The phenomenon of burnout has increased in recent years for mental health professionals. Burnout is not a concept, it’s a state of lived experience that erodes your sense of self, your ability to care for your clients, care for yourself and to do your job and even to earn a living. By the time burnout registers for you, it may have already taken a toll on you.
Rising Levels of Burnout in Mental Health Professionals: Causes & Consequences
Cases of burnout have been mounting in recent times due to a number of reasons such as the following:
Increased demand for mental health services in recent years as a result of both the decrease in stigma around seeking care and the exacerbation of mental health needs resulting from the pandemic.
Stagnant compensation for mental health providers. Insurance reimbursements for mental health do not rise in line with the cost of living. What this means is that while many more insurances may have expanded their coverage for mental service, the compensation levels for mental health providers have not risen or have stagnated, leaving mental health providers in the dust and feeling undervalued and struggling financially.
Lack of resources in many areas of the country such as specialty services are hard to find leaving some mental health providers stuck to care for a vast array of problems and issues, many of which may be out of their treatment focus or comfort zone.
Stigma around seeking care for mental health providers. Mental health providers might feel reluctant to seek support for themselves, especially since many who are drawn to the field are either natural care-takers or weighed down by expectations to be able to shoulder a lot more than they really can.
Top Strategies for Managing Burnout Effectively
The trick to managing burnout is to recognize the first glimpse of it before it grows and takes up the full view. Mental health providers can benefit from taking the following steps:
Take a pause to return to yourself. Learning to listen to the subtleties of your body and moods so you can begin to recognize when you are starting to feel the first few signs of overload before full burnout takes hold is very important as part of an overall strategy of self-care.
Take an inventory of what is realistic for you. Looking at the day to day requirements of your life, mapping out a daily and weekly schedule that can afford breaks and time to decompress and feed yourself not only nutritionally, but spiritually and emotionally is absolutely essential.
Make a resource list. Know what nourishes and replenishes you. It doesn’t have to be something grand like going on a 10 mile hike or a lavish massage. Sitting quietly in nature, listening to a certain type of music, laughing with friends, taking naps and cooking are all examples of realistic resourcing practices that can help soothe an restore your nervous system
Don’t lose faith in yourself. Burnout is real and can leave you questioning your calling to be a mental health provider. Remember, burnout is a sign to return to yourself and take care of yourself, and not always a sign that you are in the wrong profession. While questioning your choices is part of growth and evolution, be gentle and understanding with yourself during these times of stress.
Seek support. We suffer most when we feel alone and isolated. Seeking support to get through periods of burnout is essential and an active part of self-care. Support can be found through supervision, and therapy, both group and individual. Self-care is not just a feel-good trendy phrase, it is a way of life and a necessity and for those in the helping profession, it is crucial.
As a mental health provider you pour your heart and soul into your work with the people you care for. Taking time to center and nurture yourself and to realign is essential if you wish to continue to show up for your clients as you know you can and would like to. Please take good care of yourself.