941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

Therapists use a great deal of emotional energy every day. For many therapists, this energy only goes down throughout the day. Is there a way for it to stay as high at the end of the day as the beginning of the day?
 
Unfortunately, when we deplete our energy and do not know how to reenergize it throughout the day, it not only affects the current day, but the entire week. The work we do with our clients is so important that we cannot let depleted energy affect our clients at the end of the week.
 
The downsides to letting our energy be depleted every day include less patience with our clients and more irritability with our families. This can lead to feeling negative about ourselves and our work. With less patience comes the potential for more mistakes, less ability to be present and even forgetting who our clients are.
 
Not only does depleting our energy every day have an emotional toll on us, we start to exhibit signs of exhaustion at home. We may not have the energy to go to the gym, we may not eat as healthy, we may argue more, isolate more, sleep more, and not get our chores at home done. It can become a very slippery slope. Without energy, we cannot function.
 
Perhaps you’ve noticed it in your own life. You come home from work completely drained. You were supposed to go out to dinner with your loved one tonight, but when you get home, all you want to do is sit on the couch and not do anything. You push yourself to go out, but notice that you are extremely tired and don’t have the energy to engage in fully meaningful conversation.
 
At the time, you might have played it off as “just a bad day at work.” We all get this from time to time. We all have days we are tired and not able to reenergize. Sometimes this is due to a disrupted night’s sleep, sometimes it is due to other things. When it happens once in awhile, it is not a big deal. However when a “bad day” at work happens more regularly, it is probably time to rethink what you are doing to revitalize yourself.
 
Unfortunately, if we do not take the time to rejuvenate ourselves, it can very quickly lead to burnout and dislike of our chosen profession. We came into this field for a reason and there are many clients that currently and will in the future need us. It is unfortunate that so many of us get burnt out and unable to help those we came to work today to help.
 
Eventually, if we keep having the “bad” days at work, we end up with compassion fatigue and then burnout. This is a very low place that often has us feeling frustrated, worn-out, apathetic, and hopeless. Our thoughts guide our emotions and behaviors. So if we are consistently having “bad days” at work, feeling these negative feelings, our behaviors will show our burnout. Maybe we call into work sick more often. Maybe we miss deadlines. Maybe we call to cancel someone’s appointment. Maybe we don’t give our all to our paperwork or our clients. Maybe we start shaming our clients to our colleagues.
 
The truth is, it is completely normal to feel frustrated, indifferent, and discouraged when struggling with any stage of compassion fatigue or burnout. This is our sign that we are not restoring our energy regularly usually because we don’t know how. By the way, a really big secret is you absolutely do know how! But for now, it is ok for you to be struggling with this. Maybe you have even been thinking of quitting your job at this point.
 
It’s true that our job is incredibly emotionally draining and often leads to lack of energy or desire to do the things you know you should or want to. However, if we can learn just three tips, we can prevent or even turn around compassion fatigue and burnout. When we make just a few changes that will be discussed in a moment, it is entirely possible to feel recharged and stay charged throughout the day.
 
Keep reading for 3 tips so you can stay encouraged and happy at work and in life today
 
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY EMOTIONALLY DRAINED, DISHEARTENED, IRRITABLE AND BURNT OUT
 
The biggest downside of not overcoming your problem is the life-long toll it takes on you. There is a huge correlation between stress and medical problems such as heart problems, high blood pressure, headaches, and digestive problems. There is also a huge correlation between stress and relationship fallouts. Finally, the accumulation of stress may lead you to look for a different job altogether.
 
At the very least, you find yourself not enjoying life to the extent you did when you entered this field. There are a ton of therapists who love their job to the same degree when they retire as when they started in the field. But there are also a ton who just don’t enjoy life to the same extent due to the level of stress this job puts on us.
 
Living with the beginning of compassion fatigue or burnout can be disheartening. When you start to realize that you don’t enjoy your job as much, you may start to question why you came into the field to begin with. You may start to wonder if this was the right career path. You may start to look at other opportunities.
 
IMAGINE A FULFILLING LIFE: HAPPY, RELAXED, ENCOURAGED, FULL OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY
 
Although you struggle with not being able to stay as energized at the beginning of the day as at the end, feeling drained at the end of the day, you have the potential to sustain that initial level of energy and excitement throughout the day. You have the ability to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout.
 
The key to achieving daily energy is to not let it drain completely before refilling your tank. If you wait until you are exhausted it will take much more time and energy to refill than if you do it throughout the day. You do not need to take 30 minutes each time you re-energize yourself. Remember how I gave you the secret above that you do know how to do this? Making these changes is not as difficult as you think because you teach them every day. You may even do them with your clients as you model it for them or practice with them. You know the skills.
 
Take a look at these three tips to see how you can revitalize yourself throughout the day so you can maintain enough energy to last through the day.
 
1. No time
One of the biggest complaints counselors have is they just don’t have enough time in the day. This is often very true when therapists work for an agency. There is more work to be done each day than can be done each day. It is just not possible to get everything done. Yet our bosses expect everything to be done. It makes complete sense that you feel overwhelmed and believe there is no time to do anything to re-energize yourself.
 
Several techniques that you teach are quick skills. However, there is always time for a quick stretch.
 
Here with Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC, I remind my clients of the importance of stretching. Stretching brings oxygen to the brain and throughout the body. It opens the diaphragm allowing for deeper breathing. It in itself reenergizes the body and brain. It does not take long. Sit back in your chair, put your hands behind your head and lean back. Take one or two deep breaths. Then sit forward again. Tense all of your muscles at once, including holding your breath, then let them all go, including doing an audible exhale.
 
When you do this, you will notice a sense of energy flow through your body. Often it feels like a tingling sensation, but not everyone feels it exactly the same. You will notice for a moment the rush of oomph as you are ready to move onto the next task. Furthermore, what it does is tells your body and brain that it can relax (get into parasympathetic dominance). When we are tense, the reptilian part of our brain does not realize that we are ok; it believes we are potentially in danger (we tense our muscles when we are scared). So by forcefully tensing and loosening the muscles, we are telling our reptilian brain that it is ok and safe to be calm.
 
2. Sitting too much
A huge barrier to revitalizing yourself is not moving enough throughout the day. You know the saying from an arthritis commercial “A body in motion stays in motion?” This is true in general. The more we move, the more energy we are bringing in and thus the more energy we have to expend. As therapists, we do a lot of sitting. Even when I worked on the adult unit of a psychiatric hospital full time and while at work got approximately 4,000 steps per day, a good deal of my day was still spent sitting: computer time (assessments, discharges, phone calls, notes), group therapy sessions, meetings, etc. Now in private practice, I sit just as much, if not more with client meetings back to back being 55-85 minutes a piece. It makes sense that you struggle with re-energizing when you do so much sitting.
 
Together with my clients, I help them to find time in their day to move and what they can do to move. Whether they can just walk to the bathroom and back or do a few jumping jacks, or some yoga poses. It does not take much, but the quicker the movements, often the faster the revitalization. When you get the heart rate elevated, you move the blood and oxygen around the body. This gives your body energy because the reptilian part of the brain thinks something is wrong. It gets the body into sympathetic dominance, elevating all the bodily functions that are needed for survival. But, because you are doing this on purpose as a form of energy repletion, your reptilian brain is not putting you into a state of full fight/flight.
 
After you start doing this, you will start to find it not only helpful, but wanted. You will notice being excited for the time between sessions or any time you have at work that you can jump around, dance, do some yoga, or walk. It does not take long. Only a minute or so of action.
 
3. Too much stress
When we are under too much stress, the reptilian brain starts to take over. Being stressed out and thus feeling out of control is potentially life threatening and the reptilian brain’s sole purpose is to keep you alive. When we feel out of control, the reptilian brain takes over putting the sympathetic nervous system in overdrive, so you can react to the danger. When you feel in control, the reptilian brain settles down and the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, allowing YOU and not your brain to maintain control. Since we work in a very fast paced and high energy field, where often we don’t believe we have (possibly truthfully don’t have) enough time to do everything we want or should do, or if other circumstances happen that cause us to fall behind on what we are trying to accomplish by the end of the day, we often feel out of control. It makes sense that too much stress causes us to not feel in control (which cycles back to more stress by the way).
 
Find what you have control over. There is a great deal of research that shows that people who are problem-focused (I’m stressed because there is too much work. What can I do to lessen the stress or workload?) are less stressed out than people who are emotion-focused (I’m stressed and it’s because there is too much work; nothing I can do about it).
 
When you schedule a session with Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC, I help you get out of the reptilian brain enough that you are able to find what you have control over and start taking control there. Anything that you have control over will start to make you feel better as you are taking action over the situation.
 
Finding what you have control over and taking action on that will make it possible for you to feel more confident which in turn will give you more energy throughout the day. When you run around not doing anything because there is too much to do, it uses more energy and gives none back. When you take action on what you have control over, it actually lessens the amount of energy expended and gives you some back.
 
Achieving a day with approximately the same amount of energy at the end of the day as the beginning can be a rough journey at first. However, it can feel so invigorating after you start putting these skills into place. You absolutely can feel energized throughout the day no matter where you work or what population you work with. Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC can help by partnering with you to maintain your passion and regain any lost energy. Not only will this help you personally, but your increased energy throughout the day will help you serve your clients with more presence thus helping them reach their goals quicker.
 
Call me today to schedule an appointment.

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