As a healthcare professional, your job requires you to infuse a certain amount of compassion into your work. Your experience in recovery might even offer you a deeper understanding of clients who struggle with some of the same challenges you once faced. But if you never pause to “refuel,” you might soon find yourself trying to run on an empty tank. It is important to relapse proof your own recovery.
Putting Yourself First
Is it even possible to take care of yourself when it seems like all you do is give? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, but it depends on your ability to prioritize, to assert boundaries, and to ask for help (gasp!).
1) Your recovery comes first
Period. This may mean referring clients to a more appropriate provider if their struggles feel a little “too close to home.” It might be regularly carving out time in your schedule to see a therapist who can help you process the unique challenges of choosing a career in caring. Know the tools that work for you, and don’t be afraid to use them.
2) You work best when you are not over-stressed
No one knows your limits better than you. Talk to your employer about your hours, caseload, and expectations about being available during non-work hours, setting boundaries as needed. This will help avoid future conflicts related to miscommunication between you and your boss. Furthermore, giving without taking care of your own recovery actually robs clients of a good model for self-care.
3) Ask for help when you need it
It can be hard to ask for or even accept help when you are used to being the helper. Paradoxically, asking for help early can prevent a slip from devolving into a relapse, which will ultimately protect your career in the long run. Many employers have employee assistance programs that offer free, confidential counseling to employees facing issues including challenges in recovery. An old therapist will usually be happy to see you for a few visits while you get back on your feet and back to your old self–but only if you ask!
So don’t let your compassion start and end with your clients; remember these three principles to care for others–without compromising yourself in the process.