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Navigating Burnout: 7 Tips for Healers and Caregivers

Working in any helping field can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be emotionally and mentally draining. Therapists, social workers, teachers, nurses, and healers know the importance of setting boundaries and being aware of burnout, but we don't always have resources we need. You might not even notice you're burned out until you've been burned for a while.

Between serving others at work and taking care of your family, pets, and friends (not to mention the world being a garbage fire) burnout is almost inevitable. However, it is possible to navigate burnout and find balance in your life. Here are some strategies to help you overcome burnout in the helping field:

1. Practice Self-Compassion: It is not your fault you are feeling burnt out. Say it with me this time, "It's not my fault I'm feeling burnt out." We are often taught that burnout is a sign you've done something wrong. Even before COVID, burnout rates among teachers, medical providers, mental health providers, and healers was high, and the pandemic amplified the stress and reduced our personal and collective resources. Put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth, and offer yourself some forgiveness for struggling. It's hard because you're doing a hard thing, not because you're weak.

2. Practice Self-Care: It's essential to prioritize self-care to prevent and recover from burnout. Take time for yourself each day to engage in activities that are good for your mind and body. There are the usual self-care things you hear about like jogging, baths, or meditation, but self-care is so much more than that. Drinking water, taking a lunch break, looking away from your screen for a few seconds (try that now, maybe?), reading something for fun before bed, or calling an old friend. See how many tiny self-care things you can do in a single day.

3. Set Boundaries When Others Want Your Expertise: Every once in a while, someone in my personal life will ask my "professional opinion" about someone they know. While it can be flattering to have someone respect your professional wisdom, it costs you precious time of being "off." When people who aren't your clients/students/patients ask you for your professional opinion, you are allowed to set a boundary. No helper can be a helper all the time. When you don't want to be "on," try something like, "That's a good question, but since I'm not your therapist/teacher/nurse I won't be of much help." Or "I appreciate that you trust my opinion, but I think you should ask your therapist/teacher/medical provider instead of me."

4. Get Support at Work: Most helping professions have some support structure built in with supervision, mentorship, consultation groups, or buddy system. Be honest with your support systems. As a supervisor of new therapists, I consistently assess for burnout, disillusionment, and work/life boundaries, and I do my best to destigmatize burnout so they feel safe to tell me how they are actually feeling. Find someone at work who you feel safe with, be honest, and be open to their feedback. If their feedback is unhelpful or hurtful, adding your own therapy can be a safer space for support. It can also supplement supportive friends and coworkers who are also struggling.

5. Prioritize Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your experiences in the helping field. Journaling can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and gaining insight into your emotions and thoughts. Use this time to identify any patterns or triggers that contribute to your overwhelm and explore ways to address them. Common patterns are when you feel unappreciated by your clients/students/patients or your loved ones, feeling pressured to give more of yourself than you feel comfortable giving, comparing yourself to colleagues, and wounds from childhood that haven't been addressed yet.

6. Take a Break: Many healers and helpers feel an expectation to show up to work and hustle, even when they aren't feeling well. We wear the bags under our eyes with pride for how many hours we put in this week. But it's not a bragging point, it's a sign that you've been tricked into participating in your own burnout. Take a vacation, even if you don't go anywhere. If you've been burned out for a while, consider taking a sabbatical. They are life changing, if you do them intentionally.

7. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a gratitude practice to shift your focus from overwhelm to appreciation. Each day, take a moment to reflect on three things you are grateful for. This simple practice can help reframe your mindset and bring more positivity into your life. I like to think of one privilege I've taken for granted, one thing that I'm grateful for about today, and one person I'm grateful for (I'll practice right now: the ability to set my own work schedule, cat snuggles, and my partner). Remember, navigating burnout is a journey, and it's important to be patient and kind to yourself along the way. By implementing these strategies and seeking support, you can overcome overwhelm in the helping field and find balance in your life.

Do you live in Colorado? Boes Therapy Services is here to support you on your journey to improved mental well-being. Email me at and ask for a free 30-minute consultation.

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