At the end of 2020, I was exhausted. I had spent the majority of my days giving the very best of myself to my clients as a therapist, and I was burnt out.
Let’s face it. Providing care to clients in the middle of a pandemic that we, as healthcare workers/therapists, are also living through is no easy feat. My hat goes off to all of my fellow helping professionals. In my Kevin Durant voice, “We are the real MVPs.” We are true heroes. And while we are heroes and helping others survive and thrive in the most tumultuous of times, we are also human.
At the end of last year, I had reached the point where I was honestly questioning my future as a therapist. I remember asking myself out loud one day, “Is this really for me? Do I really want to do this? It would be so much easier if I just go back to working for someone else.” Me asking myself those questions was in no way a sign of weakness or inability to fulfill my professional responsibilities. It was a sign of my humanity. A sign that I had reached, and probably exceeded, my capacity. A sign that my cup was close to being empty, and something had to change.
In the last few months of the year, I stopped accepting new clients and even blocked certain time slots in my calendar because seeing 7 clients in a day and up to 26 clients in a week was too much for me. Just typing out and reading those numbers makes me cringe now. I was taking as much time off as I could, including taking off a couple of weeks at the end of the year, but it was still not enough.
I did some soul-searching during my holiday break in late December 2020 and recognized that I was not truly honoring my capacity. I was not operating my business in a way that aligned with my values and my overall well-being, and I was suffering because of my own choices. So I took a page out of my own book and revisited my schedule and reflected on my time boundaries. I realized that honoring my capacity means scheduling no more than 6 clients in a day (and honestly, I am at my best when I see no more than 4-5 clients in a day) and adding an extra buffer (usually an hour or so) for taking care of administrative duties that I cannot delegate to others. I have also been more intentional about taking my full lunch break and getting up to walk outside and listen to the birds chirping. I make sure I stop working at a certain time everyday and on Fridays (the day when I don’t see any clients), I am more intentional about working as little as possible and making space and time for the things and people that matter most to me (because that’s what life is about after all, right?). And it feels sooooo good! Now I’m looking at my schedule more and considering some additional changes in the near future. Because I recognize that success is a journey, not a destination. Things change. My needs change. My capacity changes. And as a result, my schedule changes.
Setting healthier time boundaries, along with making sure the clients I’m seeing are truly aligned with me, has made such a huge difference in my outlook and in my work as a therapist. I actually love being a therapist again. A wise woman reminded me a few months ago that my private practice is my business, and I make the rules. And that stuck with me. Some of my suffering last year was self-inflicted. I had subscribed to the belief that being successful in private practice meant seeing as many clients as possible (and the lie detector test determined that was a LIE), and I unsubscribed because that belief does not serve me, nor does it align with who I am or support my overall well-being. I believe that being successful as a therapist in private practice means showing up as my authentic self, serving and living wholeheartedly, and taking care of myself so that I can support others in taking care of themselves. If I’m not okay, my business and other parts of my life are not okay. And a huge part of practicing self-care is setting healthy boundaries—something I love to teach my clients how to do. I’ve found that setting healthy boundaries is something that many people struggle with—because they grew up in families that did not model healthy boundaries, because we live in a society that glorifies self-sacrifice, hustling, and working ourselves to the bone, and many other reasons. But it’s time for that to change. It's time for us to prioritize ourselves and put our needs first. Because we matter, and we are worth it.
If anything in this blog post resonates with you, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. You can also reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's to self-care, well-being, and resilience! Cheers!
Cover photo credit: The Jones Photography & Media Company
GIF images provided courtesy of GIPHY.
For more information on burnout, including what it is, why it happens, and how we can recover and heal, be sure to listen to the most recent episode of Sisters Thriving Splendidly: The Podcast, a podcast that I host along with Dr. Jennifer Turner.