Preventing Burnout Among Mental Health and Addiction Professionals Preventing Burnout Among Mental Health and Addiction Professionals

Mental health and addiction professionals are at a high risk of burnout or compassion fatigue. This can happen when people don't take care of themselves and experience secondary traumatic stress because of those they are helping. It can lead to feelings of exhaustion, cynical attitudes about work, and a sense that no matter what you are doing you aren't making a difference.

Secondary stress exposure can increase your risk of compassion fatigue, but preventing burnout by way of practicing self-care, building your resilience, and applying healthy coping mechanisms can increase your satisfaction in the work you do and your overall well-being. 

Preventing Burnout as a Mental Health and Addiction Professional

Supervision is often a critical part of preventing burnout because everyone is at risk for it as a therapist or mental health professional. you can set yourself the task of supervising those with whom you work while they might supervise you in exchange.

Part of that supervision and seeking support can be prioritizing breaks no matter how busy you are. Use break time to step outside and get fresh air, journal, do yoga, stretch, meditate, or simply sit when you've been on your feet all day.

If you have trouble prioritizing self-care, preventing burnout might include seeking support in these activities, finding a colleague who will take breaks with you on a regular basis or who will regularly meet you for a daily or weekly lunch session. When you are held accountable to someone else for things like relaxation or healthy meals, you might be more likely to set it as a priority.

Self-Care Practices

Too often mental health and addiction specialists forget to use the exact same things that they encourage clients to use. Self-care practices are equally important for those who provide assistance to those in need. Trauma and mental health struggles can be put on the mental shoulders of those providing services and treatment if self-care practices aren't used.

Some examples of self-care practices include:

  • Learning to say 'no'
  • Nurturing your personal relationships
  • Taking care of your physical well-being with exercise
  • Eating healthy meals
  • Taking intentional breaks only for relaxation
  • Cultivating enjoyable hobbies
  • Regularly checking in

The biggest self-care practice should be prioritizing self-care. You need to know that preventing burnout will not happen on its own and it's up to you to recognize that you cannot help your clients navigate their emotional and physical well-being if you don't take care of yourself first.

Finding a Work-Life Balance

Equally important is finding a work-life balance. there will always be another person to help, another program to teach, or another phone call to make but that doesn't mean that you should burn yourself out by trying to do everything. What matters most is that you are able to put your best effort into the smaller tasks on which you focus, not poor effort into everything.

Finding work-life balance can be especially challenging for younger professionals or those who are new to their fields. and it can take many forms. finding a work-life balance can look like:

  • Turning off your work phone when you are no longer in the office
  • Going home at a set time every day
  • Limiting yourself to a set number of hours each week
  • Setting aside a specific night or day to take off with your family
  • Prioritizing things like meals or game nights with those closest to you
  • Finding activities with people outside of work so that the conversation doesn't only steer toward work

It's good to engage in restful activities that do not necessarily only involve people with whom you work. As a mental health or addiction professional, it can be tempting to relax after work with your colleagues or take a break over the weekend with coworkers, but that has a high risk of only encouraging burnout by setting you up for situations where all of your socialization revolves around work and work-related issues. 

Making time to involve yourself in community activities, church groups, or other friends with whom you do not work can be much more beneficial in giving yourself an emotional and physical break.

Seeking Support at Parkdale Recovery

If you continue to practice despite working with self-care practices and finding that work-life balance, seeking support should be your next step. Parkdale Recovery is a drug rehab for professionals that was founded with the purpose of providing addiction treatment to people with high-stress careers. Contact us today!

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