Counseling is a wonderful career that revolves around helping people manage their personal and psychological issues. With such territory comes emotional baggage, though, which can often negatively impact the counselor. As a counselor, it is just as important to look after your mental health as it is to look after your clients. After all, you cannot provide the best guidance if you are suffering!
If you are a counselor looking for ways to manage, here are twenty self-care tips that will help you do just that.
1: Choose the Right Education
Whether you are a newbie, an aspiring counselor wishing to kickstart your career, or an experienced counselor wishing to pursue a Ph.D., make sure you choose the education that suits your lifestyle and career options. After all, there is no point in applying for a degree that will drain both your time and energy as your stress levels would eventually affect your grades.
If you are looking to do your bachelor’s, an online human services degree allows you to study all about psychology and social sciences from the comfort of your home. Beyond that, you have the option to study for a master’s and a Ph.D. The benefit of home learning is that you can keep a flexible schedule and reduce your traveling time, which is a large weight off many student’s shoulders.
2: Get to Know Your Co-Workers
Counseling can be challenging even on the breezier days, so do not make the job more difficult by refusing to become friendly with your co-workers. On the days where you feel overworked or emotionally drained, your co-workers will be there to understand your feelings and offer a word of advice. Plus, if you ever feel like some after-work drinks, your co-workers are more likely to invite you if you are friendly throughout the workday! The more support you have, the better.
If you are doing a human services degree, a counseling master’s, or a psychology Ph.D., make sure you make friends there, too. You never know when that kind of support network will come in handy!
3: Work on Time Management
Time management can be a hard skill to learn but nailing it will mean more time for spending time at home, socializing, and other hobbies – all things necessary for a well-balanced life.
If you have done an online human services degree, you will have extensive experience in managing your time, so use those skills to help you during your counseling career. By maintaining control over the hours in the day, you will find more hours to relax.
4: See Your Friends
Having your entire life revolve around counseling will become tiring rather quickly, no matter how enthusiastic you are about your job. To get away from it all, you should make the effort to see your friends as often as you can. Go for a drink on the weekend, invite them over for Netflix and takeout, or go the extra mile and plan a two-day getaway for you all. By maintaining a healthy social life outside of counseling, you will be less likely to succumb to stress when things get tough.
5: Enjoy the Little Things
Counseling comes with a lot of stress, but there are a lot of beautiful things to enjoy about it, too. For example, you might see a great improvement in a client who had been struggling for months, or if you focus on family counseling, you might finally reach a breakthrough in a marriage relationship. Instead of focusing on the more difficult parts of your role, aim to notice the small improvements and enjoy them when they come. If you look long enough, there is always something to be appreciative of.
6: Make the Most of Your Breaks
Never taking a break is nothing to brag about. Even if you have a co-worker swearing that they have not stopped working for ten hours straight, you need to prioritize your own well-being and make sure you take those precious minutes away from work. Try to make the most of them, too, by doing things like:
Getting Fresh Air
Stepping outside for some fresh air helps give you some perspective. If you have had a long list of intense clients that morning, this is heavily suggested.
Reading a Book
A break is a perfect time to take your mind far away from your work, so do just that by reading a book. That way, you can be transported anywhere!
Giving a Friend a Call
Why not fit some socializing into your workday? If you have twenty minutes free (and your friend does too), give them a call for a quick catch-up. They might have a funny story that will instantly eliminate your day’s stresses.
7: Take Enough Time Off
Some people seem to manage to work overtime for long periods without once dropping. Most people are not like this, though, and the chances are you need some time away from work from every now and then. Otherwise, you run the risk of taking all the emotional baggage home with you, which in turn could harm your wellbeing.
If you feel yourself reaching high levels of stress, consider taking a couple of days off from work. You do not need the excuse of a getaway or a family obligation – sometimes, you just need to spend a few days at home by yourself to recharge.
8: Maintain a Regular Schedule
It is easy to lose yourself if you are doing different activities at different times each day, so do your best to maintain a regular schedule. As a counselor, this might be tricky, especially if you work a flexible schedule. You should still aim to achieve a morning routine that sets you up for the day, as well as a nightly routine that ensures you get the sleep you need. The better structured your day is, the more in control you will feel.
9: Do not Expect Too Much from Yourself
It is important to remember as a counselor that you are not a superhero. While you can guide, advise, and help people live a better life, there is no magic wand you can swing to make everything better, so do not expect too much from yourself.
This goes for education, too – if you are studying a human services degree or a psychology Ph.D., remember that perfection is not always attainable, and everyone has their off days.
10: Seek Help if You Need it
As a counselor, you might view yourself as a sort of stoic and emotionally strong character. While this might be true, it is also important to let your emotions go from time to time and feel what you are actually feeling. Far too often healthcare workers neglect the fact that they need help, even though they spend their lives helping others.
If you are feeling emotionally drained or stressed, remember that you can reach out for help just as your clients do. It does not negatively affect your work as a counselor; in fact, it can actually help you to become a stronger one.
11: Get a Pet
Pets, especially the ones you can cuddle, are known for boosting the mood and reducing stress. If you feel like you take your work home with you too often, it might be a good idea to get yourself a fluffy (or scaly) friend to greet you when you walk through the door. After a long day providing advice and guiding vulnerable clients, having a silent but loyal companion to accompany your evenings is the perfect way to relax. Just remember – before getting a pet, research everything they need and ensure you have the time to care for them properly.
12: Pursue Fun Hobbies Outside of Work
No matter how much you love counseling, it is important to have a life outside of your work, so pursue some fun hobbies on the side. They could be anything – fishing, hiking, reading – as long as it is something that takes your mind away from the stresses of your daily life.
If you are a newbie or aspiring counselor and wish to study something related to work, though, you should consider a human services degree, where you will learn about psychology as well as social ethics. Just remember to pursue a non-psychology-related hobby, too.
13: Consider Your Own Advice for Yourself
With the amount of advice that you give people each day, it makes sense that you take some of that on board for yourself, too. If you are helping someone manage stress, why not listen to your own words of wisdom? Use the knowledge you have to improve your own wellbeing.
14: Take Care of Your Mental Health
While you might have learned plenty about psychology during your human services degree, that does not mean you are immune to mental health struggles. If you ever feel yourself feeling overstressed, anxious, or depressed, do not hesitate to find help for yourself.
15: Plan Getaways
Spending all of your time between clients and home does not always provide the perfect work-life balance, especially if you tend to take your work home with you. To have something to look forward to as well as a chance to take a break from everything, plan some getaways with your friends and families. If your schedule is full to the brim, you can still plan something fun, as there are plenty of day trips you can take that will pull your mind away from your work for a short while.
16: Do not Take Your Work Home
As a counselor, you likely take in a lot of upsetting information each day. While it is your job to help people, you must not take those stresses home with you – your home should be a place of comfort.
If you are doing an online human services degree, you might struggle to avoid taking your work home, as you will literally have to work from home. In this situation, try to create a workspace that is solely used for studying.
17: Talk to Your Loved Ones
Just because you spend a lot of your day in conversations does not mean they need to end as soon as you get home. While you might be tempted to shut external opinions out, it will do you a world of good to talk to your loved ones, especially when you are feeling stressed about work. Sometimes, hearing your partner, friend, or sibling complain about frivolous things is exactly what you need to feel a sense of normalcy.
18: Create Something
If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed while counseling, you probably cannot wait to get home. By the time you get there, though, are you making the most of your downtime? While scrolling through your phone or flicking through the channels may feel like the perfect way to relax, there are other activities you can do that will help you relax and de-stress, such as creating something.
Whether you are a painter, writer, or a lover of crochet, by spending some of your time away from work on a creative project, you will benefit from a brain boost as well as stress relief. Plus, once it is completed, you will have something to be proud of.
19: Practice Kindness
While you might learn about human behavior and psychology during your human services degree, there are some things you cannot learn from a textbook, like kindness. Kindness does not just benefit those around you, it also helps you feel better. So, if you ever feel down or stressed, focus on bringing more kindness into the world, whether that is by bringing snacks in for your co-workers or leaving breakfast out for your partner. You will have completed good deeds for the day before even sitting down and helping a client!
20: Make the Most of Every Moment
There is no denying that counseling can be a stressful career, but there are so many things to love about it, too. After all, you are spending your life meeting new, interesting people and helping shape their lives for the better. So, whether you are graduating from your human services degree or you have nailed an interview for a prestigious counseling role, make the most out of every moment.