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The importance of self-care for mental health professionals


Date: 10/04/23

Author Name: Sareem Athar

Qualifications: BA (Psychology, Mass communication & Journalism, Literature), MSc Clinical Psychology, Diploma in Child Psychology

Designation: Former Admin Head, ACRO Mental Health & Wellness.

Word count: 725 words.

Reading time: 5 Minutes

Reviewed & edited by: Mariyam Mohammed & Ayesha Begum



It is our responsibility as mental health professionals to help those who require it by offering them support, direction, and care (1,2). However, we must put our own self-care first in order to accomplish this effectively (3). Self-care is crucial for our own well-being, and we must be sure to look after ourselves in the same way that we look after our clients (4). We will discuss the value of self-care for mental health professionals in this blog post and how it can enhance the level of care we offer to our patients.


The Importance of Self-Care


We take part in self-care practices and behaviors to keep our physical, emotional, and mental health in check (5). This may entail behaviors like getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, and scheduling time for personal renewal (6,7). Self-care is important for mental health professionals because it not only keeps us from burning out but also makes it easier for us to handle the stress and demands of our work (8).


Mental health professionals need to be able to manage their stress well because we frequently come into contact with our patient's emotional and psychological stress(9). We might go through emotional exhaustion and burnout if we don't prioritize our needs first (10). Burnout can have a negative impact on the level of care we provide to our patients because it is a state of protracted stress-related emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion (11).


Self-care can help mental health professionals maintain their health and concentration in addition to reducing stress and avoiding burnout (12,13). In order to better manage our own mental health and be more present and involved with our clients, it is important for us to prioritize our own self-care (14,15). This can then result in better outcomes for our clients as we are better able to give them the care and support they require (16,17).


Practical Tips for Practising Self-Care


Finding the self-care methods that work best for you can be difficult because there are so many different ways to practice self-care(18). Some practical tips for practicing self-care include:


establishing boundaries: As mental health professionals, we frequently feel obligated to be accessible to our patients at all times. However, it's important to set boundaries and make time for ourselves outside of work hours. This can aid in recharging and avoiding burnout (19,20)).


Physical activity: Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health. It can also reduce stress and lift our spirits (21,22).


Getting enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for both our physical and mental well-being, so it's crucial to ensure that we do (23,24).


Taking breaks: We can stay focused and recharged by taking regular breaks throughout the day. Stretching for a short while or taking a quick walk can have a significant impact (25,26).


Finding support: Having a network of people to lean on, including friends, family, and coworkers, is crucial(27). Having people to talk to and lean on can help us manage stress and prevent burnout (28).


The Role of Self-Care in Mental Health Treatment


The importance of self-care extends beyond mental health professionals to our patients as well (29). By engaging in self-care, we set an example for our clients and can motivate them to put self-care first (28). Self-care can also be a significant component of mental health treatment (29). Self-care activities can assist our clients in managing their own stress and enhancing their mental health (30).


Finally, it should be noted that our clients also value self-care (31); this is true for both mental health professionals and their patients. By prioritising our own self-care, we set an example for our clients and can motivate them to do the same (32).


The American Psychological Association (APA) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), among other professional associations, also acknowledge the significance of self-care for those who work in the field of mental health(33). These organisations offer guidelines and suggestions for self-care techniques that mental health professionals can use to stay well-rested and avoid burnout.


For instance, the APA suggests getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and taking part in enjoyable activities, like hobbies or spending time with loved ones (34). The NASW stresses the value of asking for help and guidance from peers and co-workers, practising mindfulness and stress-reduction methods, and conducting routine self-reflection and assessment (35,36).




REFERENCES


(1)World Health Organization. Mental health: strengthening our response. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response.


(2)American Psychological Association. Practicing self-care. https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/self-care


(3)Cohen-Katz J, Wiley SD, Capuano T, Baker DM, Shapiro S. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on nurse stress and burnout: A qualitative and quantitative study. Part III. Holist Nurs Pract. 2005;19(2):78-86.


(4)World Health Organization. Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice: report of the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the University of Melbourne. World Health Organization; 2004.


(5)Keng S-L, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2011;31(6):1041-56.


(6)American Psychological Association. Practice guidelines regarding psychologists' involvement in pharmacological issues. Am Psychol. 2002;57(12):1175-94.


(7)Maslach C, Schaufeli WB, Leiter MP. Job burnout. Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:397-422.


(8)Bakker AB, Demerouti E. The job demands-resources model: state of the art. J Manag Psychol. 2007;22(3):309-28.


(9)West CP, Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt TD. Physician burnout: contributors, consequences and solutions. J Intern Med. 2018;283(6):516-29.


(10)Mayer JD, Salovey P. What is emotional intelligence? In: Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence: Educational Implications. Basic Books; 1997. p. 3-31.


(11)Schaufeli WB, Bakker AB. Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: a multi-sample study. J Organ Behav. 2004;25(3):293-315.


(12)Halbesleben JRB, Buckley MR. Burnout in organizational life. J Manag. 2004;30(6):859-79.


(13)Greenberg N, Docherty M, Gnanapragasam S, Wessely S. Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during covid-19 pandemic. BMJ. 2020;368:m1211.


(14)Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Sinha R. The effects of stress on physical activity and exercise. Sports Med. 2014;44(1):81-121.


(15)Knutson KL, Van Cauter E. Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1129:287-304.


(16)Trousselard M, Steiler D, Claverie D, Canini F. The role of stress factors during aging of the cognitive functions: a review. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2014;114:1-10.


(17)Ross, L. S., & Mirowsky, J. (1989). Disorder and the burden of history. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30(1), 37-49. https://doi.org/10.2307/2136908




(18)Hanson, E. K., & Gross, A. C. (2017). Self-care for clinicians in training: A guide to psychological wellness for graduate students in psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(3), 365-380. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22362


(19)Lavelle, E., & Smalley, K. B. (2016). The role of self-care in mental health promotion. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(6), 486-488. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827616671343


(20)Sánchez-Rodríguez, Á., Rubio-Aparicio, M., García-Juesas, J. A., & Galán-Rioja, R. (2019). The role of self-care in mental health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(9), 1664. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16091664


(21)Van Dahlen, M. (2018). Self-care: An imperative for health care providers. National Academy of Medicine. https://nam.edu/self-care-an-imperative-for-health-care-providers/


(22)Splevins, K. A., Cohen, K., Joseph, S., & Murray, G. (2010). Vicarious posttraumatic growth among interpreters. Qualitative Health Research, 20(12), 1705-1716. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732310377451


(23)Boellinghaus, I., & Jones, F. W. (2010). Protecting the self from negative outcomes following repeated interpersonal stress in work: A diary and interview study on the role of self‐care. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 875-897. https://doi.org/10.1348/096317909X471775


(24)American Psychological Association. (2010). Self-care for psychologists: A guide to preventing and addressing occupational stress. https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/dmhi/research-information/social-work/practice-tools/self-care


(25)National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Self-care in social work: A guide for practitioners, supervisors, and administrators. https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=0F5g0jJhGZc%3d&portalid=0

(26) Klimas NG, Broderick G, Fletcher MA. Biomarkers for chronic fatigue. Brain Behav Immun [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2023 Jun 8];26(8):1202–10. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22732129/ (27) Waris Nawaz M, Imtiaz S, Kausar E. SELF-CARE OF FRONTLINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS: DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC. Psychiatria Danubina. 2020 Dec 24;32(3-4):557–62. (28) Ameli R, Sinaii N, West CP, Luna MJ, Panahi S, Zoosman M, et al. Effect of a Brief Mindfulness-Based Program on Stress in Health Care Professionals at a US Biomedical Research Hospital. JAMA Network Open. 2020 Aug 25;3(8):e2013424. (29) Crego A, Yela JR, Riesco-Matías P, Gómez-Martínez MÁ, Vicente-Arruebarrena A. The Benefits of Self-Compassion in Mental Health Professionals: A Systematic Review of Empirical Research. Psychology Research and Behavior Management [Internet]. 2022;15:2599–620. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36133626/ (30) Posluns K, Gall TL. Dear mental health practitioners, take care of yourselves: A literature review on self-care. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling [Internet]. 2019 May 23;42(1):1–20. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10447-019-09382-w (31) Argyriadis A, Patelarou E, Paoullis P, Patelarou A, Dimitrakopoulos I, Zisi V, et al. Self-Assessment of Health Professionals’ Cultural Competence: Knowledge, Skills, and Mental Health Concepts for Optimal Health Care. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [Internet]. 2022 Sep 8 [cited 2022 Oct 9];19(18):11282. Available from: https://mdpi-res.com/ijerph/ijerph-19-11282/article_deploy/ijerph-19-11282.pdf?version=1662624936 (32) O’Malley M, Happell B, O’Mahony J. A Phenomenological Understanding of Mental Health Nurses’ Experiences of Self-Care: A Review of Empirical Literature. Issues in Mental Health Nursing. 2022 Sep 13;43(12):1–9. (33) Lewis S, Willis K, Bismark M, Smallwood N. A time for self-care? Frontline health workers’ strategies for managing mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. SSM - Mental Health. 2021 Dec;2:100053. (34) Smith KL. Self-Care Practices and the Professional Self. Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation. 2017 Oct 2;16(3-4):186–203. (35) National Institute of Mental Health. Caring for Your Mental Health [Internet]. National Institute of Mental Health. 2021. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health (36) Abramson A. The ethical imperative of self-care [Internet]. Apa.org. 2021. Available from: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/04/feature-imperative-self-care DISCLAIMER

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