We always talk about taking care of our mental health and asking experts for good mental health tips, but have you ever wondered how mental health experts — psychologists, therapists, and counsellors — take care of theirs? Offering psychological help to those in need is no doubt a high-stress and taxing job. To find the answer, we spoke with two mental health experts, Dr. Tan E-Ching (Singapore) and Amanda Cheang (Malaysia), about how to take care of your mental health when your work entails taking care of others’.
Know the basics of a self-care routine
Before we talk about the finer details of how our experts take care of their mental health, we need to know the basics of a self-care routine. Amanda, a mental health counsellor from Good Therapy, explained that there is a Bio-Psycho-Social model that everyone can follow in crafting their self-care routine.
First is the bio or biological, factor. This refers to taking care of your physical health. "Biological means eating well, ensuring good sleep quality, and getting enough movement or exercise," she explained. Next, there's the psychological factor. This covers everything from mindfulness to having a good support system to help you through challenging times. Finally, the social factor is your social life and hobbies that involve other people that make you feel happy and relaxed. As long as you have a good balance of these three factors in your life, you have a pretty good self-care routine in place. Once you identify the pieces you lack, you can work on incorporating them into your daily routine.
Recognise the signs of burnout
Due to their mentally taxing jobs, mental health experts need to be able to recognise the signs of burnout. Some of these symptoms include frequent exhaustion, feeling mentally distant from your job, and unproductivity. "Our job can get mentally draining as we deal with people's emotions day in and out," Amanda explained. "In fact, burnout is very common among mental health practitioners."
"Thankfully, I have not experienced burnout," Dr. Tan, founder and medical director of Hallmark Health, shared. "But I can understand when my patients share their stories of burnout. Very often, long hours at work, juggling family responsibilities and not prioritising self-care can lead to burnout."
Expert tip: You can try journaling to keep track of your moods. Feeling down? Write it out! If something good happened at work and it made your day better, then take note of it for future encouragement.
Stay physically active
Staying healthy is another way our experts take care of their mental health. "I make it a point to exercise every day," Dr. Tan added. "It would usually be a walk or hike together with my husband and children. Going outside every day is a wonderful way to ground myself and experience the calming and healing properties of nature."
Amanda has a similar approach. Whenever she notices that she's on the brink of burnout, she makes the conscious decision to take a mental health break. This may include taking a few days or a week off from work, travelling, or spending more time in nature.
Expert tip: You don’t have to have an elaborate exercise routine; just start with at-home exercises to ease into a more active lifestyle.
Practise meditation and mindfulness
"After waking up in the morning, one of the first things I do is spend 20 minutes doing a meditation practice," Dr. Tan said. "It is a time of quiet and allows my mind to settle and rest in interior silence before I start the day." She also practises mindfulness as much as possible. "Whether I am having a cup of coffee or commuting, I bring a sense of mindfulness and appreciation into whatever I am doing at that moment."
Expert tip: Mindfulness is pretty simple to do but it requires consistency. Here are some mindfulness activities you can try.
Have a de-stressing hobby
Having a relaxing hobby is another good mental health tip we learned from experts. It can be as simple as reading a book, knitting, or playing an instrument. "Reading is one of my favourite activities and I always spend some time every day reading a book. Reading helps to de-stress and declutter our minds," shared Dr. Tan.
Expert tip: Try reading self-help books in your downtime.
Consult other mental health professionals
"In my opinion, it is the responsible and ethical thing to do among mental health professionals to make sure we are mentally fit to help our clients," Amanda said. Therapy is not just about helping you process trauma or offering clarity to the inner workings of your mind. It can also help you see the bigger picture of your life’s current happenings. Folks with high-stress and emotionally taxing jobs like our mental health experts may benefit from consulting a professional to help them make sense of their emotions and decompress from the stress they experience. It can also be an opportunity to learn more about self-care methods that are tailored to your situation.
Which of these good mental health tips from our experts will you adopt?
(Cover photo from: Sincerely Media via Unsplash)
Need more tried-and-tested self-care tips? Here are easy ways to improve your mental health.
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