I know I am not stating anything other than the obvious when I say that our country is facing a mental health crisis. In the 20+ years that I have been seeing patients, I have never seen so many people suffering and in need of mental health services like I have since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
How COVID Is Affecting Practices
For those of us in practice, this could mean many things. For some, it could mean the fear and uncertainty of their own financial stability as they start to lose patients who can either no longer afford therapy or no longer have insurance to cover it due to their own job losses.
For others, it could mean quite the opposite in that they may be busier than ever before, with what seems like endless calls for appointments. While initially welcoming and embracing this change, after some time, trying to fit in too many patients and be fully present and effective as therapist hour after hour can start to take a toll. Especially if the patients are coming in with high levels of stress.
The Toll the Changes in Practices Have on the Therapist
Whether someone’s practice is having an effect on them right now because they’re worried about it surviving all of this or because they’re worried about making sure everyone else is surviving all of this, nobody is just a therapist in practice. Each and every therapist is also just like everyone else: human. They are living in and experiencing the same pandemic that each of their patients is. The same uncertainties, fears, unknowns, and changes. No therapist is immune to mental illness. Sometimes depression and anxiety aren’t just something they treat in a therapy session.
Any therapist working in a practice right who is reading this needs to really think about if they are taking the time to address their own mental health and well-being. With so many demands and stressors in their practice as well as outside of it, self-care can so easily fall to the wayside. However, it is nothing short of necessary right now. There is just no way to continue taking care of others unless you are taking care of yourself first. And, yet sometimes it so difficult to try and figure out just what to do and when to fit it in.
So, to make it a bit easier, here is a list of 5 self-care activities to try to promote work-life balance and overall well-being :
Network with other colleagues
Not in person, of course!
- Join an online Facebook group. There are so many that have very active members, discussions, challenges, and live videos.
- LinkedIn could also be another way to find another way to connect with like-minded professionals. Message someone who looks like they could be a possible co-author for a book, webinar, etc..
- Check out MeetUp.com for professional groups that are meeting on-line. Join in on an event that gets you excited or looks interesting.
Whatever the choice, the point is to add some variety and to connect with people other than patients during the workday.
What’s better than putting on your favorite tunes?
- Feeling energetic? Why not dance around the house while cleaning. Sometimes the broom or vacuum can be the best dance partner.
- Got kids? Have an impromptu dance party.
- Just feeling more in the mood to relax? Get in a comfy spot, close your eyes, and just listen.
- Maybe it’s just the end of the week and nothing goes better with a glass of wine than your new playlist.
Get off the couch!
Whether sitting all day on an actual couch in an office face to face with people or across the screen from people providing virtual sessions, our bodies are just not meant to sit hour after hour. We are meant to move.
- In between sessions, get up. Stretch. Walk around.
- When the therapist hat is off, there is a whole world out there. Mask and social distance it as you try and find somewhere beautiful to walk, hike or bike ride.
- Try out an APP. Sure the gyms are closed. But there are so many APPS available now to help get anyone moving: yoga, stretching, walking. Moderate exercise helps our moods, so why not try one out?
Back To The Basics
- Water-stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Food-eat so you feel emotionally and physically better after you are done eating than before you at ate. Don’t go longer than 4 hours between eating.
- Sleep-keep consistent bed and wake times, getting, on average 7 hours a night.
I find that therapists are the best at helping others to engage in self-care by promoting all of the above, but aren’t always the best at engaging in them themselves.
Have some fun!
Ok, this pandemic puts a lot of barriers in place. And lots of things can feel out of control and stressful. But find something that can bring some joy to life each and every day.
- A happy hour Facetime call with a best friend from college
- Plan a Netflix Movie watch party
- Grab the kids and camp out in the backyard
Doing anything that can bring a feeling of anticipation and excitement is key. Something well-deserved to look forward to at the end of a long, hard workday.
For all the therapists out there, please take care of yourselves. You’re doing a lot of hard work during a very hard time. Thank you for all you do.
To view other articles on self-care check out the following links.
Cristina Castagnini, Ph.D., CEDS, is a licensed psychologist and is recognized as a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP). She graduated with honors, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from The University of California, Santa Cruz, her Master’s Degree in clinical psychology (with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy) from Pepperdine University and her doctoral degree in counseling psychology at the University of Southern California. Find out more here.