Beat Compassion Fatigue: A Guide for Mental Health Workers
Beat Compassion Fatigue: A Guide for Mental Health Workers
Psychology professionals deal with stress, anxiety, and burnout the same as any other profession. Being experts in mental health does offer them some insight and benefits, yes. They should be able to more readily spot signs of burnout and should know all the means to better manage stress and burnout using a variety of effective techniques.
That doesn’t mean you won’t feel pressured working in mental health. It is one of those roles that have a huge impact on another person, and with the pandemic and resulting mental health crisis, the work of mental health professionals has never been more important.
This could lead to many mental health workers putting in more hours and more effort to help people who are in desperate need of it. Even with a regular workday, one complex, emotionally heavy case can take its toll.
You can never put that toll on your patients or clients, which is why improving your own mental health fortitude and support is an absolute must. Those who are old hats in their field will have already developed their own complex support system, but for those just starting out, it can be a whole new world.
Whether you are just starting out on your career and are currently a student, or whether you have taken on your first clinical residency, this guide will help you manage your stress and help avoid compassion fatigue from the outset:
Tips for Students
You may not work just yet, but the same practices that will help you succeed in the workplace and with clients or patients can actually help your days as a student. In fact, mastering these tips while you are still within the bubble of education can significantly improve the quality of your career moving forward.
The best tip, however, is to simply choose the right degree provider and option for you. Explore your options fully so that you know the price differences, learning outcomes, faculty, support options, and also decide whether in-person or online learning is right for you.
For example, if you have responsibilities at home or enjoy a low cost of living where you currently are, moving to a city to attend university can set you back a lot. Rather than look for on-campus opportunities, online bachelor degree programs in psychology can be the perfect fit instead.
On top of ensuring that the degree and the provider in question offer the right level of support, you will also want to:
Have a Productive Learning Space at Home
Update your living space to include a brightly lit working area. This could be a kitchen table, it could be a desk next to a window, but you need it to be solid, easy to organize, and in a productive environment.
Stock Up On Brain-Food
Have healthy snacks and meals on the ready. This could be done by going to the bulk food store, prepping meals, or simply getting rid of unhealthy options. The reason you’ll want to prioritize healthy meals is that this brain food will make it easier to think, absorb information, and, of course, retain what you have learned.
Split Up Work
There are two ways you will want to split up work:
- Split up study materials between you and a study group made up of your peers.
- Split up the hours you work; do a half-hour in the morning, another half-hour for lunch, and then a solid hour to three in the evening.
This will help make the tasks easier and less stressful, which, in turn, will make it easier to learn and memorize key information.
Tips for New Professionals
Additional tips that will help working professionals include:
Finding Your Own Therapist
One tool that every single mental health professional needs are access to their own mental health resources. Having a therapist that you trust and rely on is one of the most powerful tools you can use to help manage your stress and work through difficult periods in your life and in your work. Don’t ever assume that just because you have a background in psychology that you are omnipotent.
There will always be new, outsider perspectives that you haven’t considered, and just talking about your issues to someone who can help guide you through them will offer a massive difference for your stress levels.
Balance Work and Life
Take every vacation day you have available. Don’t do work when you aren’t paid to do your work. It can seem like you are letting others down, but without balancing life with your work, you are overloading yourself and missing out on new life opportunities that, quite frankly, make living worthwhile.
From spending time exploring to spending time with your friends and family, there is no shortage of experiences out there for you. Your work is worthwhile and fulfilling, but you need to have fun and experience joy as well.
Continue Learning, Even Beyond Psychology
While continuing your education in psychology is something that every worthwhile psychologist and mental health worker will do, don’t focus solely on psychology.
Expand. Learn a new skill, read a book about something that has nothing to do with psychology on the surface. This is how you introduce yourself to new patterns and new ways of thinking.
Yes, doing this can help your career, but it can also help your mind and stress levels.
Care for Your Body
Caring for your body and treating it well is one of the best ways you can improve your health and well-being and is a great way to destress and separate home life from work. To do this, focus on wellness routines that feel good.
It could be a physical activity like swimming, or it could be a complex night ritual that involves multiple different face creams and massages. Focusing on your body and treating it with reverence can help ground you, destress you, and help you feel better in your body.
Try it all. Explore. Be silly. Developing the methods and ways you personally feel less stressed and avoid compassion fatigue is the most important step. Some of the advice in this guide will work, but not all will, and figuring out the options that suit you early on in your career is your best way forward.