the increase in yoga and meditation and the reduction in caffeine helped the most.
As therapists, it is our ethical responsibility to strive to be the healthiest person we can be. This means continually evaluating our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health in order to best serve our patients.