Combatting the Pandemic Burnout in Mental Health Providers

Abbey Williams

Forbes recently published an article titled, “We Need To Talk About Another Pandemic Mental Health Crisis: Therapist Burnout,” and oh boy, were therapists near and far nodding and shouting, “oh do we ever.”

Mental health from children to college students to parents to frontline workers and everyone in between has been a big topic of concern throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. With symptoms of anxiety, depression, addiction, and other stress related conditions rapidly increasing more and more demand for services also increases. This need for services on clinicians and mental health providers who are also going through this pandemic and their own mental health stressors have left therapists burnout more than ever before.

The burnout in the mental health profession is not a new concern, but the increased need and increased stress on therapists is an issue that needs some attention indeed.

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So what are some things therapists can do to prevent burnout?

1. Therapy

Utilizing a space such as supervision or your own therapy to drain off from the stressors this pandemic, life in general, or the collective trauma you are working through is so beneficial and necessary. Therapists are trained and educated in mental health conditions, coping skills, and self-regulating techniques, just to name a few, but that does not make therapists immune struggling. Tap into the help and resources you know are available.

2. Commit to Moving Your Body

Movement helps individuals to complete the stress cycle. When our brain is triggered and in a state of “fight or flight” movement can assist in moving one to a state of regulation. Our emotions can often impact our movements, i.e. not wanting to workout when we are not feeling well, but likewise, our movements can impact our emotions, i.e. working out decreases feelings of sadness, stress, and anxiety. Committing to moving your body can be as simple as going for a walk, doing yoga in your home, or can be a bigger commitment such as joining a class or a gym. Find what fits into your lifestyle and get moving.

3. Get Serious About Your Self-Care Plan

What do you do for self-care? Do you even remember what self-care is? We stress the importance of self-care to our clients, but are you practicing what you preach? If you aren’t, you aren’t alone.

Here are some ideas:

  • Read a book
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Color
  • Do a puzzle
  • Get a massage
  • Get your nails done
  • Get your hair done
  • Go for a drive
  • Allow yourself to rest
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Sleep
  • Fishing
  • Cooking/Baking
  • Connect with nature – get outside
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4. Meeting Your Needs

While it may be a common problem of meeting others needs and putting your own on the backburner, it is not a healthy problem. Prioritize your needs. Meal planning can help with sustaining yourself with proper nutrition, hydrate, and get serious about good sleep. It is hard to want to engage with others after being on for so many people throughout the week, but be sure not to isolate yourself from your family and friends. They can help refill your cup, lean into your support system. Schedule breaks, plan a trip, and set clear expectations for yourself on how and when you will flip off from work. Make a list of the needs that help you feel good and be good, and take steps to ensure you meet them.

5. Boundaries

Therapists need loving and healthy boundaries without a pandemic. Add a pandemic to the mix and it is vital to get serious about being intentional with your time and your well-being. Setting boundaries in various settings of your life can help you rest and recharge to avoid burnout.

  • Screen-time: Setting boundaries around screen time during an especially high stress time is important to preserve your peace. Limit doom scrolling by setting limits for yourself. Limit the amount of news or media you are consuming. Gather the information you need from a source that is reliable and unplug. Create a feed that serves you rather than drains your energy. The unfollow, mute, and block buttons can be an asset. Scroll with intention accounts that make your feel good, educate you, and give purpose to your life and eliminate the accounts that do the opposite. You can to control what and how much you consume.
  • Work: Schedule your work. Schedule what times you see client’s, catch up on paperwork, and the other tasks you need to complete. Leave work at work and turn off your work phone or emails when you go home if you are not on-call. It’s ok to turn off and turn on the other parts of your life.
  • Relationships: During this time it might be important to set boundaries around free therapy with your friends and family. We are not and cannot be their therapist. Ethically speaking, but also as a support person. It is ok to not be available to everyone all the time. Again, protecting your peace is important. Be clear about what you can and cannot put on your plate at this time.

It is important to get intentional with your time, space, and energy as we settle into this collective burnout. There are so many individuals that are relying on the mental health profession that we have to take care of ourselves so we can fight the burnout.

Schedule a therapy appointment, commit to moving your body, practice self-care, prioritize your needs, and create boundaries around screen time, work, and your relationships. Gain control of your life back and continue to thrive in a profession that needs you and that you are meant to do.

And if no one has told you lately, you are doing an amazing job. As therapists, I do not think we get enough praise or positive feedback. Send an email to a fellow clinician and let them know they are doing great and that you appreciate that place in the profession. You may be surprised just how good filling someone else’s bucket makes you feel.

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Abbey Williams is the producer and host of the Mimosas with Moms Podcast, content creator of the social media platforms @mimosaswithmoms, and mother of 4. She is committed to supporting, empowering, and connecting with mothers in all seasons of motherhood. She navigates her blended family/coparenting life with her husband, four kids, and two sister labs.

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