Why Self Care Is So Important When Working In Mental Health And Behavioral Health Services

As a mental health provider, you have made a career of caring for others in need. You also know the importance of self-care for your patients. With that said, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize and address your own need for self-care. However, neglecting oneself can increase stress and compromise wellness. As with any career, behavioral health service providers can suffer from long hours and challenging days. After all, you shoulder the struggles of patients by listening to their stories and helping them cope.

What is self-care though? According to the Oxford dictionary, self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

This active role in taking care of oneself is so important, national therapy and counseling services include it in their regulations. For example, the 2014 American Counselors Association’s Code of Ethics recommends, “Counselors engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities.”

If this isn’t convincing enough, self-care keeps you in practice — as mental and/or physical burnout can get in the way of the services you provide. It can also affect your personal life, as stress can wear the body down (including the immune system) and cause physical illness to manifest.

Here are some strategies for handling self-care:

Make wellness a daily priority.
Exercise and eating right can be the first step in self-care. Exercise has been known to help reduce stress through the release of endorphins. Eating well can help you maintain energy throughout the day, while also warding off illnesses that stress can bring on. Simple exercises like walking or stretching between sessions or doing yoga before or after your workday can create a lasting impact.

Practice mindfulness.
Make mindfulness a priority — daily or on a schedule that works for you. Meditation, reflection, deep breathing exercises and/or time to yourself, however you prefer to spend your period of mindfulness, can help you process trauma and work through your stress. Your mental health can develop resilience through mindfulness. When you practice mindfulness, you’ll help your mind cope with the struggles it encounters each day, enabling you to practice appropriate professional compassion.

Value experiences.
Sometimes having a work-life balance can be difficult. But, when you aren’t working, are you really living? There are always responsibilities outside of the office, but this can continue to feel like work. Give yourself a break (and something to look forward to) by treating yourself to fun and new experiences, such as planning a weekend getaway, going to a concert, or simply trying a new local restaurant in your free time.

Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981. Every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time. Pathways of Pennsylvania is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc.