Holiday Self-Care for Behavioral Health Professionals, Part 1: Take Your Own (Expert) Advice

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The holiday season, though hopefully a joyous time of fellowship with friends and family, can instead turn into yet another stressor for already-busy healthcare providers. This especially can be the case for psychiatrists, counselors, and other behavioral health specialists, who frequently remain on-call during the holidays in the event a patient is in crisis. As you assist clients with navigating seasonal stressors, how do you ensure that you do not sacrifice your own mental health needs in the process?

We sat down with Cynthia Clinton, LPC, to discuss the importance of prioritizing self-care and maintaining work-life balance during the holiday season.

Healthcare Provider, Helping Professional…and Human Being, Too.

During your time in practice, you have probably worked with a client (or ten) who needed help coping with stress and anxiety, finance-related anxiety, seasonal depression and grief, or feelings of being overwhelmed. Think back on those sessions and try extending to yourself the same compassionate care and patience you provided each of those clients. Clinton recommends first returning to basic, tried-and-true self-care tactics:

  • Maintain (or increase!) healthy behaviors, like engaging in regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet. Physical and emotional health are inextricably linked, and many people are quick to discontinue exercise when life gets busier around the holidays. Mental health specialists are not immune from that tendency, she warns, especially when patient loads increase.
  • Specifically schedule time for yourself each day. Whether you use it for journaling, meditation, yoga, or simply peace and quiet, carve out at least 15 minutes a couple times per day to just “be,” without focusing on the needs and demands of patients, children, or bosses. “Give yourself permission to take a short break away from everyone else, even family, to re-center yourself,” Clinton recommends.
  • Set boundaries on your thoughts and leave work at work. Though easier said than done, particularly when a rough case tugs at your heartstrings, you “simply cannot solve everybody’s problems,” Clinton said. “Yes, people are hurting, and it can be hard to stave off your own guilt when you feel compelled to ‘do more.’ But leave those burdens at the office where they belong and be present for yourself and with your family. Only when you adequately care for yourself can you truly provide the best support for your clients.”
  • Use—and cherish— your support network…Stressful though it can be, try to take a step back and enjoy the holiday season for what it is: an opportunity to celebrate with those closest to you. Take time to go see Christmas lights with your children, attend a holiday event with the whole family, volunteer with your church, or plan a special outing with your significant other.
  • …and encourage clients to engage theirs, too. “There will be times when you cannot carry the load for a patient who relies on you as their only source of support,” Clinton said. “Encourage them to access some additional resources and activities to help them satisfy their needs without specifically relying on you for everything. This can be anything from community or religious groups to a new hobby or self-improvement goal, but get them plugged in to additional supports.”

On behalf of everyone here at Consilium, we would like to thank our partnering behavioral health professionals and wish you a wonderful and fulfilling holiday season. You provide necessary mental health care with each assignment you take on, and we are grateful that you trust us to connect you with the next great opportunity to make a difference.

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