Professionals like nurses, therapists, counselors, and social workers — those who spend most of their time helping others — have a tendency to put a lot of themselves into their jobs. This means they may experience and perform a lot of emotional labor in their work.
This is understandable. The type of people who go into these sorts of professions are passionate about helping others, and it’s difficult for them to “turn it off” and not become emotionally invested in the people they are helping. This quality is what makes these people so good at their jobs.
It can, however, become detrimental when workers in these positions invest too much of their personal emotions into their work and their mental health suffers because of this. So much time is spent in these professions focusing on the mental health of the clients or patients, but the staff also needs to support mental health in the workplace. It’s imperative that you exercise self-care and protect your own mental health for the betterment of yourself, those that you work with, and the people you are helping.
Here are some tips for supporting your mental health in such a position:
1. Understand Emotional Labor and How to Deal With it
Emotional labor is the way in which you manage your emotions at work as you interact with others, and it’s something that all workers in helping professions have to learn to manage. Have you noticed how a difficult patient or a problematic colleague can really take a toll on you? Emotional labor can require a great deal of effort, and it can be just as draining as physical labor.
You can manage emotional labor by making sure you take time for meals and rest breaks, by making sure you are staying motivated, by keeping up with healthy habits like exercise and nutritious snacks, and by finding healthy ways to cope with stress so that you can avoid burnout.
2. Find Ways to Manage Stress
It’s crucial that you are able to lower stress levels. This may mean going for a brief 20 minute walk after work each day. This may mean meditating each morning. This may mean finding an activity like adult coloring books or crocheting that helps you to implement mindfulness techniques. There are many different ways you can lower your stress levels. The point here is just to try different things until you find what works for you.
3. Get Good Quality Sleep
There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you are getting better sleep. For example, you can try not watching television in bed or not using your bed for anything except sleeping. This trains your body that once you get into bed, it’s time for sleep. You can also try using natural supplements like melatonin to get better sleep.
4. Eat Nutritious Foods
Eating foods that are high in protein will make you feel more energetic for a longer period throughout the day. You also don’t want to be eating a lot of empty calories throughout the day. Protein is important for muscle mass as well.
It’s also important to eat organic foods where possible and make choices that include whole grains instead of refined bread where you can. You also want to look for foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals.
5. Move Your Body
There are so many benefits associated with exercising, whether it’s walking for 30 minutes a day, swimming three times a week, or going to Zumba class once or twice a week. There are a lot of different ways to exercise. The best thing to do is to find a way to exercise that you enjoy and that you are likely to be consistent with.
6. Keep a Journal
Writing down your thoughts is a great way to keep track of your mood, your emotions, and everything that happens in your life. It’s an excellent approach for finding out how you really feel about events, situations, and other things that happen. It’s also great to document occurrences so that you can look back, especially if you have a tendency to get swept up in the moment and forget that you may have felt differently even just yesterday.
7. Find a Support System
As we all saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, social support is extremely important. This is even more so the case with workers in helping professions. No one will understand your struggle the way other nurses, social workers, or counselors will. Leaning on other professionals in your field is a great way to build relationships with those who you will be able to trust, with people who will listen and understand what you’re going through, and with those who will have a cultural awareness of your profession.
Another great thing about having a social support system is that they will also be able to give you additional steps to take to manage your mental health based on what has worked for them in the past.