Would it surprise you to know that studies have shown burn out to be very common in
therapists? One study in particular, published by the British Psychological Society even showed that when burn out happens, therapists are most likely to blame themselves.
As a life coach, mindfulness and yoga teacher, you’d think I’d know exactly what to do. Today, maybe, but a few years ago I was in complete denial. My business was successful; I had close and supportive family and friends and I was financially secure; but something wasn’t right. Every day was a struggle; I was overwhelmed by other people’s pain. I began to dread appointments and I was incapable of making even the simplest decision.
I told myself if I meditated more, exercised more, journaled more, slept more – everything would be fine. It wasn’t, and it was only when I accepted what was happening and asked for help that I began to recover.
How do you know you’re heading for burn out?
Symptoms can include emotional detachment, exhaustion, withdrawal, frequent illness, irritability and feelings of being overwhelmed. If you drag yourself out of bed, dread your appointments and no longer want to spend time with your friends or family, something isn’t right.
So what can you do?
Sit down with a pen and paper and write a list of the things that nourish you and the things that drain you. This exercise prompted me to make some major changes. I dropped one of my most popular therapies, cut my working hours and changed the number of classes I was teaching. I shifted the focus of my life coaching practice to contentment. I made space between my clients: it was only 15 minutes, but it was space to breathe. I eat lunch! I walk my dogs and I’ve stopped booking clients into spaces I’d set aside for other things.
Self-care is never selfish
We know self-care isn’t selfish, but do we practice it? Take care of yourself first, and you will be in a much better position to care for other people. I take time every day to do something that nourishes me – creative activities are great for this (as long as you let go of the need to be good).
Be kind to yourself. It is ok not to be ok. Sometimes the most nurturing thing you can do for yourself is to lie on the floor and do absolutely nothing for a few minutes.
Boundaries are important. Set your working hours and stick to them, schedule self-care and switch off your electronics – a digital day off is wonderful and the world will still be there when you reconnect. It is ok to say no – you can’t help everyone and trying to will only make you resentful.
Routine is your friend – create morning and evening rituals that set you up for the day
and allow you to wind down at night.
So … stop! Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you starting to resent the people around you? Do you feel like everything is your fault? Make time for self-care, set boundaries and do something every day that nourishes you. Talk to someone, admit that something isn’t right. You are too important not to!
Content originally published in Holistic Therapist Magazine, Issue 27