This piece was authored by Howard Goode and Elana Shinkle, MA, CCC-SLP and first appeared at: https://globalteletherapy.com/avoid-slp-burnout/.
Unfortunately, it is no longer a secret that some speech therapists are struggling with severe burnout. These folks juggle seemingly endless paperwork, helping children with a variety of complex needs, and growing caseloads.
Add to that a possible lack of appreciation of the value of their work, and you have the perfect recipe for burnout. While it may be impossible to control all of these contributing factors, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing significant can be done to change the outcome.
If this is you, here are a few suggestions that have a track record of success for online speech therapists who find themselves in the same boat as you.
Evidence shows that regular physical activity not only diminishes a person’s vulnerability to serious health problems but increases energy and a sense of well-being by releasing endorphins. What’s more, it may be the perfect solution to just releasing frustration or pent up energy accumulated from the sessions throughout the day.
Those who exercise regularly experience decreased anxiety and enhanced mental clarity, as well. And don’t be discouraged by thinking that the exercise needs to be strenuous. Sometimes merely stretching for a few minutes can increase blood circulation and get your energy flowing again.
Getting enough sleep is neither indulgent nor optional. Research consistently shows that sleep is a prerequisite for both the mind and the body to function optimally. Alternatively, sleep deprivation is often the cause of many short-term and long-term problems. If you fall asleep within the first few moments you lay your head upon the pillow, you are probably sleep-deprived. Do yourself a favor and assure yourself of 6-7 hours of sleep.
There is another crucial benefit of getting enough sleep. With a clearer mind, you have increased the odds that you will make other healthy choices throughout the day, which will undoubtedly contribute to reducing your stress.
Your mother was right. When you eat better, you feel better, and your performance is enhanced. Your body is starving to be adequately nourished with healthy and nutritional foods, which will fuel your online speech therapy sessions throughout the day. You will see your focus sharpen and feel less drained although you are working hard.
When you feel overwhelmed, your mind is telling you to slow down; you’re moving too fast. Perhaps you bit off more than you could chew, or what you bit off wasn’t as chewable as it seemed. Whatever the case, your feelings of overwhelm are your mind’s way of protecting you from harm. Self-awareness can be one of your most valuable assets.
Setting healthy boundaries, while sometimes difficult, is often one of the essential ways to relieve yourself from burnout. It’s tricky because setting a boundary on the surface may seem like capitulation or weakness. However, it is a sign of strength. An online speech therapist often works long hours, so the ability to say no to work at night or on the weekends is honoring and validating yourself as a person.
Successful and wealthy entrepreneurs understand that the single most important word in their vocabulary is “no.” Those two letters are what preserve their strength and allow them to focus on the best way to use their time. It has been said that the “good” is often the enemy of the “best.” As a dedicated online speech therapist, you deserve the “best” and the surest way to get it is to learn how to say “no.”
6. Mental decompression
You may require emotional or mental decompressing. In other words, at some point, you need to shut down your therapist brain, which is akin to a hamster on a treadmill. Similarly, set a specific time to stop checking social media and checking email messages. Permit yourself to relax by entering the word “Nothing” into your schedule. That’s right, time to do absolutely nothing!
Don’t think that meditation is just a fad. It may seem like one, but there is a lot to it. It has been said that meditating does for your brain what flossing does for your teeth. You need to periodically clean out those things from your mind that you don’t need while creating the necessary pathways for the things that you do need.
Recent brain research has shown that regular meditation actually alters the architecture of your brain by rewiring the neural pathways to promote more positive thought patterns. In other words, the negative thoughts that keep spiraling through your mind can be reduced, and the consequent stress lessened.
Don’t just take breaks, but be engaged in those precious moments of downtime. Whether it’s finally finishing your basement, going for a relaxing jog, reading your favorite novel, or listening to music, allow yourself to become fully engaged in that activity. The release you will feel is not only pleasurable but therapeutic as well.
Sometimes you need to do something entirely different, something you want to do. It might not seem to be “constructive,” but indulging yourself in a hobby or some creative outlet such as music, art, or writing will be energizing. But don’t leave it up to chance, carve that hour or two out of your schedule every week.
While solitude is essential, allowing yourself to tune into both your mind and your body, connecting with others is critical as well. It can be with close friends, family members with whom you feel a special kinship or even colleagues in the workplace with whom you can share your professional ambitions. Regardless, that connection and attachment can sometimes breathe new life into a worn-out soul.
Don’t think that you need to implement all of these ideas at once. Take one suggestion, do it for a few days, see how it feels, and if you are deriving any benefit from it, try to make it into a habit. And then perhaps try another. Slowly but surely, your burnout is bound to diminish. The result could very well be that becoming the rejuvenated online speech therapist of your dreams may no longer be merely a dream!