Are you struggling with keeping your work and home life separate and preventing burnout? I share my top 9 strategies to help you create strong workplace boundaries to help maximise work-life balance and prevent burnout.
You face numerous stressors as a psychologist. These include administration overload, isolation, compassion fatigue, Imposter Syndrome, dealing with grey ethical issues and workplace bullying. However, you can minimise the risk of burnout and create a sustainable, thriving career using an intentional self-care approach. One powerful self-care strategy is having clear work-life boundaries. Staying in control of your work-life balance and protecting your time, energy and values is an ongoing process. The following strategies can help you create boundaries to maximise your work-life effectiveness and prevent occupational burnout.
9 Strategies to help you confidently create your work-life boundaries.
Strengthening work-life boundaries requires you to take a mindful approach. The 9 strategies below challenge you to examine your current situation and take practical steps. Let's get started.
1. Identify what matters most to you
Finding the confidence to set and protect your boundaries is difficult, particularly for early career psychologists. Certain boundaries in a work setting are clear. These include legal, professional and some ethical boundaries. Other boundaries are more flexible and negotiable. Where you choose to place these boundaries is influenced by your needs, beliefs, resources, and intentions
After you consider legal and ethical requirements that come with being a psychologist, it’s time to consider your values. As a professional you have many decisions, including who you work with, what you charge, when you work, what modality you use, what resources you buy, how you want to work.
If you’re not clear about your boundaries, spending time reflecting on your value is an important step.
2. Identify recurring stressors
Make time for regular reflection and bring awareness to your current work situation.
How do you feel when you:
The above are some potential areas of recurring stressors that contribute to workplace burnout AND opportunities or threats to your boundaries. Identifying recurring stressors are a good place to stop and think about your boundaries.
Too much incongruence between your values and those of your workplace will create a situation where your boundaries feel under constant attack.
3. Clarify role expectations
It’s clear from my conversations with other psychologists that role expectations vary, often dramatically, between workplaces. And the lines between being a subcontractor or employee can be blurred. One clinician stated that at "My other clinic I feel confused by, in terms of am I an employee or a contractor. It feels quite grey, rather than black and white, which leaves me at times confused as to accountability and responsibility and who is managing the risk".
Legal advice on whether you are an employee or a subcontractor is recommended. And then this helps the next step, of fully clarifying your contract details. Read your contract and position description. Write down your interpretation of what the contract means. Check your interpretation with your employers understanding. Work through ambiguities. If you are employed, check it with any relevant legislation including workspace, and think about asking a lawyer to check through it as well.
Areas to ensure you understand include who is responsible for areas such as
Outside of work, do people in your life understand what you do?
My other clinic I feel confused by, in terms of am I an employee or a contractor. It feels quite grey, rather than black and white, which leaves me at times confused as to accountability and responsibility and who is managing the risk".
4. Set realistic expectations of your time and energy
Remember that drive to impress when starting out? The need to do more to quiet you inner Imposter Syndrome? It’s not sustainable. Do you want to be working these hours, taking on these responsibilities in two years’ time? If you don’t, stop setting up unsustainable expectations.
Whilst flexible boundaries are important in helping you adjust to the changing demands that are part of managing the ebb and flow that is work-life balance, there comes a tipping point. This occurs when your mindful decision to do more, to bring work home, to talk about work at home, becomes less of a choice and more of a reflection of a loss of control about keeping work-life separate. This seepage is an indicator that you are slipping towards overwhelm and burnout.
Think about your current individual situation.
The digital time black hole
The time spent reading, organising and responding to emails is estimated to take hours each day It is a big productivity drain. If you want to check for yourself you can track your time and see for yourself how much time and energy you take with this task.
Digital time drains include engaging in tasks such as responding to emails / phones and texts from your workplace and/or clients outside of hours.
If the digital world is overwhelming, a regular digital declutter can help.
5. Make Imposter Syndrome your best business buddy
The imposter is that pesky voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, you don’t know enough, you can’t do that, even when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary
When that pesky voice is driving you to do more, to be more, this has a direct impact on your time and energy levels. It can mean putting your hand up to do things that aren’t your responsibility to prove something to yourself and others. It can mean putting in extra hours so you know just what to say and do in the next session with a particular client.
You can flip this though. When Imposter Syndrome is reframed to be the quiet voice of questioning and curiosity it can be your best business buddy.
Sit down and listen to it and let it guide you into doing a reality check.
As a bonus, the Imposter Syndrome can help test out the congruence of your workplace setting as well as strengthen your interpersonal boundaries. Identifying people you trust can result in lowering your boundaries in some areas and lifting them in others.
6. Own your diary
You are a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Use your diary as a tool. Mark in your self-care time, and any other time that is important to you. Mark in your holidays. Don't let admin fill your diary out until the end of the year without breaks. Do that client audit and work out how many client hours you are doing a week. Is this sustainable? During times of crisis many psychologists report a need to ‘step up’ and do more for their community. Whilst this may be sustainable in the short term, it can create a chronic lack of control over work-life imbalance leading into burnout.
Whilst flexible boundaries are important in helping you manage the changing demands that are part of the ebb and flow of work-life balance, there comes a tipping point
7. Have clear work policies and procedures
Your work setting will have these policies and procedures. Official policies include, but are not limited to, missed appointments, working with separated parents, social media, how you communicate with clients etc. However, there are likely to be gaps. And if you are a solo psychologist, you will be creating your own policies and procedures.
Create your policies to not only include necessary legal, professional and ethical obligations, but to also prioritise your self-care. Think about:
Even though you are only one person, having established policies helps you create and maintain work-lifeboundaries. They add clarity for both you and your clients and help you avoid the stress of making decision making on the run). *As a note - people do sell their policies. They take time to develop and it is rude to ask people to share them for free.
8. Establish a work-life transition process
Having a mindful routine that helps delineate work from home is helpful in letting your mind know that work is done for the day. Being able to rest from work demands is essential in maintaining control of your work-life balance. Some strategies include:
Do you have a favourite transition strategy?
9. The five allies you need to defend your boundaries
After you have set boundaries congruent with your values and designed to honour your time, energy and what matters to you, it’s then up to you to defend them.
Broken boundaries can be subtle. Although the impact of stress is often cumulative it can take one thing to make you realise that you have lost that sense of control you once had over your work and home life, leading to exhaustion, resentment and burnout. Many factors go into why your boundaries become porous, why you say 'Yes' instead of 'No'. Interfering factors include Imposter Syndrome, compassion (and lack of self-compassion), overt and covert pressure, workplace culture, financial considerations, lack of clear policy and procedures, guilt, and an inability to prioritise self-care.
Your five best allies in defending your boundaries are:
Maintaining control of your work-life boundaries to avoid slipping into overwhelm and burnout takes effort. It means getting intentional about your self-care. The encroaching of work demands into your personal time, energy and what you hold important ranges from very clear breaching through activities such as workplace bullying and exploitation, to more insidious and subtle practices. Without a preventative and proactive self-care approach you are placing yourself at risk. Creating clear boundaries is one of the key self-care strategies. Use the questions and reflections in this article as a guide to help you prevent occupational burnout and improve work-life harmony.
OVER TO YOU
I’d love to hear your experience of work boundaries and burnout. Is it the digital time suck, the weight of Imposter Syndrome, or the exhaustion of trying to work out the essential from the non essential administration tasks? Or something else?
If you found this article useful please share.
Until next time, take care of yourself
ps If you are ready for some self-care support I'd love to help as you honour your own needs and turn up as your best self for your clients without sacrificing your health and wellbeing, I'd love to help.
Are you loving and thriving in your work as a psychologist at the moment? Or are you struggling and feel like you're moving through quicksand? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Wherever you are, that's OK.
I know that prioritising yourself, making hard decisions around self-care and saying NO can be difficult. Particularly now where there is a continuing increase in demand for mental health services as people struggle with the ongoing impact of COVID19.
You want to be of service. You need clients and you need to work.
However, you also need a sustainable business. Squeezing in an occasional extra client or going without a lunch break once in a blue moon happens for many reasons. Doing this on a regular basis starts to add up.
Without appropriate counterbalances, work overload often catches up with people in the end. And then the overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and poor productivity impacts on you, your clients and the profession.
You can come back from this, people do. But recovery time is not measured in days or weeks, it is sometimes measured in years. Depending on the source of burnout, it can be exhibited in leaving employment, career change, early retirement, retraining, and/or withdrawal from direct client services.
When you look at it like this, do you really NOT have enough time for self-care?
What makes taking care of yourself difficult?
There are many factors involved in making prioritising self-care difficult.
However, the reason most people give for not engaging in self-care is that they "ran out of time" or "I didn't have enough time".
Yep, no.... that's not it.
Here are four real reasons why you say you don’t have enough time.
1. Your current values and priorities don’t allow this task to fit. Life can become full of anything you choose. Work, study, children, children’s activities, gym, coffee dates, meetings, etc etc. There is no shortage of things you can do.
Hard question alert.
Q: Is what you are currently doing congruent with what is most important to you?
2. You're worried about looking stupid. It takes commitment to change your habits so that looking after yourself comes first. What about if you try this change and it doesn’t work out? Then you've wasted your limited time and resources. Your thoughts can also include self-chastisement in that you should already know how to look after myself.
3. You've bought into the busyness myth .
In a world where being busy is seen to be a badge of honour, “I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough time” has become a default. It’s easier than saying ”I know I should do that, but I actually don’t want to/it’s too hard for me at the moment/I don’t like it/I’m ignoring all things people at the moment/etc”
How about trying to be super honest (at least with yourself) about what you really want to say.
Here are some alternatives
4. You don’t love yourself enough.
This can be hard to hear.
Whether it is because you are putting your needs last out of habit, or, you genuinely believe you are not as deserving as others.
If you find yourself saying, Oh, I don't have time to sit and meditate for five minutes, I'll just take 10 minutes for lunch time because I have a report to write, I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal. I don't have time to go for a walk. I don't have time to journal. I don't have time to X, whatever it is. If these are common responses to decisions you are making, firstly look at the three points above, but then look at what you are saying about your relationship with yourself.
You are worth it. Okay. You need it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your clients.
What you can do about reducing your busyness.
You ARE a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Shifting your boundary fences to extend your clinic hours, adding on a new extra- curricular activity for your child, taking on extra clients, volunteering, pushing through…..can be a slippery slope to burnout.
I've been there, I've said yes to doing more and more because my clients needed it. When what I needed was to say NO and spend more time with my young family.
Another hard question alert
Q: What do you need to say NO to?
When you investigate what's behind your claim of “I don't have enough time”, it can be confronting. However, it's a great place to start.
You HAVE to look at your priorities and values.
And if you don't, if you just keep saying it and not change anything, nothing's going to change.
You might find that you start to feel resentful and neglected. As the demands pile on and you are not taking care of yourself, you may start to hate your life, crave for things that just aren't there. Burnout may start to creep up on you.
So, take “I don't have enough time” as your cue to dig deeper, examine your beliefs, your priorities, to engage in honest communication, and to work on removing those barriers that stand between you and your self-care.
There is no doubt that some seasons of your life, some days, are much harder than others. Knowing what self-care you need and how to integrate it into your daily life can make the world of difference to you,
You're worth it.
ps If would love to have some support in making self-care an essential part of your career, I'd love to help.
If you have ever wanted to improve your mental health you are not alone.
But how? Today, I focus on busting one unhelpful myth.
THE MOTIVATION MYTH
If I could just feel more motivated I would be able to achieve more/look after myself better / (insert your own saying).
Motivation can be defined as an internal process that directs and maintains behaviour.
It is thought to be what causes you to move towards your goals.
How many times have you said “I’m unmotivated”? Which translated means – I don’t feel like doing it.
I’ll let you in on a secret, you may not know -
Your brain sees change as scarey.
Anything that disturbs your environment and is different, your brain processes as a potential threat. It then takes mental energy to work out whether it is a threat or not.
So let’s say you start with a great idea that you would love to change your life so that you were braver, calmer, fitter, healthier. You can see yourself and all that you’d be doing when you achieve that goal. And that involves change. Changing your mindset, changing your schedule, changing up your habits.
So, is your brain going to take all this change lying down?
As much as you stand there encouraging your brain – we can do this, we’ve got this, let’s go – it ain’t going to come easily. (imagine a toddler, in the supermarket aisle, not wanting to move).
So, what do you do?
You need a bridge.
A well constructed bridge to take you from here (frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted) to there (in control, calmer, confident).
I can tell you one thing – that bridge is not going to be motivation.
It may have some motivation in there – but to work it’s going to need structure, processes, knowing how to create habits that stick, knowing what obstacles are going to pop up and what to do about them, support from friends, family and/or an accountability buddy, a clear understanding of why this change is important to YOU, an understanding of the change process and self-compassion.
This is why when I teach people how to improve their mental health – to get from here to there – it’s not just one session on motivation, dust my hands and say ‘you’ve got this’, and walk away.
I provide education, understanding, structure and fierce support.
Improving your mental health requires a considered structured approach. It takes your time, your open mindedness and your commitment.
So ask yourself.
What is important to you?
What really matters?
Give yourself permission to invest in yourself and get support to create the bridge.
Until next time, take care of yourself,
Of course, if you are experiencing significant distress please contact your GP, therapist or 000.
For resources that can help see - https://positiveyoungminds.vipmembervault.com
Yesterday the roadmap was delivered to Victorians. As a Victorian living in Metro Melbourne, the roadmap was worse than I had anticipated.
Worse both personally, and for the larger community.
I am looking for strong forward sustainable leadership in regards to future town planning which maximises the resources available in each person’s 5 km bubble. Maybe that’s coming, but it wasn’t there yesterday.
I am looking for leadership that supports family connection, and that wasn’t there yesterday. There are at least 7 weeks before I can see my parents, or any member of my family again. And at least 11 before we can come together as a whole family. None of my family are within my 5km radius.
There are at least 7 weeks before my children can look at resuming a proper education – ranging from High School to University.
So, yep it sucks.
So yesterday I wallowed, a little bit. Something clicked in my brain and I slipped into self-sabotage mode. To me this is often a combination of not doing anything and over eating – not a healthy combination – and getting angry.
If I am to name my anger, it would be disappointment, fear (the above will only happen if certain parameters are met), some envy and resentment.
There will be no grand final meet up with family.
If I’m going to be stuck in a 5km bubble, I want a better 5km bubble! I want a beach, or a forest, or a river walk, and/or some family! I have a lake .2 km out of my bubble. Do I risk it?
In crisis it becomes the gap between the haves and the have nots - geographically, financially, emotionally, and socially becomes so apparent.
In a crisis, this gap becomes a chasm.
There are many of us who don't have friends who check in on us and who take the effort to make our iso birthdays something special.
There are many people stuck in worse 5km radius than me. Those who don't have the money to indulge in Netflix, Foxtel, online purchasing, take away meals, or other distracting behaviours.
There are many who don't have the resources or energy to get dressed each day, let alone create and finish any sort of project.
And of course there are those stuck in a loveless or abuse relationship, unemployed, detoxing, the list goes on.
The above, and more contribute to the anger I feel.
So what, if anything, is the antidote to this anger?
Do we just wait it out the best we can?
Well, yes there is that but, here are a couple of things that may help
You know those thoughts and feelings going around and around in your head, perhaps sabotaging you the way mine do? Get them out. Write them down, talk them aloud, acknowledge them, show them in the light and own them as yours.
Now this is not denying that other people may have it worse. This sort of comparison does not help.
This is acknowledging your hurt and your loss and all the reasons you may be feeling anger.
From here there are a few options.
If you have uncovered a sense of loss, hurt or suffering you may like to look at the Three Steps of Self-Compassion.
You may like to channel the energy of that anger into something you can control, that fits with what is important to you. It might be writing a letter to your MP, starting a home construction/demolition project, going for a run, dancing to loud music, actively contacting (or recontacting) everyone you know in isolation to see how they are doing.
Or you may wish to reconnect with a passion, a person, a therapist, a positive habit.
I’m taking stock (again) today. Looking at doubling down on exercise, doing something in the garden, taking pressure off myself to complete work projects and slowing down a little bit, spring cleaning the house. I’m also going to keep connecting with the people I care about and…find a new Netflix series. Vampire Diaries you’ve served me well, but you’re almost over.
And, I’ve had one week off since March and am about to go and schedule in a couple more weeks when I finish this. Because, yes you can still burn out in isolation, in fact it can be even easier to do so.
Where ever you find yourself day, take time to reflect on how you are really feeling, what you are really thinking and then act upon this feelings. If you would like some support with that I’m here for you. Whether that’s through self-care coaching, supervision, mentoring…simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about your next steps.
Until next time, take care of yourself
Kim Dunn xx
*Updated on the 24th July 2021.
As my eldest child faces another birthday in lockdown, and in Melbourne we are in Lockdown 5.0, what has changed in the last 12 months?
COVID lockdowns are here to stay, at least until Australia reaches a level of acceptable vaccination. Since last year debate around vaccination effectiveness has increased. The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) have backflipped over appropriateness of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine for different age groups. Recently it was said not be to suitable for anyone under 60. This was shortly after I received my AZ vaccine (and I'm 54). No wonder you're confused. The TGA has received and reviewed 399 reports of deaths in people who have recently been vaccinated and found six that were linked to immunisation. Availability of both the AZ and Pfizer vaccines are limited. So whilst there is political debate about the reasons behind these limitations, this is overlaid with what vaccine is best for what age group, how to prioritise the groups to receive it, and are the risks worth it. Amidst the debate, I know young adults who have quietly taken matters into their own hands and received the AZ from the family GP, as they decided that was the best option for them..
Currently we are watching NSW try and contain the virus, particularly in Western Sydney. The Federal Government is still trying to explain why there are not enough vaccines. The States are trying to hurry along purpose build quarantine facilities. It's now normal to check in with a QR code wherever you go. Shop front businesses are struggling. Children are in and out of school and out of school activities. Parents are taking on and putting off their pseudo teaching hats. University students are having course completion dates extended because they can't do placements. Young adults are losing casual jobs because they can't go to work. People are looking for new fabric masks as the old ones are becoming worn out. New South Welshman are locked out of Victoria, Victorians not in the State are locked out of Victoria. The Olympics is going ahead without crowds, with 17% of athletes unvaccinated.
COVID-19 and COVID lockdowns are causing emotional distress in the community and amongst individuals. How do you take care of yourself in the midst of this distress?
Some initial research into the first month of COVID-19 found mental health difficulties were at least twice as prevalent as in non-pandemic circumstances. Studies into the mental health impact of COVID are ongoing, and seem to indicate that for many people once the external stress of COVID reduces, such as coming out of lockdown, levels of anxiety, psychological distress and loneliness also reduce. However for many individuals the impact is much longer lasting.
WHAT CAUSES ANXIETY?
In many people the presence of COVID-19 and being in the midst of a panademic triggers fear (as well as anger and sadness). At its most basic a pandemic represents a threat to life. Additionally, the presence of COVID-19 threatens your health, your liberty, your place in society, and exposes the divide between the haves and the have nots, both locally and globally.
The nature of Covid-19 is accompanied by factors other than physical threat that are contributing to increased anxiety, psychological distress and loneliness in the community.
These factors include loss or lack of control, the unknown, uncertainty, economic pressure and isolation; and the presence of other emotions such as sadness and anger.
Loss or lack of control
Having the government restrict movement is not something our society is used to, or likes. It raises questions such as of how far is this going? Is it needed? When your daily routine is changed by someone else this is very disruptive. Additionally, government control highlights societal vulnerability.
Societal vulnerability and level of resources
There are numerous examples of how your circumstances impact on your ability to manage Covid-19 and contribute to anxiety. I have outlined a few below
The unknown and living with uncertainty
With Covid-19 you don’t know what is going to happen next. You wait each day to see what the numbers are doing. There are have many cases of unknown origin. You don’t know where the next cases are going to be found, you don’t even know when the next press conference is going to be held. You don’t know when you’ll be put into lockdown, or how long is it going to last? Even in Victoria, the Lockdown 5.0 the roadmap is still a day by day proposition. The number one question from journalists is, when are we going to get out of this?
Your brain craves routine. We really are creatures of habits, and when the way you live is changed without your control it contributes to anxiety. Your thinking brain is designed to problem solve, and when it can’t do that effectively due to lack of information, or changing parameters, this creates anxiety.
Not knowing when it will end and what the long term repercussions will be. Will I get my job back? When will Jobkeeper finish? When can I open my business? Am I going to lose everything? These are chronic sources of stress, leading to ongoing anxiety.
Prior to Covid-19 the world was experiencing unprecedented loneliness and isolation. Although as part of Covid-19 the emphasis is on connecting people virtually, there are many, particularly vulnerable people for whom physical isolation is a significant contribution to increased loneliness.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FEEL ANXIOUS?
When anxiety, or your fear response, is triggered your body responds on instinct. It sends you into an acute stress response. Without you thinking about it, physiological changes in the body happen that are designed to keep you safe. Once your brain identifies something as a threat to your safety, it sends a message to your adrenal glands requesting energy to take action.
When your body responds a cocktail of biochemical survival hormones are released such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, norepinpephrine and ephinephrine. These hormones influence everything you do, from eating and running to feeling, thinking and behaving. Your heart will start beating quicker as it pumps blood to the areas that your brain believes are needed right now, like your muscles. A rush of adrenaline causes your lungs to take in more oxygen which the heart pushes to the rest of the body. Your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
WHAT IS THE FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE?
Examples of the Fight Response
Includes arguing with the government and authorities, defiance (eg breaking the law and community standards – think house parties, extended family gatherings, toilet paper hoarding, refusing to be wear masks, check in), blame, deflect, disbelief (eg conspiracy theories) increase of domestic violence, ostracization, and abuse.
Examples of the Flight Response
Includes people fleeing to their holiday homes. Other people may avoid all societal contact, not even going out for daily walks.
Example of the Freeze Response
Think stuck brain. Inability to change routines or do anything proactive. For example – binge watching Netflix, losing track of the day, not being able to adjust to current reality.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOUR FEAR RESPONSE IS TRIGGERED?
Usually when the situation that triggers the fear response disappears, your body starts to return to normal. The fear response is an emergency response and is designed for short term work. However, when a threatening situation is ongoing, like the threat of COVID-19, you can start to experience chronic stress.
Without engaging in intervention, like good self-care, your feelings can start to overwhelm you.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE CHRONIC STRESS?
Some of the common effects of chronic stress can include:
HOW CAN I HELP REDUCE MY ANXIETY?
Some of these factors above you can do nothing directly to change. When a threat is ongoing, without intervention your Fear Switch will keep firing and that’s unsustainable. You will end up exhausted and your mind and body energy will run out.
I can’t get rid of the ongoing threat of COVID-19 or tell you when it will end, however, there are many things you can do help reduce your anxiety and general stress levels. I am going to share with you some practical strategies that you can do right now. This is where self-care is so important. Taking responsibility for your physical and mental health changes the focus away from what you can’t control to what you can control.
Of course, if your level of stress and anxiety is significant please seek professional assistance. There are a number of organisations providing free support especially related to COVID-19. For places other than Victoria you can always check in with your GP as your first point of call.
Reduce exposure to the news cycle.
I can’t get rid of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, or tell you when it will end, however, there are many things you can do help reduce your anxiety and general stress levels.
Focus on what you can control
Look at what you can control. Your mind is a thinking machine and left to its own devices will go over and over again all the what ifs.
Journalling is a great way to express your feelings and thoughts and help with clarity. Here is a journal prompt to help you get into a more positive and constructive mindset. Grab a piece of paper and pen and start to write - “I can control……”, or “I have control over….”. Aim to fill the whole page and start each new sentence with one of the prompts.
Move your body
To calm your body a daily walk is thoroughly recommended. I know for me Covid-19 restrictions have meant less incidental exercise., this is the exercise you do without planning for it and having to organise things. For me I have always walked when I take my children to their sport training, or watch them at activities. But their activities aren’t on at the moment. Maybe you used to walk your children to school and can’t do that anymore, or walked part of the way to work, and now you are working from home.
But I want to add in dancing, because maybe you can’t walk outside for some reason, or you just want to try something different.. This you can do in short bursts at home. Make a playlist, or just play your favourite CD, album or dance without music. Let yourself really go and move to your emotions.
Love your life
What is important to you?
How can you still access that in your current circumstances? This can require some creative thinking. What can you can do to continue your pursuit of meaning? My value of supporting people is now being expressed entirely online through telehealth, vlogs, writing, zoom meetings etc, rather than face to face.
Tune into yourself
Connect with yourself. When you acknowledge how you are really feeling, this is a way of releasing some of your feelings power over you. It may sound weird, but I encourage you to give it a go. You can simply say it aloud. “I am feeling worried”, “I am feeling stressed” etc. The emphasis is on saying the word feeling, rather than saying, “I’m so worried”, “I’m stressed”. Try it both ways and see how it feels.
You might be scared of acknowledging how you are really feeling, OR you might be totally stuck in the feeling. Either way this strategy can help. You cannot block out just one emotion successfully. If you do, you are effectively stopping your emotional message system. You become numb and unable to experience joy and other positive emotions as well. You tend to stop caring about yourself and your needs.
This is not what we want to be the legacy of COVID-19. Looking after yourself, practicing positive, practical self-care is the best way to avoid long-term mental health difficulties.
Be kind to yourself
How would it feel to treat yourself, talk to yourself like you were your best friend? You are doing the best you can at the moment. But sometimes we all need a bit of reminding. Actively practicing self-compassion can help reduce distress. Give it a go.
COVID19 is both an acute, and an ongoing stress. You might be experiencing psychological distress, anxiety and loneliness. Your feelings are moderated by past experiences, your resources, thoughts, feelings, knowledge, physical and mental health. They are also influenced by societal factors such as class, income, minority status.
You can interrupt the stress response. You can manage your feelings, think clearer, make better decisions, prevent chronic stress conditions and keep living your best life you can. Practice nurturing tuning into yourself, loving your life, moving your body, focusing on what you can control, cultivating happiness, and being kind to yourself.
Thank you for reading. If you have found this article useful, please share with someone who it might help.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
Psychologist | Fierce Self-Care Advocate.
ps 7 Mini Stress Busters is a one page download that you can stick on your fridge, and includes some of the above strategies.
pps This is how I felt coming out of Lockdown 4.0.
You want to look after yourself more, but seriously, who has the time (or energy) for that.
And really, what difference would it make anyway?
I get it.
When my children were young and didn't sleep very much self-care seemed like a luxury that I would get to , one day. I so wish I'd realised then, how incorporating little things that fitted what I was going through (no time, money or energy!) could make a difference.
Did you know that every time you make a choice you lose something? It’s called opportunity cost. It’s unavoidable because you can’t be in two places at once, you can’t browse Facebook and get the dishes done, you can’t eat pizza and fish and chips and Chinese for dinner – you have to make a choice.
And choosing to engage in self-care, or not…..
…is no different.
But first let’s take a brief detour and let me dispel a myth for you. Self-care is not all about pedicures, massages and pampering. Sure, whilst there’s no doubt that some people love this and it helps them rejuvenate themselves; it’s only one, small, aspect of self-care.
Self-care is all about YOU looking after your physical and mental health. The action you take can be positive, practical and personalised. That’s the best type of self-care – finding out what you need and doing what works for you.
Back to the opportunity cost of NOT prioritising self-care.
Not being mindful (one of the key self-care tools) can lead to forgetfulness, missing non-verbal cues in conversations and harming connection, not being present for the best moments in the day, missing the everyday beauty around you.
Not doing something that brings you joy can lead to resentment and sadness.
Not practicing gratitude can lead to envy and jealousy.
Not exercising can lead to depressed mood.
Not reaching out to others when you are feeling lonely can lead to increased isolation and lack of connection..
Not practicing self-acceptance can lead to a feeling of not being worthy and not speaking up for yourself.
Not going to the doctor can lead to undiagnosed and untreated physical illness.
Not enforcing boundaries can lead to burnout and a deep sense of being taken for granted.
So, in answer to the question that was posed at the start – what difference does engaging in self-care make anyway?
Incorporating positive, practical, self-care strategies that reflect YOUR needs can make a world of difference to your health, your mood, your life.
Now, just because it’s self-care, I really, really want to stress one thing.
You don’t have to do it all by yourself. I am here to help you work out what you need, what strategies will work best for you and your circumstances, and to teach you positive, practical strategies that take very little time.
Just to show you that these strategies don’t have to take long, here’s a simple one for you to try.
Look up from reading this and find something that catches your eye and makes you smile. Allow yourself to focus on this feeling and the thoughts that go with it. Maybe it’s something your chid made, maybe you bought it for a special reason, or at a special place. Maybe it is just beautiful or was given to you by a special person. Then, if this thing is cluttered by other things, make space for it to shine by itself.
That’s it. You have just practiced self-care. You have touched on emotional self-care, connection and meaning. You have also practiced using you Awe and appreciation of beauty muscle.
If you feel inclined to send me a quick email, I would love to know how you went with this exercise.
Ever shut up instead of standing up? Ever allowed others to shine whist dimming our own light. The world needs you to be at your best.
I talk about this and what may be stopping you in the latest podcast. How to stand up instead of shutting up. What it takes to express your authentic self.
Until next time, take care xx
As you may already know, podcasts are my go to at the moment. Whether it be catching up with the latest in psychology, business or self-development, I have a range I can choose from according to the move. Some are great for listening to in the car, some when I’m lying down resting, some for when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, and others when I’m really in the mood to learn something new.
In fact, they are a perfect way for mums to learn. Some podcasts are short, some are longer, so you can pick and choose.
Below is a list of my top 6 favourites at the moment, although they do change from time to time.
Private Practice with Soul by Dr Brooklyn Storme.
The Content 10x – Amy Woods
Brand You Personal Branding – Mike Kim
Marketing that Converts by Teresa Heath-Wareing
Potential Psychology – Ellen Jackson
Parental as Anything ABC radio.
And a special shout out to two really new podcasts
Phoenix Rising with Gallagher Psychology by Patricia Gallagher, and
Course Creation Bites by Sam Winch
And of course I love my own (because it would pretty terrible if I didn’t!)
Creating Connections that Matter by Kim Dunn.
Do you listen to podcasts? If you've listened to mine I would love to know what you think, and I am always interested in what you would like to hear more of, simply drop me a quick email.
Have you ever been taken advantage of, had your trust betrayed, or got stuck in an unequal power relationship?
Trust – it’s a slippery little sucker.
What causes us to trust someone?
Do you trust people implicitly or does it take a long time to build up and develop trust that is quickly destroyed?
What do you trust people with – your secrets, your money, your heart, your life?
Trust and vulnerability are a cornerstone of connection.
It starts at birth.
Babies trust their mothers to feed them, pick them up when they cry, cuddle them. Responsiveness and predictability are key to attachment and connection.
As a psychologist, the relationship between myself and my client is inherently trust based.
My clients trust that I will do the right thing by them. That I will listen and seek to understand without judgement. That I will value and respect their experiences, their goals, their vulnerabilities. Within the clinic space they can let down their guards and don’t need to be strong. They trust that I will guide them using proven methods and honour their journey. That I will work within my expertise and the ethical and legal boundaries of the profession.
Did you realise that 50% of ‘success’ in therapy is due to the relationship between therapist and client. And when you think about how important trust is, this totally makes sense.
Many years ago I sought out counselling through the services provided by my then work, and began seeing a therapist. This person crossed boundary lines. They crossed boundary lines in a number of ways. I followed their behaviour up with a complaint, but that too was unsatisfactory.
This incident totally derailed the therapeutic process for me. It destroyed the connection. It created a mistrust of the counselling profession which I maintained for many years, and, a mistrust of my own experiences.
Why am I telling you this?
I have described an unequal power relationship which was abused by one party. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this and it wasn’t the last. It’s also not uncommon.
You may have experienced something similar.
Here is what may help:
If you are specifically looking for a mental health professional and want more information on professional and ethical conduct.:
I hope this helps. If you want to find out more about my story go to the latest podcast episode https://anchor.fm/kim-dunn/episodes/How-a-therapist-broke-my-trust---and-how-you-can-protect-yourself-against-something-similar-happening-to-you-ear293.
As always you are welcome to email me or book an appointment on 0408533515.
Until next time, take care of yourself
There's one thing that's guaranteed to happen at Christmas...
And what can happen when you wait?
Frustration, impatience. There's so much to do, why can't everyone just hurry up or move quicker.
Well no matter how much you want that to happen, it's probably not going to.
So what can you do?
Believe it or not, this is a great time to practice tapping into your inner calm. Here's one way to practice self-care on the go.
Simply roll your shoulders up and back and take a deep breath, then repeat the breathing. Focus your attention inward to your breath instead of outwards towards what is going on around you.
Yep, that's it - simple, on the go self-care that works.
Until next time, keep it simple and...
Take care of yourself.
Creating connection involves stepping out of our comfort zone, making changes to how we think and what we do. But it is crucial if we are to combat this scourge of loneliness that surrounds us, that contributes to isolation, mental health difficulties and suicide.
So I'm stepping into this mission I have to help you create connections with yourself, others and the greater world. I can't sit by and just accept what is impacting on all of us.
It is through strengthening these connections that we raise the positive energy around us that we all need.
I welcome you to come along on this journey with me.
Today I'm sharing a little video that shows how we can all make a difference, straight away, today with not adding any extra time chores to our list...because we all have way too many as it is.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is a Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Essential Self-Care for Psychologists.