Mental Health Counselors: Advice for Good Mental Health
The focus on mental health has intensified over the past few years, but the need for care is not a new one. In fact, mental health counselors have long been sources of hope and comfort for individuals struggling with disordered thinking and other issues. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that these professionals help millions of people around the world. From working with patients to overcome specific problems such as anger issues to instilling effective coping skills to help them manage all of life’s stressors, mental health counselors are a crucial component of a healthy society.
What do mental health counselors do in the US?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 nearly 20% of US adults reported receiving mental health treatment within a 12-month period. Of these, roughly 10% opted for mental health counseling as part of their treatment plan. Millions of people in the country are helped every year by mental health counselors, who teach them the skills they need to live healthy and happy lives. This demonstrates not only how important mental health counselors are to individual patients and society, but also shows the importance of these professionals’ own mental health. Without the ability to think clearly and rationally, mental health counselors might be less effective in their field and help fewer people.
With that in mind, let’s discuss mental health professionals and their own mental health. You might assume that they are some of the healthiest people around, but the reality is more complicated. Because they spend so much of their time helping patients deal with trauma, their own mental health can suffer. This is compounded by the fact that there simply aren’t enough professionals in the industry to go around. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the majority of states don’t have even half the number of professionals needed to provide adequate care. Overwork is rampant in the industry, in other words, and mental health is certain to decline without the proper amount of rest.
The good news is that despite all of these challenges, mental health counselors have come up with some sure-fire tips to keep themselves healthy. Instead of letting the pressure overwhelm them, modern mental health experts walk a tight line between hardworking and healthy living. Here are some of the steps that they take to safeguard their own health and happiness.
Take time off
This tip is easier said than done. You don’t have to take off a full day to feel as though you’ve got some rest. Instead, focus on carving out quick bursts of time throughout the day. Don’t skip lunch, for example, and take the time to enjoy your food, decompress from the first part of the day, and prepare yourself for the second half. A 10-minute break at work or school, taking time to eat dinner, and waking up just a bit earlier than usual to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee before the rush of the day are also examples of taking some time off from your day.
No matter how much time you can spend away from the chaos of daily life, remember to take a breath, and enjoy the moment. On a related note, don’t forget to get plenty of sleep either.
Share the burden
Life can be overwhelming. From work to school and romantic partners to children, there is always something to think about and tasks to complete. Instead of tackling it all yourself, share the responsibilities with other people. Delegate as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. When we share the burden of everyday life, we have more time to enjoy the little things and take care of ourselves.
Not everyone has this option, of course, but if you have supportive loved ones, then accept their help. You will spend less time overwhelmed, and more time actively focused on everything else in your life.
This goes along with the first tip on our list. When you take the time to eat a meal, whether on your own or with others, make sure that you’re eating good food – not just tasty food, but food that nourishes your body and mind. Pay attention to the nutrients you’re consuming, and plan balanced meals designed to boost your energy and optimize your health.
Don’t forget to drink! It is difficult to overstate the importance of this. Stay hydrated. If you’re struggling to focus, take a minute and grab some water. You might be dehydrated and not realize it.
It is easy to become overwhelmed when you aren’t working toward something specific. Having a goalpost in mind helps you center yourself even during busy days and late nights. Your goal doesn’t have to be something massive. Even a goal of making it to Friday for a date night or a quiet night of self-care is enough to help you see through stressful moments to the bigger picture.
What can you do to help?
If you would like to improve the lives not only of patients seeking mental health care, but also the professionals helping them, consider entering the field. Mental health care in the US can use all the new entries it can get. Completing your doctorate in counseling online is the first step! While online classes are typically faster and more convenient to complete than in-person courses, pay attention to the university in question. Choose a well-known university such as American International College (linked to above) when decision-making time rolls around. The online program offered by American International College provides a streamlined path to reach the terminal level of counseling education. Not only will you be able to provide mental health counseling after completing the program, but you will also be qualified for an academic role in research.
Are you interested in learning more about mental health counselors and how their expertise can help your life? Or are you more interested in becoming a mental health professional? Regardless of what your own goals might be, keep these tips from mental health counselors in mind to protect your mental health and help you along your path.