Christmas can be a particularly busy time of year with cards to send, presents to buy, relatives to visit and decorations to put up, all of which can create stress in our already busy lives.

The Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions refers to care of self as a practitioner, highlighting that we will take responsibility for our own wellbeing as essential to sustaining good practice with our clients by:

  • taking precautions to protect our own physical safety
  • monitoring and maintaining our own psychological and physical health, particularly that we are sufficiently resilient and resourceful to undertake our work in ways that satisfy professional standards
  • seeking professional support and services as the need arises
  • keeping a healthy balance between our work and other aspects of life
  • But what does this look like in practice? Here are 5 tips which you can try.

     Take a break!

Christmas is traditionally a time to take holidays but for therapists the issue of if and when to take a break can be tricky not least because of concerns about how this may impact on therapy. Work context may also influence when you take your holidays as employed therapists will have to take into account organisational constraints and self-employed therapists may feel pressure to take on work because of financial worries. However taking a break is an important part of self-care and can help to mitigate against the risk of burnout

     Look after your physical health

Therapy is a sedentary activity and whilst mental health will be at the forefront of your mind you may not be as aware of your physical health. Winter is a time when coughs and colds are rife so it is important to look after your health (which may include considering whether to have the seasonal flu jab). Healthy eating may be neglected as the festive period can be a time for over-indulgence and the colder days and dark nights make it easy to put off exercise and cosy up inside instead.

     Avoid isolation

Therapy can often be solitary particularly when working in private practice. It’s therefore important to connect with peers on a regular basis but also to make time to socialise with family and friends. The festive period is a great time to meet up but be careful not to over-schedule your diary with too many commitments!

     Assess your own self-care

Self-care needs can change over time and so regularly assess whether your existing self-care practices are adequate. Look out for warning signs that you may not be looking after your own needs such as not taking lunch breaks, working late, feeling exhausted, being irritated by clients etc.

     Develop a self-care plan

New Year is traditionally a time to make resolutions and can be a good time to reflect on the past year as well as plans for the future. Ask yourself questions such as “What has been good for my wellbeing in the last year?” and “How can I improve my self-care”, which you can then use to develop a self-care plan.