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The six essential tips for busy behavioral health professionals

Behavioral health care demands a lot from clinical and administrative professionals. Despite the convenience offered by modern technology, being constantly connected can compound your workload, effectively keeping you closer to your work responsibilities even when you’re out of the office.

Understandably, there is a real struggle to keep up with the demands of both professional and personal life. Providers must budget time for their regular patient caseloads and hours on call in addition to managing personal matters, such as child care or elder care. When work and family demands prevent a healthy work-life balance, consequences include psychological stress, physiological concerns, decreases in work performance, and unhappiness in general. Compassion fatigue is also a serious concern for behavioral health providers, which, if left unchecked, could even result in patient harm.

As a good work-life balance is essential for the well being of both providers and patients, professionals that are struggling to find it should consider the following tips:

1. Understand personal limitations
Knowing when to say “no” to more hours, more clients, and more responsibilities might be one of the most important measures in improving one’s work-life balance. Providers that take on more than they can actually handle experience increases in stress and reductions in work performance across the board. It may feel as if there is more to do in a day than is possible, but it is important to accept that not everything is going to get accomplished. Listen to your emotions; if they are saying “that’s too much”, it’s time to take a step back.

2. Make self care a part of routine
Providers that incorporate self care into their daily routines benefit physically and emotionally. Self care encompasses a variety of strategies, including adequate nightly sleep, good nutrition, mind sharpening exercises, and the occasional self-pampering. The typical routine of the behavioral health provider is not one that guarantees the consistent enjoyment of self care activities, but in the interest of overall work-life balance, self care is important to fit in whenever possible.

3. Work should not be life
Some live to work while others work to live, as the saying goes, though in behavioral health it’s all the more important to find balance. People commonly self-identify based on their professions. While there is nothing wrong with taking pride in your professional accomplishments, work-life balance is a matter of recognizing there is more to your individuality than the job to which you report each day.

4. Maintain interests outside of work
It is common for professionals to carry thoughts of work responsibilities home with them at the end of the day, and doing so contributes to personal stress. Hobbies and personal projects go a long way in rejuvenating a preoccupied mind. Also consider volunteering, exercising, or traveling, as time permits.

5. Develop a social support network
Research has consistently identified a correlation between social support and lower levels of work-family conflict. Providers should actively nurture a social support network, which might include peer consultation groups or personal psychotherapy. This is especially true for practitioners that work in isolation the majority of the time.

6. Maintain a long term perspective
Work-life balance means something different for each person, as the circumstances of each individual’s personal and professional life vary. The goal of work-life balance might occur on a daily basis for some, and a weekly (or even monthly) basis for others. The important takeaway is an overall sense of wellness in the long term. You will need to decide how to get there in a manner that makes the most sense for you.

Covering even just a couple of the fundamentals for work-life balance will make a notable improvement in the life of the behavioral healthcare provider. Ensuring a healthy work-life balance is essential for the continued provision of quality, effective care.