The last year and a half has been difficult for behavioral health clinicians. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many services and facilities experienced disruptions. At the same time, suicide rates and substance overdoses rose as demand for mental-health services skyrocketed and individuals and families struggled with anxiety, isolation, and financial stress.
Behavioral health providers have many options for dealing with the wave of demand for their services. However, individual clinicians may let their own mental health needs go unmet as they try to keep up with their work.
Mental-Health Clinicians are Experiencing Burnout
A new report by HIMSS and Nuance have found that burnout affects the majority of mental-health providers across the globe. Their study included more than 400 clinicians across 10 countries. Burnout is nothing new, but providers have been pushed to their limits over the last year.
The reasons for experiencing burnout vary widely, from long hours to changes in workflow to complex client needs. The potential risks can affect providers and their clients in many ways:
Increased staff turnover
Poor employee engagement
Lower work efficiency
Poor clinician health
Strained relationships, both personal and professional
These consequences of burnout can put clients at risk and create poor health outcomes. In addition, they can create financial and legal damages for behavioral health practices.
How can clinicians better care for themselves, without sacrificing the quality of care they provide?
The Value of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is one small lifestyle change that can make a big difference for your mental health.
True, the term “mindfulness” has become somewhat overused and may cause skeptics to roll their eyes. However, research does support the appropriate use of mindfulness.
An article by the American Psychological Association discusses the evidence for mindfulness practice.
Researchers from Duke University reviewed existing literature, finding that mindfulness can have several “positive psychological effects,” such as “reduced psychological symptoms” and “improved behavioral regulation.”
Certain mindfulness practices can lead to genetic responses, research suggests.
Usually, mindfulness involves a few steps:
Slow down or stop what you’re doing
Take deep breaths
Observe and acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling (both emotionally and physically)
Process what you can realistically do in this moment
You need two things to practice true mindfulness:
1. Awareness: This includes your surroundings, thoughts, emotions, and potential triggers.
2. Openness: This means you accept what you think, feel, and experience, without either trying to ignore, suppress, or overreact to it.
Some ways to practice mindfulness include:
Using guided meditation to bring your emotions in check
Focusing on each of your five senses, one at a time, to help you stay grounded
Practicing diaphragmatic breathing
Reciting a personal mantra, or even a favorite poem
Journaling your thoughts and feelings of the moment or day
Practicing mindfulness can take as much or as little time as you need. Start trying it for a few minutes a week and see where it takes you.
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