‘We are all human at the end of the day,’ says Am Golhar, a human behaviour and psychometrics specialist. ‘We all have thoughts and feelings we need to kick out as soon as they come in.’
The onset of the pandemic and the first lockdown was tough for Am, as it was for many others in the business of helping people.
‘For me the beginning of the pandemic was very challenging, especially in terms of switching off from work,’ Am tells us.
‘It was difficult for me to say no while working from home, particularly because my job involved helping others.’
It has become clear that the shift to digitalised therapy, popularised over the pandemic, has placed strain on the mental wellbeing of mental health practitioners.
Due to the introduction of Increased Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) in the UK, a service utilising Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which is delivered predominantly online with very limited contact with clinicians, face-to-face therapy has decreased dramatically.
A 2019 survey of 650 NHS IAPT workers, published by The Conversation, found that 68% of respondents claimed to have experienced depression or anxiety – or both – as a result of their work and 70% experienced burnout.
More recently, in a 2020 US study, 78% of psychologists self-reported they were suffering from burnout.
The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the dire mental health crisis we’re now dealing with, and mental health workers aren’t immune.
‘Mental health work is rewarding and fulfilling, but it is challenging and has the potential to induce burnout and compassion fatigue,’ Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant Lee Chambers tells Metro.co.uk.
‘The pandemic has amplified many of the challenges that individuals and teams face, and created a considerable amount of uncertainty, instability and fear.
‘It has caused my own mental wellbeing to fluctuate and there have been a number of occasions where I have felt myself descending into a difficult place.’
Clare Cogan, a teenage anxiety specialist and therapist working with young people, found that her old mental health problems came creeping back as the pandemic hit.
Along with acute anxiety, Clare’s teen eating issues resurfaced as she found herself navigating the uncertainty of lockdown.
‘One of the biggest challenges to an anxious mind is uncertainty, and this is an area where I was particularly vulnerable during my younger years,’ she says.
‘Not knowing if something can go ahead due to Covid for myself or my children, and our own health being vulnerable, has led to me feeling increasingly anxious and worried about the disappointment, upset and life changes which may be caused.
‘This is not something I have experienced for many years, and it came as a shock when I realised that I was having to navigate some of my old issues in my present life, including controlled eating, a symptom of my anxiety.’
The worry here, of course, is that if our mental health workers are suffering, how can we expect them to help others in their own time of need?
‘Working in mental health, we will not have been immune to the impact of the pandemic,’ Clare adds.
‘However, part of my professional practice is to reflect on the situation and find solutions which will safeguard and protect myself so that I can show up for my clients in the best possible way.’
For mental health workers who are hoping to protect their own mental health, these are some key ways Lee, Am and Clare manage their own wellbeing day-to-day:
‘I’m very mindful of what I consume, both mentally and physically, and prioritise my sleep to ensure I’m as emotionally balanced as possible,’ says Lee.
‘I find getting our into nature creates a powerful separation and place for reflection and rejuvenation, and utilise this regularly. Playing with my children is also a powerful means of detaching.’
Reducing working hours
‘I adjusted my hours to ensure I did not spend all my time working,’ says Clare.
‘With this, I created the space when I could and would see people to ensure I had enough breaks and time to process at a time when nothing was certain and the sands were shifting constantly.’
‘For me, the main way working in this space can impact someone is if boundaries are not in place,’ says Am.
‘This includes the scheduled time you have with your client and the amount of unscheduled contact you are allowing your client to have with you, if any, as well as how often you work.’
Talking to your peers
‘Having my peer support network has been a vital part of managing throughout Covid,’ Lee tells Metro.co.uk. ‘As has my own vulnerability in expressing my own struggles, something it’s never easy to do when you hold a position of supporting others.’
Credit: Original article published here.