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Let’s be honest, the human race has had a hell of a last 2+ years. The world is stressful at the moment, whether we’re talking the sky-high gas prices due to inflation, the still-ongoing pandemic or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s a tougher time in history to be a human, which is why we all need all the support we can get.
We’ve all got our go-to methods for unwinding after a tough work week. Some of mine are: a long workout to high-energy music, a scolding hot bubble bath and swapping funny Tik Toks with my sister.
In times of stress, many people also turn to mental health professionals for help, as they should. But how do therapists themselves destress? How do the people who are professionally-trained in emotional wellbeing help themselves find it? We decided to ask them how to destress, to help bolster our own strategies for self care.
Therapists’ Basic Needs for Wellbeing? The Same As Everyone Else
The basics for how to destress? Meeting your basic wellbeing needs, and many of us have the same ones.
Meg Boyer, PhD. Postdoctoral Fellow at UW-Madison Mental Health Services, one of the two therapists we interviewed, described her basic needs which will sound familiar to most readers — “Eat, Sleep, Move, Connect and Reflect.” Editor’s note: emphasis added.
“In other words, getting enough nutrients, getting enough rest, moving my body in a way that feels good, connecting with my loved ones, and making space to check in with myself and feel whatever I’m feeling.”
She went on to say that “How that looks in practice is different for everybody and is different for me at different points, but lately my rituals have included putting a hard stop on work at a certain time in the evening to switch to something calming and starting to get back on my bike for long rides now that the weather is warming up.
Dr. Jeff Gardere, a medical advisor to Ro Mind, a digital mental health platform for anxiety and depression also described a very similar set of wellbeing needs, including “work life integration and health training.”
“I exercise every day for energy and focus, eat proper meals and spend quality time with my family in the evenings or very late afternoons.”
He added that when he really needs to unwind, he indulges in a few self-described “guilty pleasures.”
“My guilty pleasures, which ease my mind, are watching Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek Picard, and Superman and Lois, on the weekends.
A Stressful World Increases Workload for Therapists, Heightens Needs for Self Care
Their basic wellbeing needs might be the same, but the demand for mental health services has increased across the board during the past few years, putting a unique strain on the profession.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than 8 in 10 psychologists (84%) who focus in the treatment of anxiety disorders have seen an increase for demand in their services since the start of the pandemic.
72% of psychologists who treat depression have seen an increase in demand as well. Fuller calendars, and a generally lower level of emotional wellbeing amongst their patients is a recipe for a higher stress level.
Dr. Gardere emphasized the importance for therapists to be primed, mind and body, whenever they’re walking into a session to help someone. “Mental health professionals are responsible for someone’s well-being, and therefore, must be in optimal shape emotionally, physically, and spiritually to do this important and life-changing work.”
“Since the pandemic began, we have all been working harder than we ever have before, especially those working in mental health, helping people deal with their trauma from this culture shock and new normal,” said Dr. Gardere.
He concluded that therapists need to prioritize their rest and de-stressing during this time, in order to support others. This is true of all professions he said, “As we deal with the mental health tsunami of the pandemic, the schedules of mental health professionals are almost impossibly packed. As providers, it is easy for us to burnout in this time of global crisis, so we must prioritize being well rested.”
Dr. Boyer corroborated this sentiment. When asked why self care is important for therapists especially she noted that “I often say that it is important because psychotherapy work requires so much presence, thoughtfulness, and emotional energy that it’s not possible to really do that well when we are out of steam.”
“Beyond that, though, it’s important because at the end of the day we are ourselves human beings and we need and deserve rest and care for that simple fact alone, just the same as anyone else,” said Dr. Boyer.
Therapists’ Favorite Products for Self Care
So, how do they find this rest and rejuvenation? Dr. Boyer noted that she loves using scent to ground herself after a long day of sessions.
“In terms of products, the thing that comes to mind are my favorite scented candles (after may co. candles are my current if you’re wanting specifics). I like to try to engage as many of the senses as possible when trying to move out of work-mode and into relaxation, and find that scent is especially helpful for signaling to my brain that it’s time to shift,” said Dr. Boyer.
AfterMayCo Palo Santo Candle
A delightful coconut wax candle from AfterMayCo that features fragrance notes of cedarwood, amber and pine. Each candle is individually hand-poured into a 3.5 ounce gold tin or a reusable 7.5 ounce amber glass jar, and they use wooden wicks for longevity.
AfterMayCo Old Books Candle
Another top-rated scent from AfterMayCo is their Old Books scent, a wooden yet fresh scent with fragrance notes of bay leaf, cedar, fir and sweet hints of tobacco. This one is also made with coconut wax and designed to burn for at least two hours to maximize the first burn, and then 1-2 hours each time thereafter for optimal scent and atmosphere.
Another Relaxation Method for Therapists? Having Therapists Themselves
When asked if she had any advice for new or aspiring therapists just starting out in the field, Dr. Boyer noted that “learning to be a therapist can be a deeply transformative and deeply challenging experience.”
“I am a big proponent of engaging in your own therapy to better understand yourself and your work and to receive support throughout. Also, it is very tempting to work beyond our capacities when we see people suffering, but so important to know and hold our needed boundaries.”
How to Destress: SPY Editors’ Favorites
If you’re not a therapist, but aspire to take care of yourself like they do (or aim to do), here are a few extra products SPY editors picked out that help them destress, relax and unwind after long days starting at our computers.
VIVITEST Ceramic Essential Oil Diffuser
Continuing with the scent theme, SPY Editors love this essential oil diffuser for dispelling relaxing, calming scents into the air after work. It has a hand-crafted ceramic cover, a noiseless design and a 100 milliliter capacity for 3-5 hours of aromatherapy depending on the speed.
Another big de-stresser for the SPY team is reading, and this Kindle gives you access to your entire library in a pocket-sized device that’s perfect for travel. Amazon has a few different highly-rated Kindles that are definitely worth purchasing, depending on your reading habits and lifestyle, but you can’t go wrong with this original version as an avid reader.
Yoga Mat and Accessories Set
Yoga is another favorite relaxation technique of SPY Editors, and if you’re brand new to the practice a comprehensive set with a mat, blocks, band and towels is going to be the most useful. This one comes with two mats, a larger and smaller one, as well as a carrying strap to make them easy to trek to and from class. The towels are made for optimal absorption for sweaty asana sessions and are slip-resistant as well.
Journal and Pen Set
Journaling is another favorite de-stressing activity amongst SPY Editors, and this journal and pen set delivers the only two things you need to get started. The journal’s cover is made from 100% full grain buffalo leather that’s hand-stitched into place so the pages won’t fall out. The premium cotton paper is made thick, tree-free and acid-free for an optimal writing surface, and there’s a sleeve on the inside for pen storage.
More De-Stressing Content From SPY.com…
Want more top-rated products from SPY Editors for de-stressing and relaxing? Here are a few of our favorite pieces.
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- The Best At-Home Saunas Give You a Spa-Like Sweat Session in Your Own Home
- Find Meditation Difficult? Focus Your Mind With an Adult Coloring Book Instead