And so it’s begun. We are now officially in the holiday season and although this time of year brings so much joy and happiness, it also brings so much stress and anxiety. Each year around this time, there seems to be a spike in the number of client crisis calls I receive. Can anyone else relate? School breaks, changes in routine, end of the year deadlines, financial stress, increased family stress, and over-packed schedules leave our clients feeling stressed, anxious, drained, depleted, and in somewhat of a crisis state. So why is this time of year different from any other time of year? Because we as clinicians are also experiencing many of those same stressors! Don’t forget, you are a person too and just because you are a therapist does not make you exempt from experiencing the holiday stress as well. Over the years, I have worked hard to try to implement some easy and effective ways to help reduce the likelihood of myself falling victim to feeling overwhelmed this time of year. Not only do I love this time of year and want to enjoy it, but I also want to be at my best for my clients during their time of need. So, in the spirit of giving, I wanted to share some of these tips with YOU!
Don’t Overbook Your Schedule!
I admit, I have done this in the past and it always led to me calling my own therapist for an appointment! This time of year brings out a sense of urgency. Think about it: All of the commercials we see or hear are about rushing to get the perfect gift. The holiday sales only last for a short period of time. The countdown to the holidays we celebrate are posted all over social media, reminding us of the exact amount of days left to get everything done. So, it makes sense we as clinicians feel a sense of urgency to get everyone crammed in before we go on our own breaks. But remember, cramming people in will only leave YOU feeling drained and depleted, which can negatively impact your clinical skills.
Whatever your typical schedule is, keep it. If you end up adding additional hours to fit people in because you truly feel you need to, make sure you give yourself BREAKS during the day. Also, remember that our clients need to accommodate to our schedules. We are in a helping profession and with that we give so much of ourselves to those we serve but we have to have healthy boundaries established, too. Look at it this way: If you needed to see your primary care physician and they only had an opening mid-day, you would never ask them to come in on a day off or stay later just as they would never offer to do that for you. You would make it work. Our clients need to accommodate our hours of business just as we need to have general flexibility for them. So, when you’re looking at your schedule feeling panicked because your slots are filling up, breathe and remember that your hours are YOUR hours. If someone cannot or will not come in during a time slot you have available, that is THEIR choice. An idea that I have found to be helpful is to keep a cancellation list to offset some of the stress. So, if someone cannot get in before you take your break, you can add them to the list and call them in the event something opens up sooner.
Take Time Off!
I have been guilty of this too. I have worked right up until a holiday because I felt “bad” about taking time off. And you know what happened? I was the one who was disappointed because I missed out on time off for myself, my family, and my holiday traditions. Then I felt even more drained because I didn’t allow myself the time off that I so desperately needed (and deserved!) There needs to be a balance. We cannot be off all of the time, but do need to give ourselves permission to have off around the holidays. Just as I noted above, there are ways to work around the stress of not getting everyone in before you take time off. Also, telling clients ahead of time is very helpful. I usually tells the clients I work with about a month or so ahead of time that scheduling is going to be a bit tighter going forward due to holiday time off. Most of the time clients understand (and even expect this!) and are able to plan accordingly with me to ensure their scheduling needs are met. Also, remember, you are not on-call 24/7. You can’t be. This is why we all have emergency services as back-ups for our clients to utilize in the event of a true crisis. I ensure every single one of my clients knows the numbers to call or places to go in the event of a true emergency when I am not available.
Ah yes, self-care. The ultimate way to ensure we are taking care of our needs, whether it be emotionally, spiritually, physically, or mentally. I always say“we cannot be the best version of ourselves in the various roles we hold if we are not taking care of ourselves first.” During time off, especially during the holidays, it is so important to ensure you are taking care of yourself and your needs. Self-care does not need to be big or extravagant either. Self-care can be small and simple, yet super effective. Lucky for you, I wrote a guest blog post all about this very concept and listed a bunch of EASY ways to implement self-care into your day-to-day routine. Check it out HERE!
During the holidays, finances seem to be the biggest source of stress. The last tax quarter is fast approaching, holiday gifts are adding up, holiday parties and gatherings are happening which require you to spend money, and we are left looking at our bank account, trying not to cry. So, if you know that this time of year seems to be a more expensive time of year, PLAN AHEAD! Go back and look at the years prior to see what you made vs. what you spent this time of year. Plan in advance how many clients you need to see to feel comfortable financially, how much you need to save for the holiday expenses, etc. This way you are not guessing when the time comes and potentially stressing yourself out more than you may need to. Also, always ensure you are corresponding with your tax professional to ensure you are on track tax wise and not hit with any major surprises!
Don’t let the holiday madness impact you negatively! You work so hard all year and this is the time of year where you deserve to have some down time, be with friends and family, and just enjoy the holiday in which you celebrate. So put down the planner, practice some self-care, and be ready to ENJOY the next couple of months!
I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me!
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