Prioritising one’s wellness – particularly when it comes to mental health – is extremely important. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup, and when it comes to caring for others, we must also be able to take care of ourselves. That way, we can ensure that we always show up as our best selves, both for ourselves and the people around us. This is especially true for mental healthcare professionals. Choosing to pursue a profession in the field of mental health support can be challenging in many ways, but especially, it can be emotionally taxing.
Being exposed to the hardships that clients experience and share with their therapists can take its toll. So, to prioritise your mental health and general well-being as a counsellor, it is vital to develop self-care tools which can assist with lessening the emotional burden of carrying the trauma of our clients. The best way to develop these self-care techniques is to undertake the study of relevant industry qualifications. Doing this ensures that future mental healthcare professionals are well-equipped, and sufficiently prepared for this challenging yet rewarding career path. There are also other holistic self-care methods to practice, as outlined in this article.
Prioritising All Aspects of Your Personal Health and Wellbeing: Mental, Emotional, and Physical
As well as using self-care tools to maintain and regulate your mental and emotional well-being, it is also just as important to prioritise your physical health. It can certainly be said that staying physically healthy is intrinsically linked to one’s mental state, and a holistic approach to looking after your health is recommended to ensure you can both perform, and enjoy life, to optimal capacity. Looking after your physical well-being can involve ensuring that your diet is healthy, balanced, and nutritious, as well as also making sure that you are doing sufficient exercise – which in turn, increases endorphins and serotonin production, and aids in lessening feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Developing Self-Care Tools: Filling Your Own Cup to Enable You to Also Care for Others
While undertaking your counselling master’s degree or elected tertiary equivalent road to becoming a counsellor, many of the tools you will learn to pass on to your clients can also be applied to yourself. Of course, mental healthcare professionals need to set up adequate boundaries, as well as develop the necessary self-care tools to look after themselves and their mental health while also caring for clients. But what are the best tools to look after one’s mental well-being – especially when exposed to trauma? Just read on to learn more.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – also known as CBT – is a type of psychotherapy that teaches patients to identify, acknowledge and challenge negative thoughts and behaviours, and to overcome them with more positive and constructive ways of thinking and behaving.
The first and most important step in undertaking Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is to become aware of the negative or self-destructive thoughts you are having. Importantly, a patient who is new to CBT may not even be aware that they have an internalised voice that leans towards negative self-talk. Once this has been identified, the next step is to actively transform these thoughts by questioning and challenging their rationality. For example, a mental healthcare worker may be having a particularly hard day at work and may turn to catastrophising their situation by saying that they are terrible at their job. An excellent way to challenge this using CBT would be to remind oneself that actually, your work as a counsellor is extremely important and that you help many clients get through difficult situations in life.
Meditation and Mindfulness
The positive impacts of practising meditation and mindfulness strategies have been well documented, especially in caring for one’s mental health and well-being. Mindfulness – which involves actively being present in the current moment (rather than dwelling on the past, or even feeling stressed about the future) – is known to be especially helpful, Indeed, just the practice of slowing down and being present and mindful can do wonders to an individual’s mental state, and can aid in reducing stress, easing depression, as well as assist with the practice of expressing gratitude for one’s blessings in life.
Positive Affirmations and Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journaling and the use of positive affirmations can also be of great help in cultivating and maintaining a healthy mental state. Importantly, these practices acknowledge that being happy sometimes requires work, and they both involve actively rewiring the brain to think positively. Expressing gratitude is a fantastic way to do this, although it admittedly can be quite challenging when times are dark. Importantly, the practice of expressing gratitude encourages the mind to seek out the blessings that the individual does have access to – be that family, friends, social connections, job satisfaction, fulfilment, or even something as simple as the sunshine on a warm day.
Needless to say, the role of a counsellor can be challenging. It takes a strong and resilient, yet caring personality to be a mental healthcare professional, and this particular career choice can take its emotional toll on the individual at times. As such, counsellors, therapists, psychologists, and other mental healthcare workers must prioritise their health and wellness at all times, to be able to provide the care and support their clients need, and also ensure they are showing up as their best selves – both for their clients and for themselves.