Helpers, similarly to everyone else, experience stress, burnout, and breakdowns. I believe that such problems arise from the lack of proper self-care. Corey and Corey (2014) stress that if one hopes to “function effectively in a professional role”, it is essential that they “learn and practice the art of self-care” (p. 5). It is crucial to have a healthy balance between taking care of others and taking care of yourself. If an individual is not on the road to their healing, it is unlikely that they will be efficient in helping others. Therefore, before any counselor attempts to deal with others’ lives, they need to examine their life situation first.
Creating a lifestyle that allows me to be incomplete and balance my duty as a counselor and my mental and physical well-being is my ultimate goal. Over time, I identified my go-to methods for practicing self-care — meditation, and self-reflection. These two methods are especially helpful and suitable for me. I had started practicing meditation long before I became involved in counseling as I found this process incredibly healing and beneficial for all parts of my life. It is commonly known that most mental deviations arise from self-rejection, and meditation exercises are precisely aimed at normalizing self-esteem and acceptance. This psychotherapeutic method is essential on the path to self-knowledge, helping in struggling with insecurities, fears, anxieties, lingering depression, and other psychological problems. Meditation is aimed not only at working with the human psyche but also affects physiology. It activates the energy and vitality necessary for a prosperous existence. I concluded that my mental and spiritual well-being directly influences my personal and professional lives.
Self-reflection also helps in dealing with anxiety, overthinking, and self-doubt. Before I learned to take care of myself and my mentality, I would often succumb to avoiding my anxieties or pretending they do not exist. However, “rather than thinking in terms of avoiding burnout and impairment” (Corey & Corey, 2014, p. 325), the right thing to do is ‘face the demons.’ The primary step in this process is acknowledging worries and weaknesses. I used to suffer from the thought that I am not competent and skilled enough to be a counselor and that I am unable to provide certain groups of clients with the help they require. Later, I discovered that finding control over myself, examining my behavior, and acknowledging the anxious parts of myself is the key to preventing my breakdowns.
Being aware and attentive in recognizing the signals that come from the mind and the body is vital. When I realized that I could not be a universal giver and that I required replenishment like every human being, I felt an enormous weight lifting from my shoulders. Detaching myself from my professional life and treating myself as an ordinary person with needs is a process I need to practice from time to time to stay present, grounded, and mentally healthy.
Prosperous professional and personal lives are unattainable without consistent self-care. Realizing my limits, determining whether what I am doing is working for me, finding other meaningful activities besides work, and listening to my inner signals are integral parts of my life. Every helper should determine their unique methods of remaining vital as professionals. Certainly, this applies not only to counselors but to every individual that suffers from stress and burnout.
Corey, G. & Corey, M. S. (2014). Becoming a helper (7th ed.). Cengage Learning.