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Feeling burned out by your current job? Here’s five things you can do – apart from searching for another one

Taking care of yourself is important no matter what you do for a living. But when it comes to those working in ‘caring professions’ – like social work, youth work, disability support, psychology, mental health or counselling, for example – it’s all the more important.

That’s because the selflessness, passion and dedication that drives many who work in these areas can potentially lead to stress, burnout and even ‘compassion fatigue’ if not accompanied by solid self-care strategies.

Looking for a new job on EthicalJobs.com.au is one way to deal with a job you’re finding hyper-stressful. But there are many more things you can be doing to take care of yourself in the job you already have.

Delving into research conducted by psychology professor John C. Norcross, Idealist Careers writer Jhia Jackson offers five self-care strategies you can begin using today:

1. Accept – and share – the struggles

Instead of pretending they don’t exist – or, indeed, dwelling on them – acknowledge the natural difficulties of your work as an NFP professional.

To gain some perspective and much-needed support, open up to loved ones and colleagues about your problems. As the saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

It’s also probably not just you facing the problems that you do. Consider how your colleagues deal with similar difficulties. Which problems are unique to your situation? And what’s just inherent to the job or sector you’re in?

2. Develop goals and strategies before trying techniques

‘Switch off from technology an hour before bed’, ‘make time to meditate every day’, ‘write in a gratitude journal each morning’ . . . rules like these around self-care can be rigid. And when you’re working to improve your self-care practice, that can be discouraging.

The solution? Try implementing an open, broad strategy – then experiment with specific techniques to achieve it.

How? Say you find yourself dealing with anxiety around your work. Rather than forcing a specific technique in a bid to combat those feelings, start with a general goal – to change your negative thoughts and improve relationships, for example.

Once you’ve identified this, research some of the various techniques that might work for you, like exercise, meditation, journalling or counselling sessions.

And if they’re ineffective? The beauty of this approach is that you’re free to try something else – instead of beating yourself up for failing a certain technique.

3. Be aware of your energy levels – and ask for feedback

Pay attention to the periods during which you feel energetic and positive – and the times you feel anything but. Do those closest to you – family, friends and colleagues – notice any changes to your mood or behaviour?

This information can give you excellent insights into the efficacy – or lack thereof – of any self-care techniques you might already be using, like taking coffee breaks, debriefing with friends or colleagues, or taking time off work.

4. Pay attention to your environment

Did you know the space around you has a significant impact on your wellbeing?

The best work space varies person to person, so pay attention to what comforts and energises you – and try to reflect that in your work and personal space where possible.

For example, if you’re a counsellor and find that dark colours and clutter demotivate and depress you, try to make your office bright and minimal.

Sharing a space with others, or otherwise unable to make large changes to your work space? Add some plants, which are proven to improve mental health and wellbeing.

5. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing

While caring for others as a career can sometimes seem like a thankless job, it’s important to remember that you’re making a real difference in the lives of others – and that’s something on which you should reflect frequently.

That’s because when you reflect on the reasons you do the work you do – and the impact it has on others – it’s likely that you’ll actually increase your own satisfaction with that work and decrease your stress levels.

Self-care can often be an afterthought in today’s busy world – particularly for care professionals, who already devote so much of themselves to others. But by investing the same effort and thought into caring for yourself as you do your clients, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid burning out – and have a bigger impact with your work, too.


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