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Taking Care of Yourself A Guide for Counselors and Everyone by Jenna McKean

As with many careers, the counseling profession can be stressful. Counselors are presented with a diverse list of problems every day and must be there for clients through the good, bad and difficult times and also help their clients navigate stressful events and circumstances. Thus, it is extremely important for the counselor to maintain a healthy lifestyle to provide effective guidance.

Counselors who live a balanced life are known to be more effective in treating clients. Counselor wellness has been proven to increase empathy while treating clients. But how do counselors maintain wellness while in such high stress positions? The key is recognizing the warning signs of high stress and avoiding compassion fatigue or burnout. Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. This can happen to anyone in a high-stress job such as counseling or anyone dealing with stressful life circumstances. Individuals may feel overwhelmed and unable to fulfill the demands of a job. Burnout can affect energy, leaving one feeling helpless, hopeless and resentful.

Counselors needs to be aware of the indications of burn-out because it can leave everlasting scars on everyone. It also is important for counselors to be able to identify these signs in their clients. Warning signs include always having a bad day, caring less about work or home life, loss of motivation, constant exhaustion, taking out frustration on others, feeling that the majority of the day is focused on mind-numbing tasks and that no actions you take make a difference. It can happen gradually so it is important for a counselor to recognize the symptoms. It also is important to seek support, in addition to building a resiliency for managing stress.

An important tool to avoid burnout includes setting appropriate boundaries with clients. This simply means not to overextend and to be okay with saying no. It also is important to adopt healthy eating habits, sleeping habits and activities to live a more balanced life. Every day should begin with a relaxing ritual such as a mediation or walk. A daily break also can help individuals handle stress more effectively.

It is important for anyone that may be experiencing burnout to slow down, get support and re-evaluate goals and priorities.

Jenna McKean is a licensed mental health counselor, credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and founder of Comforting Counseling. To schedule an appointment, contact 893-5384 or jmck.therapy@gmail.com.

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