Having worked full-time as a clinical health psychologist for many years, I am most familiar with provider burnout. Hopefully, those who decide to pursue careers in mental health possess high levels of compassion for those who are experiencing emotional distress.
Given that I decided to specialize in clinical health psychology, I was drawn to helping others who were suffering from a wide variety of emotional, as well as medical, issues. Providing clinical services for individuals with varying degrees of stress does exact a personal toll, nonetheless.
It is critical to maintain adequate levels of self-care. This includes recognizing when you need to seek professional assistance for addressing your personal issues. I strongly believe that all of these factors apply to clinicians, regardless of their personal health statuses.
For providers who also are managing chronic illness, there are additional areas to address. Such clinicians need to pay particular attention to adhering to their personal treatment regimen.
Think about the last time that you flew on an airplane; most likely, you simply tuned out the flight attendant’s instructions to “assist your own mask before assisting others.” However, it simply is not possible to adequately address others’ emotional concerns if you are personally depleted.
Of course, every provider occasionally experiences days when they feel drained, and unable to respond adequately to their clients’ concerns. The danger, of course, occurs when too many of these days are strung together.
Personally, I started to notice that I was feeling this way, when I made the difficult decision to stop working full-time. It was February 2014. I had recently completed a grueling round of chemotherapy infusions. Each treatment lasted for eight to ten hours, each Saturday, for an entire month. Not exactly the most relaxing way to spend your weekends, by any means.
I felt indescribably exhausted after receiving these treatments. I developed a brutal headache; it persisted for 35 straight days. I knew that I was simply struggling to even take care of myself during that time.
Having the physical stamina, mental acuity, and emotional reserve to competently address others’ distress was simply out of the question. I look back at that period, honestly astounded that I worked full-time for as long as I did, given my personal medical issues.