Caring for your patients BEGINS at caring for yourself. Here’s a brief guide to behavioral healthcare provider self care.
In a previous career, I was an Aircraft Rescue Firefighter. One of the most significant lessons we were taught in academy was, “Don’t become part of the emergency.” We needed to take care of ourselves: hydrate, stay fit, check and maintain our equipment, learn to communicate clearly, etc., so that, in the heat of the moment, we didn’t become an additional emergency in the middle of the larger situation. Everyone benefitted, including us, if we took care of ourselves ahead of time and along the way.
As a behavioral healthcare provider, you play an extraordinary and vital role in the lives of your clients, offering support, guidance, and treatment for a wide range of mental and emotional health concerns. Your dedication to your work is truly admirable, and your commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others is deeply inspiring.
I can imagine that from time-to-time you may feel your work go unnoticed or worry that it’s not having its intended effect, but I know one thing for a fact: it has a profound impact on the lives of those you serve. Many of us at Mend have a story that demonstrates the immensely positive effect your expertise and compassion have on us and those you serve. Whether it’s a family member who has overcome addiction, a friend who has learned to manage anxiety, or a child who has found solace in therapy, your work has touched countless lives and made a lasting difference.
The constant exposure to Emotional Labor, however, can take a toll on your own well-being and professional effectiveness.
Emotional labor refers to the process of managing one’s emotions to meet organizational or interpersonal demands. In the context of behavioral healthcare, emotional labor involves displaying empathy, compassion, and understanding while maintaining composure and professionalism despite facing challenging situations.
The constant exposure to emotional labor can have a profound impact on behavioral healthcare professionals. It can lead to emotional exhaustion, burnout, compassion fatigue, and even secondary trauma. These challenges can affect your physical and mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Recognizing the Signs of Emotional Labor
It may take a little bit of work to be aware of the signs of emotional labor and exhaustion so that you can take steps to address them. Some common signs include:
I know you know this already. These are likely symptoms you help manage on a fairly frequent basis. But my concern is this: does your pile of work ever get in the way of seeing your own struggles? You’re human, too. So while I know you don’t need the education, perhaps this could serve as a reminder.
Behavioral healthcare provider self care is essential for managing emotional labor and maintaining your effectiveness as a behavioral healthcare professional. Here are some strategies to consider:
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, here are some helpful resources that you may find beneficial:
The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion: https://centerformsc.org/
The Mindful Self-Care Workbook: https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Self-Compassion-Workbook-Yourself-Strength-ebook/dp/B07FJQ8WS1
The Emotion Regulation Toolkit: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Emotion-Regulation/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_28%3AEmotion+Regulation
The demanding nature of behavioral healthcare often leads to emotional labor, which can have a profound impact on your well-being and effectiveness. Emotional exhaustion, burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma are just a few of the potential consequences of prolonged exposure to emotional labor. These challenges can affect physical and mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
Therefore, it is crucial for you, as a behavioral healthcare professional, to prioritize self-care and actively manage your emotional labor. By engaging in self-care practices, such as exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques, you can promote your physical and mental well-being. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, can enhance self-awareness and emotional regulation skills. Seeking professional support when needed is also essential for managing emotional labor. Building a supportive network of colleagues, friends, and family members can provide understanding and encouragement. Advocating for workplace support, such as flexible work arrangements and access to wellness resources, can further enhance the well-being of behavioral healthcare professionals.
Remember, behavioral healthcare professionals play an extraordinary role in society, offering support, guidance, and treatment to those in need. By prioritizing your own well-being, you can continue to make a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals while maintaining your own health and happiness.
About The Author
David Henderson, Director of Marketing at Mend, is passionate about ensuring that not only patients, but providers, too, benefit from mental wellness. Thank you, providers, for all that you do — it really is making a difference. If you ever need some encouragement, email him directly:
and he’ll brighten your day.