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Self-Care and Behavioral Health Professionals During COVID-19

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Self-Care slogan with image of candle and pillowSelf-Care advice from Beth Jacobson, NewBridge Services Community Response and Education director. Jacobson retired as Morris County’s addiction services director last year.

Even in the best of times, behavioral healthcare workers tend to prioritize the wellness of their clients at the expense of their own. The situation has become even more acute during the COVID-19 crisis. It can be overwhelming trying to balance working from home, taking care of family, and addressing clients’ heightened concerns. 

This is largely uncharted territory, with guidelines and restrictions constantly changing. It is imperative for helpers in this field to engage in self-care strategies:

  • Check in regularly with colleagues, family, and friends
  • Working in partnerships/teams
  • Take brief relaxation/stress management breaks
  • Consult with peers and supervisors
  • Take time-outs for basic bodily care and refreshment
  • Seek out accurate information and mentoring to assist in making decisions
  • Try to limit anxieties to actual threats
  • Engage in helpful self-talk and avoid overgeneralizing fears
  • Focus on what is within your power/accept situations you can’t change
  • Foster a spirit of fortitude, patience, tolerance, and hope

At the same time, behavioral healthcare professionals should not:

  • Work too long alone without checking in with colleagues
  • Work around the clock
  • Skip breaks 
  • Use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress
  • Negatively assess their work contributions (feeling they’ve not done enough)
  • Keep thoughts bottled up so as not to burden colleagues, friends and family members

Options and Techniques

There are a variety of activities that can help reduce stress and improve wellbeing, and help behavioral health professionals fully engage with their clients:

Practice gratitude

A change in perspective is a simple way to have a positive impact on one’s outlook on the world. One of the most effective ways to increase happiness is by practicing gratitude exercises. Techniques include journaling (making a list of things you take for granted), talking with others, or acknowledging at least three good things each day.

Take care of your body

Eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 

Get enough sleep

Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night to be able to function effectively. Sleep problems can affect job performance, mood, social functioning, and physical and mental health.

Take breaks

Remember to give yourself a rest. Take an hour to read a book, watch a favorite movie, or engage in other enjoyable activities. 

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves keeping your attention in the present moment, without judging it as happy or sad, good or bad. The goal is to simply observe. Mindfulness allows you to calmly and consciously accept whatever is happening, moment to moment. 

Why Self-Care Matters

Self-care is a vital component to working in behavioral health, and in times of crisis, it is even more crucial. Not practicing self-care can have consequences for both helping professionals and those they serve. In essence, engaging in self-care benefits both the helping professional and the people in their care.

© 2021 Newbridge Services. E-mail And Voicemail Cannot Replace Counseling.