I’m a Psychotherapist—Here Are My 5 Keys to Letting Stress Go
If you count tending to others and listening among your responsibilities, you might benefit from this doctor's ideas for managing burnout and tension day to day.
Got therapy? Lately, the growing answer to that question is an emphatic Yes, with research firm Statista reporting that the percentage of Americans who’d received psychotherapeutic counseling increasing 55% between 2002 and 2021. Thanks to the increased interest in psychotherapy—especially in light of the stress the pandemic caused—some authorities suggest the coming years are likely to see a shortage of therapists…which is perhaps one of the few disadvantages of this trend.
As more individuals recognize the need to manage stress, process trauma, and talk through challenges we face in work and our professional lives, many therapists are finding it likewise necessary to ratchet up the ways we take care of ourselves. When your job is to make space for others to process through struggle and heal—and complete the work that’s necessary to effectively manage your practice (and fulfill your role as a parent who works, in the case of myself and many others!)—it is essential to take steps to stay feeling spiritually light and come back replenished to work every day.
Every April during Stress Awareness Month, I take a conscious inventory of my own self-care strategies, keeping in mind that I can’t be at my best for others unless I’m taking care of myself first! Here are my best practices for getting into a good space, even when the day feels heavy.
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Ways this psychotherapist manages stress
Engage in meaningful work
The time we spend working often takes us away from other things that bring us joy. The truth is, it wears on all of us to think that we may be spending more time in connection with our coworkers than even our families. As often as you can remember to do so, recognize: Yes—your personal sacrifices provide you with what you need to survive—but also, consider how your work translates to the difference you make in the world.
Burnout is a key problem facing our workforce today, but you’re less likely to experience burnout if you enjoy, and feel connected to, the work you do. Often at my job, I feel so connected to and proud of the work we do improving access to mental health care that it doesn’t seem like work at all!
However, I am careful to make sure I disconnect at the end of the day so I can be present with my family when I’m not at work.
Spend time with family and friends
It’s important to spend time with those who are important to you. As we emerge from the pandemic (when we were often disconnected from friends, family, and other loved ones), it’s important to reconnect. Even if you can’t physically be present with each other, a key to managing stress is to set aside time each week to video conference with friends and family.
Get fresh air
It might just be that I live in Nebraska and it’s been a long winter, but I’ve always found that getting outside and doing something enjoyable helps me fill my cup! Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, walking my son in his push-along sports car, or sitting in a rocking chair and taking in the sights and sounds…a little time outdoors is so good for the soul! (In fact, Spending This Much Time Outside Each Day Could Actually Lengthen Your Life.)
Keep a gratitude journal
We all know there is plenty of negativity in the world around us. I find it particularly helpful to focus on the positives by keeping a gratitude journal. This requires me to sift through the noise, zoom out from the daily minutiae, and focus on what I’m grateful for each day. Being intentional to think about what I’m grateful for improves my overall outlook and centers me.
From time to time, it’s also nice to flip through the journal and reflect on all of the things that I have to be grateful for on a tough day.
Go to therapy
I wouldn’t be a good psychologist if I didn’t practice what I preach. Regardless of what is happening in your life, it is wonderful to have a non-partial, confidential sounding board. While my therapist has helped me through the toughest times in my life, she has also helped me focus on and celebrate the best times of my life. Therapy is really such a gift to give yourself!