Understanding Burnout

Burnout is a distinct form of stress, often associated with work, that can affect your physical and mental health. Mayo Clinic defines burnout as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Burnout is extremely common for a mom who is working in the mental health field.

Burnout in the Mental Health Field

Sadly, burnout is common in helping professions, and its prevalence is particularly high among mental health care workers. Therapy is all about guiding and supporting our clients through self-exploration, empowering them through a strength-based lens, and providing unconditional positive regard. The effectiveness of therapy is greatly influenced by the therapeutic relationship, which involves an emotional bond of trust, care, empathy, respect, and appropriate boundaries. Mindfulness and presence are also crucial. Managing so many vulnerable relationships and emotional holdings can be draining.

The Passion and Challenges of Therapists

To be a therapist in the mental health field, you truly need to love what you do. Processing and emotionally supporting others is a privileged and meaningful role, and it’s also important to acknowledge that it can be exhausting. Being relational and emotionally vulnerable can be draining, which is why many people struggle with and avoid it. Burnout doesn’t always have to do with a toxic work environment or job dissatisfaction; it can arise from compassion fatigue, lack of self-care (especially common when caring for others in healthcare), isolation, and other factors. Often, burnout and other stressors spill over from your work life into your personal life. As therapists, we’re also human and imperfect; we grapple with stressors and distressing emotions, and it’s challenging to be present 100% of the time – no one can do that.

The Demands of Parenthood

Parenting is also hard, and it’s also work. Parenting is a lifelong job, and arguably your most important one. You agree to sacrifice your privacy (forget about going to the bathroom alone), sleepless nights, nights out with friends, and running out without packing half the house.

Embracing Imperfection as a Mom

We’re all imperfect parents, and that’s okay. Good parenting doesn’t require perfection or constant presence.

Striking a Balance: The Dual Roles

What therapy and parenting have in common is their challenging and also stressful, purposeful nature, and to “excel” in either role, you need to be authentically yourself. There will be times when you get stressed, feel exhausted, and make mistakes that make you question your “why.” Why did I choose to be a therapist? Why did I choose to be a parent?

Navigating the Intersection of Mom and Mentor

What about when you’re both a therapist and a parent?

Both roles can be isolating. Both involve a great deal of care, vulnerability, and exhaustion. Each can increase the risk of burnout, and when combined, it can be challenging to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. When working remotely from home, you may find yourself switching between these roles and struggling to stay present.

Strategies for Maintaining Well-being

Seeking help, practicing self-care, and forming connections can help you stay grounded. I once read that making friends with other parents is like dating, and if you spend much of your time at work, your colleagues often become your main pool for social connections. In a remote workplace, this becomes a virtual pool, which can be even more isolating.

Building a Support System

Finding like-minded people can be difficult, and finding like-minded parents can be even harder. As a full-time therapist and now a full-time parent to a beautiful baby boy, I yearn for a friend who is going through similar experiences and shared interests. I am on friendly terms with some of my colleagues at work, but we aren’t particularly close; our conversations are mostly superficial or clinical.

The Power of Connection

One day, I reached out to one of my coworkers with a few parenting questions, and we began discussing our shared similarities and experiences with our children. This evolved into daily messaging and conversations about other interests. Later, I reached out to a few other moms at my workplace, and I discovered they also had similar experiences, which made it a little less isolating.

Continuing to reach out both online and offline, I eventually found my group of friends. Joining friendship apps, like Spinnr, and groups that matched my interests helped me connect with other people, especially moms. No just moms but moms who share my interests. Sometimes, you don’t realize what those shared interests are until you find them, and exploring and making new connections can be fascinating and engaging.

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