For many mental health clinicians, self-care means carving out time from work and engaging in activities that are rejuvenating or personally fulfilling. Some people view self-care as a way to achieve work/life balance.

However, if you also practice self-care as an integral part of your work, you'll feel more balanced overall. 

Here are some suggestions:

1. Focus on the clientele whom you most enjoy working with.

As your own boss, you don't have to accept all referrals, even if you have room in your schedule. 

You can fill your practice with people you find most enjoyable or fulfilling to work with, via targeted marketing. That is, market your services to your favorite types of clients, and to referral sources who have access to such people.

In this way, you will be less prone to fatigue and burnout. 

2. Invest in a comfortable chair.

Since you spend the majority of your day sitting, your chair is one of your most importance pieces of equipment. A comfortable, adjustable chair that provides good support for your back and legs will help minimize muscle strain and pain.

Upgrading your chair may provide greater self-care benefit than upgrading your phone.

3. Start and end sessions on time. 

If one session runs into the next without a break in between, you have no down time to unwind and catch your breath. Feeling behind schedule adds to your stress, which accumulates as the day goes on. 

Give the same priority to your between-session breaks as you do for the time you spend with clients.

4. Schedule some longer break times during the day.

Suppose a client told you that on most days they sit at their desk working for 8 or 9 hours straight, taking only a few minutes to wolf down a sandwich for lunch, or they skip lunch altogether. Although the client is not required to work this way, they choose to do so. Toward the end of the day, they feel tired, achy, and grumpy, which spills into their evening time with the family.

You then explore with the client (among other things) the reasons why they work so intensely, why they don't take a break. 

If your work style resembles the above, you may want to do the same exploration within yourself.

Research shows that work breaks help increase focus and productivity. Consider taking longer breaks between clients (e.g., 15 to 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes). Take a full hour for lunch, and aim to go outside during that time. 

5. Keep up with client paperwork. 

Rather than waiting until the end of the day (or until the weekend) to do your chart notes and insurance forms, resolve to complete them during each session. 

This could save you an hour or more every day, not to mention the relief and satisfaction of being all caught up.

6. Stay current in your billing and collections

Give top priority to collecting all the money you are entitled to. Maintaining a healthy cash flow is a form of self-care in your business. When not worried about finances, you feel less stressed, and are better able to focus on your work with clients.

Collect your fee at every therapy session. If you are hired to do an extensive evaluation, it is prudent to require upfront payment for part or all of it. Follow up on outstanding insurance reimbursements. Review your income and expenses on a regular basis, and adjust fees and expenses as needed.

7. Delegate or outsource tasks that you tend to resist

As a business owner, you are responsible for all aspects of your practice. But that doesn't mean you need to carry out every task. Just because you can do all the jobs associated with your practice, doesn't mean you should.

Do you tend to procrastinate on completing recurring administrative tasks like billing and bookkeeping, or doing maintenance chores like cleaning? Each time you think of tackling these jobs but resist getting started, you inadvertently increase  and prolong your stress level. 

Self-care at work includes limiting your stress. For recurring tasks that you have been avoiding, consider delegating or outsourcing them. It will take a bit of effort to find the best fit for your needs at a reasonable cost, but once the services are in place, you will feel much less burdened.

Something to think about...

Self-care at work is just as important as self-care outside of work. Each enhances the other, such that balance is not something you necessarily seek, but that you naturally feel.