Physicians, nurses, counselors, social workers, there are many different helping professions — and all of them are exhausting. Physical strain, frazzled emotions, and mental stress all work together to drag these helpers down as they spend countless hours on the front lines.
If you’re a helping professional, it’s important that you make an effort to decompress from time to time. Whether you’re taking a small break during a shift, a few hours to unwind after a lengthy workday, or a long chunk of R&R, here are some suggestions to help guide you through the unwinding process as you decompress from work.
Define Your Own Work-Life Balance
The first thing to do if you’re struggling to decompress on a regular basis is take a moment to define what healthy work-life balance looks like for your particular situation.
For some, work-life balance might mean taking a walk in the morning or slowing down and reading a book in the evening. For others, it may require more extreme action, such as turning off your phone, figuring out how to take proper breaks, and learning to spot the warning signs of poor balance.
Whatever it looks like in your particular situation, start your journey by making sure that you understand what it looks like to have healthy boundaries between your work and personal lives.
Practice Being In The Present
Once you can delineate between work and personal time, it’s good to start practicing how to be in your personal time. Being can be defined in a myriad of different ways, but in its essence, it involves learning to focus on the present.
This may sound simple, but for helpers who are always on the go and often struggle with the emotional burdens of others, it can be extremely difficult. A few suggestions for ways to narrow your attention and focus in on the present include:
- Practicing mindfulness: Striving to be both aware and accepting of your thoughts, your feelings, and your environment as a whole is an excellent way to bring your mind and body into the present.
- Cultivating gratitude: Along with being aware of the present, it’s wise to eschew pessimistic thoughts and general negativity in favour of counting blessings and being thankful.
- Conduct a daily self-care check-in: Plan a time each day, such as when you finish a shift, to slow down, and consider what you feel and need at that exact moment.
All three of these activities can help you slow down and be aware of the moment that you’re in rather than obsessing over the past or the future.
Process With Trusted Friends
Surviving and thriving as a helping professional often revolves around one’s personal ability to process and let go of others’ trauma. After all, you’re being sought day after day to help resolve crises, many of which can be difficult to witness.
If you want to be able to truly decompress after a long work week, it’s important to have friends who you can trust. Simply reaching out to a confidant in order to talk through an experience can do wonders in helping you let go.
Even if your profession requires strict patient confidentiality, you can find relief in the loving paws of a pup. Dogs can have an incredible effect on mental health, and talking through your daily anxiety with a canine companion can be a great way to come down from the stress and slowly settle into the present.
Take Care Of The Basics
Finally, remember that you should always strive to take care of your basic needs on a regular basis. Things like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and making healthy diet choices are all critical to long-term success.
If you can’t take care of the basics as part of your decompression routine, you won’t be able to keep up your energy or endurance for long. With that in mind, take time on a daily basis to consider:
- What you’ve eaten.
- How much water you’ve consumed.
- If you’ve been able to exercise properly.
- If you’re rested or you need to find time to catch up on sleep.
By tending to these necessities, you’ll be setting yourself up to thrive, both in your free time and on the job.
Developing Professional Helping Endurance
If you’re in the helping profession, you absolutely need to learn how to decompress from work. This isn’t just a nice thought or a worthwhile suggestion. It’s a tenet of your very emotional, physical, and mental survival.
Not only that, but caring for yourself during personal time can help you perform better while on the job — something that can and often does literally save lives in this profession. So don’t just shrug and consider decompressing a nice perk reserved for those in other lines of business. Strive to find the time and put in a little effort. Draw those lines between work and personal life, live in the moment, and let your body, mind, and soul recharge before they’re called on to serve once again.