On July 24th, we celebrate International Self-Care Day, with the aim to bring awareness of the importance of self-care and empower people with the knowledge and ability on how to be active participants in their own wellness. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anywhere between 21-61% of mental healthcare professionals experience burnout. In another recent review and meta-analysis of more than 5,000 psychiatrists in European countries, as well as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, India, Turkey, and Thailand, results showed that 25% of respondents met the criteria for burnout, as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), and more than 50% qualified on the basis of the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (CBI) (Bykov KV et al, 2022). Burnout in mental healthcare professionals is highly prevalent across the globe, yet, many do not make self-care a priority. As a mental healthcare professional, what do you do to prioritize self-care?
Here are some tips on how to improve self-care:
- Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
- Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
- Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
- Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling.
- Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say "no" to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
- Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
- Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.
- Set aside time for yourself or "me time", each day even if it's just a few minutes. Treat yourself to something special like an event or an activity that you really enjoy.
- Allow yourself to celebrate personal and professional milestones
NEI resources that can help improve self-care:
Bykov KV et al., Journal of Affective Disorders. 2022;308:47-64. Abstract.