Holidays put pressure on everyone, but therapists face unique challenges this time of year. Not only are they dealing with their own holiday tension, they also take on the added stress that their clients experience. That’s why self-care for therapists is especially important during the holidays.
What Stressors Do Therapists Face?
Therapists are people, too — they have to deal with the crowds, shop for just the right gift, plan out the holiday meals — but they also get to hear about everyone else’s stress. It’s a time of year that a lot of therapists struggle with.
Here are some of the challenges they face:
- Time management challenges.
Like everyone, therapists have an over-full calendar and a longer to-do list during this season. On top of that, we also deal with clients needing more of our time because of their increased stress. Figuring out how to balance increased personal demands with increased client needs can be a challenge.
- Personal time dilemmas.
We want to spend time with our families, too. When we close for the holidays, though, we have even less time to meet the seasonal jump in our work demands. Often, we work overtime in the weeks leading up to holidays just to be able to take time off once the holidays arrive. In addition, the first few weeks of the new year fill up fast with catch-up work. After all, clients are understandably eager to get in as soon as possible after a break.
- Free time limitations.
Many therapists have trouble being truly “off” from work. Some therapy jobs, especially private practice, require therapists to be on call in case of crisis, even when we’re technically taking time off. Therefore, down time is tinged with the knowledge that you could get a call for work at any time. Even when you love your job, being on call makes time off seem less free. It’s harder to relax and recharge.
- Stress overloads.
Therapists always have to cope with other peoples’ stress, but during the holidays w, too may feel stretched thinner than usual. That can make our jobs a little tougher this time of year, because we’re absorbing client stress at a more sensitive time in our own lives.
4 Ways Therapists Cope With Stress Over the Holidays
Just like everyone else, therapists have to plug away despite increased stress or an overfull schedule. Here are some strategies we use to get through it.
1. Taking our own advice
Because therapists have knowledge about the effects of stress, insight into common holiday dynamics, and training to cope with stressors we have a bit of an advantage. We can rely on the same strategies we teach our clients to reduce anxiety, especially when our training helps us foresee stressors in ways other people may not.
2. Consulting with colleagues
In times of stress, therapists often need someone else to bounce their ideas off of, like a colleague. Therapists often rely on collegial support to deal with ethical dilemmas or get a second opinion on a case. These consults help us serve our clients better. No one understands a therapist’s needs quite like another therapist. These professional relationships allow us to check on one another and hold each other accountable for proper self-care.
3. Taking time away
While it’s important to take the client calls as needed, therapists can also rely on colleagues to cover for each other. We can take turns handling after-hours calls so each therapist gets time off that’s truly time off. Therefore, if your therapists goes on vacation and gives you the name of another person to call in case of emergency, try not to take it personally. Just remember this system allows your therapist to replenish, so you can get better care over the long run.
4. Seeing a therapist
Yes, therapists go to therapy. Although we know therapy techniques and can get collegial support, it’s not the same as working with a therapist of our own. Just like you, we can benefit from a neutral person who sees things from a different perspective. Plus, much like diet and exercise, self-care often gets pushed aside unless we make formal time for it. Getting our own professional help keeps us performing our best, at all times of the year.
Therapists are affected by the holiday season just as much as others. After all, understanding stress doesn’t make us immune to it. We may have some advantages from our training, but there’s no strategy that eliminates all stress, especially this time of year. Remember: even the professionals get overloaded with the holiday season. Don’t be too hard on yourself this holiday season and remember to make time to destress, just like a therapist would.