Part 3: Preventing and Managing Burnout
In the past two blog posts we’ve looked at the serious topic of burnout in psychologists. It’s serious because there are many people out there that need our help, and if we don’t look after ourselves, then those people are not going to get the help they need and the profession is at risk of losing valuable practitioners.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at tips for preventing and managing burnout. If you’re early in your career, hopefully burnout is a topic that featured in your recent training and your professional supervision. If you’ve advanced a bit further along in your career, then you’ve probably developed a few strategies of your own, maybe before you’ve been burnt out, or by learning the hard way.
In my experience, it’s often a case of learning where your limits are by crossing them. We start out shiny and bubbling with enthusiasm at the beginning of our careers which gets us through much of the stress associated with the job initially. But as time goes on, burnout can stop you in its tracks, especially if you’ve ignored it’s quiet tap on your shoulder for some time with the assumption that “I’ll be right.”
In you haven’t already, check out the previous blog posts on identifying burnout and factors that contribute to burnout. Before we have a look at strategies for managing burnout, take a few moments to think about your own strategies.
Now, let’s have a look at some quick tips for taking care of ourselves to prevent and/or manage burnout as a helping professional:
- Understand the “occupational hazards” of working with psychologically distressed clients
- Know your early warning signs
- Identify and manage those internal and external factors that make you more vulnerable to burnout
- Know and listen to your own limits
- Get supervision from someone you trust and respect on a regular basis (and this may be more regular than the 10 hours included in the CPD requirements), particularly if you have complex or at risk clients
- Walk the talk – eat well, exercise regularly, get enough and good quality sleep, take time for relaxation and fun
- Stay connected – with family, friends and the community at large
- Remember that you’re human too – get professional support and deal with your own “stuff” in personal therapy when required
- Take regular holidays and arrange professional support to manage your caseload while you’re away so you can completely detach
- Manage your daily schedule in such a way as to utilise your energy when it’s strongest. If you’re a morning person, schedule the majority of your “heavy” work for the morning; ensure you have adequate breaks between clients; and don’t schedule clients outside of hours if you know this will negatively impact on your personal resources
- Eat regularly throughout the day rather than relying on caffeine to get you through
- Keep variety in your workload
- Keep perspective through the use of humour, grounding techniques and/or mindfulness and spiritual connection
- Remind yourself of the meaning in the work that you do and the things about the work for which you are grateful so that your satisfaction levels remain positive
- Develop a ritual to help you detach from work when you are leaving for the day
- Remind yourself of what you are doing well and where you are making a difference
Remember that the work that you do is vitally important to your client, their friends and family (whether they know it or not), and the community at large. Every day, you make a positive difference to someone. And every day, you need to make a positive difference to yourself to manage the emotional investment and associated costs of such work. You are doing a great job – you deserve first priority to ensure your good work continues!
Dr Rebecca Ray is a Clinical Psychologist and the founder of Happi Habits, a 12 week program that boosts happiness with scientifically proven positive psychology techniques. You can find the Happi Habits Community here:
More articles by Dr Rebecca Ray on My Health Career:
- Psychologists are human too – burnout – part 2
- Psychologists are human too – let’s talk about burnout – part 1
- The private practice psychologist – wearer of many hats
- Private practice psychology – 10 indicators to help you decide if you should take the leap