352.771.2700 Your recovery is our mission.
Don't wait another day. Help is a phone call away.
352.771.2700

Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals

Health professionals are prone to mental health disorders due to the nature of their work, which is why self-care is so important for lasting health and well-being.

Self-Care for Healthcare Professionals

Estimated watch time: 43 mins 

Available credits: none

Presentation Materials:

Presenter, Alana Sadhu has been rigorously involved in the field of mental health for over 10 years. Starting off in the field as an innovator, she studied child and adolescent psychology. After earning a dual-Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from the accredited Florida International University, she began her practice as a clinician in the role that she states she learned the most from, as a primary therapist in the medical detox unit at the chemical dependency center, Sunrise Detox Center in Orlando, Florida. While devoting herself to the practice, she simultaneously completed her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the accredited, Argosy University of Southern California and began working on her licensure. She then moved on to the riveting role as a Licensed Clinical Consultant with JourneyPure, serving as, what she refers to as the “crisis consultant of addiction treatment”, being on the frontline for adults struggling with the disease of addiction. Alana is now a well-known mental health practitioner and community liaison in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Brevard counties. Alana is an active therapist at Florida Counseling Centers and is currently accepting new clients! Her newest, most exciting endeavor consists of her working as the Director of Clinical Programming, alongside Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle, well-renowned psychologist in Brevard County, introducing LiveWell-Coaching to the community. Based out of Melbourne, Florida, LiveWell Coaching is the new and improved way to connect people to live, certified coaches through a unique, technology-based platform with customized wellness content. She is passionate about understanding people’s needs and restoring health and wellness in the community.

Welcome to the Community Education Series, sponsored by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. My name is Alana Sadhu, and I’m happy to be one of the presenters for today’s topic. Today, we will be talking about one of my very dearest passions: self-care as it relates to health care professionals — so, us in this field. And that’s what we’ll be talking about today — a topic that I think many of us are finding that we are identifying with more and more as we progress throughout this global pandemic, and kind of trying to overcome some of the obstacles. I think we’re seeing individuals striving toward achieving self-care left and right, more and more, which really is, I think, super important.

A little bit about me. Again, my name is Alana Sadhu. I’m the director of clinical programming at LiveWell Coaching. I’ll tell you a little bit about my background, and then I’ll tell you a little bit about LiveWell Coaching and how it actually is very relevant to what we’re talking about today. I am a clinical mental health counselor in the field. I am based out of Central Florida. I have been a detox therapist at Sunrise Detox. Couple of years ago, I moved on to the unique role of a clinical consultant in Central Florida with JourneyPure. Now, I have moved on to the thing that has always been, again, very near and dear to my heart, where I get to talk about this self-care for health care professionals and I get to work one-on-one with individuals striving to be the best version of themselves. I’m an active therapist at four counseling centers in Melbourne, Florida. Currently, I’m actively accepting new clients. I work alongside Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle at LiveWell Coaching, which is something I’m so proud of. It is basically an application-based or technology-based mental health platform, where people just like you and me can access mental health and goals toward living well from the comfort of your very own home.

It’s something very, very unique that we are in the process of rolling out to the community for people everywhere. And again, very proud of it. Of course, if you have any questions on LiveWell or what we’re doing, I’m happy to answer those, and I’ll go ahead and put my contact information at the very end of this presentation. LiveWell’s unique design allows individuals to connect one-on-one with a certified mental health professional and peer recovery specialist for no additional costs, and it’s all part of the app. It helps individuals like you and me really just achieve wellness goals and live your best life. So, that’s something I’m really excited about.

So, moving on to the presentation part. I went ahead and included a quote that I really love, and I think it encaptures what we’re about to talk about today: “So many years of education and yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves and why it is so important.” A couple of disclosures for you: As mentioned, I’m a mental health counselor, a history of substance abuse treatment. That’s been a passion of mine for a very long time, and I’ve been in that space for about seven or eight years now here in Central Florida. Extensive research on the evidence-based aspects of self-care — that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today.

I always like to start off this presentation by asking the question, what is your why? What brought you into this space to begin with? Chances are if you are viewing this, you were in the helping profession, you were in the field of health care. A lot of people, they choose this space for a reason that is really personal to them, and so I encourage you to just take this moment to reflect and think about what got you here. I’ll be sharing my story — my why — with you all as well. My why has to do with compassion, and I feel like if you’ve answered that question above in the previous slide about what is your why, I’m sure that the term or idea of compassion came up at some point. So, I shared this quote by Pema Chodron with you because I think it is so indicative of exactly what compassion is, but also why many of us got into this field.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be truly present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

I personally grew up thinking that abuse and violence were normal. Chaos became my comfort. I didn’t know when anything would trigger my abuser and when I would become their punching bag. Later on, I developed severe anxiety as an adult with that whole adopted, cognitive concept of not knowing. As I got older, I became more educated, and I grew a yearning to understand human behavior. I worked really, really hard at getting better and healing mentally and emotionally. And it took over two decades, but I finally found my voice, and then I became passionate about helping others find theirs. So, compassion has two components. One is empathy, which you all probably have. And the second is a desire to alleviate human suffering, which again, you probably also have. And I think that that is a huge reason of why we are in this field.

That means something — it has to mean something — but we have to also pay attention to it. But not everybody talks about why we get into this field and where our compassion comes from. Having compassion can be a double-edged sword because being extremely compassionate and having empathy can make you predispositioned for something called compassion fatigue, which we will be talking about in the next few slides. So, compassion fatigue is not the same as burnout. Burnout is a term very often overused in many fields when a person becomes tired, but that’s simply not what it is. Most mental health providers experience some form of compassion fatigue in their lifetimes, in their careers, in their occupations. Unfortunately, some never recover from it. Some have to come out of the field, some fall victim to their mental and emotional health. We also have the highest rate of suicide among any other profession in the occupational industry. So, I promise this will become more hopeful as we go along, but it is important for you all to know that burnout is associated with stress and hassles involved in your work.

It’s often cumulative, which means that a vacation or time off often combats that burnout. Compassion fatigue is very different. It’s a state of tension and preoccupation with the individual or cumulative trauma of the clients that you see on a daily and weekly basis. That often includes you, yourself, re-experiencing the traumatic events of the client themselves. This often is in the form of you, the health care professional, absorbing the trauma through your own eyes and ears. It often is thought of as post-traumatic stress, secondary post-traumatic stress. So, that is a little bit about compassion fatigue. I think it’s important to note that you know you have moved backward from compassion to compassion fatigue when you feel overly weighted with unpleasant emotions, to the point where it can become unbearable. There is a blog by Sharon Salzberg that I hope you all take a chance to look at at some point. It is in the New York times, and it is called “Redefining Real Love.” The struggle is real with empathy and self-care. Hopefully, you all get a chance to read that at some point; it talks a little bit about what compassion fatigue is and how we can combat it.

As health care professionals, as a result, we are consistently exposed to psychological distress. Many of us are what I call “feeling healers.” So, not only are we exposed to the psychological stressors of others, but we also can experience. You have the capacity — the emotional capacity, which is a blessing, by the way — to truly experience the pain of others very deeply. This is compassion. This is empathy. This is what makes us effective healers. But the reason I refer to this as a double-edged sword is because it’s what we do with the distress that matters. That’s what impacts our work, and that’s what impacts ourselves in the long run. Psychological distress leads to poor health behaviors for yourself and, sometimes, poor life decisions.

The more I learned about being an empath, the more that I was able to really identify with being an empath. But I saw my peers, I saw my friends in the workplace and in the field falling into very deep, dark waters with no safety ladder. Left and right, I saw my good friends — who were just as passionate about helping others as I was — slowly placing the needs of helping others above their own needs. I think we have all been guilty of that at some point or another — perhaps we’re guilty of it now — but what happens is I saw them quickly becoming burnt out very quickly. I had someone tell me just a couple of months ago, “Wow, you were with JourneyPure for two-and-a-half years. That’s like the equivalent of a decade in our field.” And I mean, I chuckled a little, but you know, it’s very true. And it’s a little bit sad because this is a multifaceted issue, this level of compassion fatigue in our field, but there is a huge part of it that we are actually in way more control than we think. That’s where self-care comes in.

So, little stats for you. Mental illness is a major concern in the health care field, in our field, for three main reasons. The first is that the status of our mental health is often directly correlated to the risks, such as medical errors or decreased work performance in our field, just the same way that the status of our mental health is positively correlated with positive work performance and a lack of medical errors. But we have to look at all ends of it, and we have to be aware that if our mental health is declining and it is falling by the wayside, then that opens up the door for a decreased work performance and medical errors, which is super important and can be very scary in our field.

Mental health problems in ourselves that are not being properly treated by ourselves — oftentimes, because of workplace stigma, maybe lack of availability of resources. But those things that are not being treated by ourselves, they can contribute to a high turnover, compassion fatigue. So, part of being a professional is we have the personal responsibility to take extra good care of ourselves, and that includes our mental health. And the third of why mental illnesses are a major concern for us in our field — in the field of healthcare — is the potential costs. Our mental health decline could be the equivalent of high costs of medical institutions through decreased productivity in the workplace. And scarier than that, putting patients at risk because if we’re not okay, then they’re not okay.

So, what exactly are we at risk for? A couple of recent studies showed that the prevalence of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and sleep disorder — and all psychiatric disorders — among workers in the health care industry were higher than that of any other profession. I’m going to say that one more time. Ironically, the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among workers in our industry is higher than that of any other profession. That high prevalence is alarming, and it requires prompt action so we can protect the health of us. We have to protect the health of the protectors instead of being overconsumed by the focus that we have on protecting others’ mental health. We have to understand that we are not invincible and you can’t pour from an empty cup. We have to be able to recharge and take really, really good care of ourselves. So, we’re definitely going to go into a little bit more just how we do that.

Because of our calling, we have two things for sure: One is a really high sensitivity level, probably, and also a really high stress threshold. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily, but it can be. We require higher levels of self-awareness than any other profession. This means we need to know when enough is enough in both our personal and our professional lives. That takes a higher level of self-awareness than the usual. So, I’m going to refer to this boundary as the distress threshold. I challenge you, at this moment, to take a moment and learn what your distress threshold is. It’s going to be different from your peers, but what are some experiences that you have had that could have been teachings in your occupation, as it relates to what your distress threshold is? When is too much too much, and how do you know how to prevent it from going to the too much threshold?

How we do that is by practicing self-care. Self-care for us looks different than probably anybody else. So, in my research, I have come up with this unique but hopefully easy-to-remember definition of self-care, which I call the deliberate act of consistently tending to our physical, mental and emotional well-being for restorative and practical activities. So, this is the part that I was referring to earlier that we’re in control of. To combat compassion fatigue and to increase retention in the workplace in the behavioral healthcare field, this is the part that we are in control of. So long as we’re driving, we have to remain in that driver’s seat. This is how we combat burnout. This is how we grow as people and professionals. This is how we combat the stressors of the global pandemic, but it’s work, and we must work.

Self-care is the last thing from selfish; self-care is not selfish. We do what we do, as we previously mentioned, mostly because of what we have personally been through. But to be effective at what we do, we have to ensure our own personal safety and well-being at all times. And this isn’t selfish — this is actually being selfless because we’re being more considerate of how we interact with the people around us. Self-care is like a fingerprint, and that’s why I put this heart-shaped fingerprint image here, ‘cause I thought it was just the perfect representation of what self-care is. It’s different for everyone because it has to be; we all have different needs. When I think of self-care, I don’t think massages and spas, although those are nice too. But some of us don’t have the luxury to be in that luxury, which is where this practical word comes from. There are various types of self-care, and we actually need every single one of them.

Social media and media in general — you almost never see men pictured on self-care ads or posts or blogs. And I have to say, it’s infuriating. Men are people too. Men require self-care too. Self-care is an equation that you have to create for yourself. Every single person has to. So, I take this moment to let you know that I see you, I hear you and I’m here for you. Everyone requires a self-care strategy, including men.

There are five kinds of self-care: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. We’re going to take a moment to review each of those in just a second. So, this stay-at-home order — a lot of people, I think, are seeing it as a block and as an inability to do the things that they once did. A lot of people see the stay-at-home order and quarantining as an inconvenience. The stay-at-home order — the way I see it and the way I have to see it — it’s an opportunity for us to have to readjust our expectations and turn them into standards instead. It’s a chance to simplify the things in life we’ve historically done a great job at complicating, like physical self-care. This is the most basic form of self-care. What this means is maintaining good hygiene. Having a routine — having a routine is indicative of good physical and mental health. Waking up at the same or similar time every morning and sleeping at the same or similar time every night.

Watching what you eat. So, what you eat is going to impact your energy. It’s important to take a good look and really introspect at what your dietary needs and restrictions are like. Maintaining hydration is super important. Physical self-care is also seeing a doctor regularly. It’s seeing a mental health therapist regularly. It’s decluttering. Ensuring that since we are spending the most time — more time than we’ve ever spent at home before — since we are doing that now, we have to ensure that we have a clean, safe, comfortable and decluttered workspace to be in. Getting outside. I feel a lot of people — when I say get outside, I just mean you have to try to get some fresh air every once in a while.

A lot of people find some things to place as barriers which I don’t necessarily think are barriers, such as, “Well, it’s raining,” or, “It’s too hot.” It’s not raining 24/7. It’s not too hot 24/7. You’ve got to try. This is more imperative than it ever was before. Your self-care and your physical self-care is completely up to you. No one else can manage that for you, so you are in full responsibility to take really good care of yourself physically. Getting outside means not breathing the same air that you’re breathing in 24/7. It means exchanging real oxygen from outside with carbon dioxide. Also, it means getting your physical needs met, so that means by exercising, doing yoga, deep breathing strategies and meditation, fulfilling sexual needs safely as well, practicing mindfulness. All of these are included but not limited to all of the important tenets of physical self-care.

One of the next pieces is just something I really want to share with you guys. In that previous slide, we have mindfulness. Now, mindfulness comes with practice, and it is a skill that you can learn to get better at the more you practice it. But just like any other form of self-care, it does take work. Mindfulness can actually fit every other part of self-care. Mindfulness can be social, spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. So, I think it’s really important that we do take a moment to talk about this preventative measure — it’s a piece on mindfulness. In addition to some of the other qualifications that I mentioned prior, one thing that I really enjoyed was when I was studying how to overcome anxiety, depression, and PTSD. CBT came up a lot as one of the most traditional but most effective methods of treatment. But also, one form of CBT that is most effective — I think a lot of people often forget about MBSR: mindfulness-based stress reduction.

I’m going to take a little tiny tidbit of MBSR and share that with you today. In my studies, I learned that — and I have created this meaning of what mindfulness actually is — mindfulness is the act of exploring truth in the form of a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations, your surrounding environment, all through a gentle, nonjudgmental lens. Mindfulness doesn’t have to mean that you are sitting in a really uncomfortable-for-you yoga pose, trying to be one with the earth. If that’s something you do and that’s something you find enjoyment in, then I cheer you on and you go for it. But that’s not the same for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of being, and anxiety is the opposite of that. A lot of us in the field struggled with anxiety. It’s how we empathize with a lot of our clients, and I think being in the field by itself kind of just makes us anxious.

People have to face that for what it is, and how we combat anxiety is through mindfulness. It’s mindfulness as a practice; mindfulness is just being. It could be that you’re just sitting in a really comfortable position, wherever you are, and then you just have a light, downward gaze where you close your eyes for about three or four minutes and you just breathe and you feel your breath and you don’t judge yourself for having too many thoughts. You don’t try to push them all out. You just recognize them. You see the thoughts. You say, “I see you,” and you just try to be with yourself. There’s something so impactful about being able to practice that. So, while you create your mindfulness regimen, hopefully by the end of this presentation, you take the challenges I give you when you’re able to create your own. One of those other challenges is — practice five minutes of mindfulness twice a day, every day. After 30 days, just jot down in a journal or tell me how you feel. Call me, email me, let me know if you’re feeling better, the same or worse.

We move on to mental self-care. So, this means engaging in the things that you’re truly passionate about and the things that make your soul sing. I’ll just take a moment to mention this: If you are doing work that makes you unhappy and that you’re not passionate about, then you’re not meeting your self-care needs. I hope that if you’re in this field, it’s because you are passionate about it. So, this isn’t just occupation — this is what you do leisurely. Oftentimes, we have an aversion if someone tells us to do something we don’t want to do. That is just human behavior. If a doctor says your cholesterol is high, you need to exercise for 30 minutes a day and lower your fatty foods, you’re probably going to not want to do that. But you have to identify all of the things that are good for you, that are good for your soul, good for your mind, good for your heart. And that’s how you develop your routine.

Mental self-care is also seeing a no-bullshit therapist — excuse my language — regularly that you choose so that you can have a healthy outlet to reduce negative thinking. Here’s the thing: We all have a little bit of negative thinking, and we all have things that we need to have an outlet for. Our family, friends, spouses, kids — they can’t always be on the receiving end, and it’s not fair to expect that from them. So, see a therapist regularly. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you; you’re in the field and you know better than that. Every single one of you should have one. Every single person should have a therapist that they see. And if weekly therapy or biweekly therapy is something that you feel like you can’t afford — the time, the money, the investment, that sort of thing — want you to really think about that, but also consider LiveWell Coaching. Which again — proud to be the director of programming there — it’s an alternative to help you meet yourself through an app. I’ll tell you more about that whenever you’re ready to hear about it. Mental self-care is also getting regular restful sleep, so it’s meeting your sleep hygiene as well. Acknowledging your inner dialogue. Watching yourself talk. It’s the things that we talk to our clients about all the time. Using positive self-talk, pursuing ongoing growth, knowledge and education. And you’re already doing that if you’re sitting here watching this, so good for you.

Emotional self-care. So, honoring your emotions, I think, is what emotional self-care is. What that means is whatever you were feeling, feel it — no matter how uncomfortable or negative it may be. Self-awareness and emotional awareness go hand in hand. Emotional awareness is accepting all of who you are. This means processing through your past traumas and your past mistakes — not going around it by suppressing it to the point where these things have caused you to develop this hard outer shell. Just when someone asks you how you’re doing, you say, “Fine, okay,” even though you’re not. The only way to go is through — gotta go through things. This means dealing with the things that may be painful or uncomfortable. It’s impossible to know who you are without accepting your mistakes, your traumas, and learning from them and developing your self-identity as a result of the things that you have experienced. To accept your past, that means that you have to have gratitude and forgiveness.

Battling our own demons is what we have to do in order to achieve our emotional self-care. So, that’s things like, for some of us — for me — I can say it would be overcoming anxiety, combating depression and finding resolution for PTSD. I could not really truly call myself even practicing in the field of mental health until I came to terms with all of those things. So, I made that my personal responsibility. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to do the same. It’s never too late. Emotional self-care is also trying new things, stepping outside of your comfort zone, acknowledging your stress and dealing with it in a healthy way. If you’re seeing the stress, don’t try to push it out. Say, “I see you stress. I’m going to overcome you.” I know it sounds silly, but that’s the CBT circle. We have to identify the thoughts so we can tackle the emotions and behaviors. These are things we know, but we frequently have trouble putting it into practice. Emotional self-care has a lot to do with practicing forgiveness yourself — forgiveness of yourself, forgiveness of others — and it’s recognition and overcoming fear. Emotional self-care can also be practiced by listening to music. This is my favorite part: listening to music that soothes your soul. You’re able to practice honoring your emotions and emotional awareness if you can listen to music that soothes your soul.

We talk a little bit more about that just because it’s so powerful, so impactful and so easy to do. So, using music as a form of mindfulness. Here on the left is a snapshot of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park — may his soul rest in peace — singing “One More Light” at his last concert. And there are just tens of thousands of people all in the same place at the same time and they’re listening to the same song. If that’s not connection, I don’t know what is. Music is a unique and usable form of mindfulness. Think about your most memorable music-related experience, whether it be a concert or the first time you’ve heard a song that you loved. What are some thoughts that come to mind? There’s more to music than meets the ears.

There are so many musical components, and they are imperative to using music as a form of therapy. There’s the lyrics, the texture, the tempo, the dynamics, the rhythm, all of those are imperative components that make music music. But there are also factors of music that allow you to utilize music as a form of mindfulness. I think connection to self is arguably the most important form of connection there is, wouldn’t you say so? One of the most effective and tangible forms of connection to connect to yourself is through the art of music. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to learn or know how to play an instrument in order to reap the benefits of music therapy. Music is a powerful force of connection for humankind, as you can see in that image on the left-hand side. When you have trouble finding a word to express how you feel, but you know what song that you can identify with, and you will listen to that song for the three-and-a-half minutes, even though you’re not sure what you’re feeling but you’re feeling your feelings in a song — that is something truly beautiful. That’s connection. That’s emotional self-care. I challenge you to another challenge: Take a few minutes and make a list of your top 20 favorite songs of all time. Songs that make me feel a bit — songs that bring you peace. And when you find yourself in an emotionally challenging situation, or even if you just want to be mindful, play that playlist. It’s so important. Something you have control over. It’s fun.

What comes next is spiritual self-care. I’m not talking about religion here, and I’m not dictating what you should or shouldn’t do, but spiritual self-care is believing in something beyond you. Beyond yourself. It is identifying with what your beliefs are. Understanding your hope and your faith and your belief system, and seeing how that matches up to your actions and behaviors on a day-to-day basis. If you are religious or if you are spiritual and if you do pray pretty consistently, pray every day. Not just when things are bad but when things are good too, because a part of that is practicing gratitude. Gratitude is very spiritual in and of itself. It’s something that we should practice for at least a few minutes every day. Do it as a family, do it by yourself. Either way, spend just five minutes and just talk about the things that you are truly grateful for. That is what spiritual self-care is.

Spiritual self-care is also the ability to ground yourself. Grounding is another mindfulness space and CBT technique that most of you have probably heard of before. Spiritual grounding has to do with the actual earth, dirt, water or sand. You can practice grounding by walking in the grass, by planting, having your hands really immersed in the dirt, feeling the earth. If you’re lucky enough to be near a beach or water or the sand, using that as a grounding technique as well. If not, find a really, really good temperature in your shower and make sure you step in there with your feet and just find a couple of minutes to be mindful with the sensations of what your feet are in. And that, by itself, is grounding. That is spiritual self-care. Again, we need all of these in order to be the most effective at having a healthy self-care regimen. We can’t just pick and choose these things. It may take some time, but that’s where the routine comes into play.

Last but not least is social self-care. So, talk a little bit about relationships here, simply because I can’t talk about social self-care without talking about relationships. We are relationship-building humans by trade. What that means is we’re hardwired for connection. This is probably why we’ve been given our calling in the field of health care. So, it can sometimes become confusing and poses a challenge when trying to maneuver personal relationships, because they’re so different from the ones that we have professionally. You still have to be able to practice all the tenets of healthy relationships. Healthy relationships with anyone — with friends, family, children, peers, yourself — they flourish because of each person’s effective self-care. Think about it for a moment. One simply will not be able to maintain a happy, healthy relationship with another if he or she does not have this ongoing level of self-awareness. Relationships with anyone flourish because each person is whole all by themselves. And those are the five tenets of self-care that we talked about very briefly but were able to talk about and touch on today.

I’ve given you a few challenges. I hope you used them, and I hope you implement them in your own life. These are some references for some of the resources I used for our presentation today. If you’d like to get in touch with me, whether it be related to the presentation today or to learn more about how to get connected as a health care professional to LiveWell Coaching, please feel free to contact me at the information you see on your screen. It’s been a pleasure talking to you all today. I thank you so much, and I hope that you live very well and you take very good care of yourselves.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Objectives and Summary:

Most health care workers are drawn to their profession because they feel passionate about improving lives and want to help others. However, it’s common for professionals to take on too much of the mental burden, leading to the draining, long-lasting feelings of emotional fatigue. In this presentation, mental health counselor and clinical consultant Alana Sadhu explains how professionals can improve their well-being and stave off emotional fatigue through the power of self-care and mindfulness.

After watching this presentation, the viewer will:

  1. Understand the mental health concerns of health care professionals, who are typically highly empathetic and prone to disorders like depression, anxiety and even PTSD
  2. Know why self-care is necessary for maintaining a healthy, happy, well-rounded life as a health professional
  3. Have a basic understanding of self-care resources and techniques regarding mindfulness, therapy, music, exercise, relationships and more

Presentation Materials:

Presenter, Alana Sadhu has been rigorously involved in the field of mental health for over 10 years. Starting off in the field as an innovator, she studied child and adolescent psychology. After earning a dual-Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from the accredited Florida International University, she began her practice as a clinician in the role that she states she learned the most from, as a primary therapist in the medical detox unit at the chemical dependency center, Sunrise Detox Center in Orlando, Florida. While devoting herself to the practice, she simultaneously completed her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the accredited, Argosy University of Southern California and began working on her licensure. She then moved on to the riveting role as a Licensed Clinical Consultant with JourneyPure, serving as, what she refers to as the “crisis consultant of addiction treatment”, being on the frontline for adults struggling with the disease of addiction. Alana is now a well-known mental health practitioner and community liaison in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Brevard counties. Alana is an active therapist at Florida Counseling Centers and is currently accepting new clients! Her newest, most exciting endeavor consists of her working as the Director of Clinical Programming, alongside Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle, well-renowned psychologist in Brevard County, introducing LiveWell-Coaching to the community. Based out of Melbourne, Florida, LiveWell Coaching is the new and improved way to connect people to live, certified coaches through a unique, technology-based platform with customized wellness content. She is passionate about understanding people’s needs and restoring health and wellness in the community.

Welcome to the Community Education Series, sponsored by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. My name is Alana Sadhu, and I’m happy to be one of the presenters for today’s topic. Today, we will be talking about one of my very dearest passions: self-care as it relates to health care professionals — so, us in this field. And that’s what we’ll be talking about today — a topic that I think many of us are finding that we are identifying with more and more as we progress throughout this global pandemic, and kind of trying to overcome some of the obstacles. I think we’re seeing individuals striving toward achieving self-care left and right, more and more, which really is, I think, super important.

A little bit about me. Again, my name is Alana Sadhu. I’m the director of clinical programming at LiveWell Coaching. I’ll tell you a little bit about my background, and then I’ll tell you a little bit about LiveWell Coaching and how it actually is very relevant to what we’re talking about today. I am a clinical mental health counselor in the field. I am based out of Central Florida. I have been a detox therapist at Sunrise Detox. Couple of years ago, I moved on to the unique role of a clinical consultant in Central Florida with JourneyPure. Now, I have moved on to the thing that has always been, again, very near and dear to my heart, where I get to talk about this self-care for health care professionals and I get to work one-on-one with individuals striving to be the best version of themselves. I’m an active therapist at four counseling centers in Melbourne, Florida. Currently, I’m actively accepting new clients. I work alongside Dr. Mike Ronsisvalle at LiveWell Coaching, which is something I’m so proud of. It is basically an application-based or technology-based mental health platform, where people just like you and me can access mental health and goals toward living well from the comfort of your very own home.

It’s something very, very unique that we are in the process of rolling out to the community for people everywhere. And again, very proud of it. Of course, if you have any questions on LiveWell or what we’re doing, I’m happy to answer those, and I’ll go ahead and put my contact information at the very end of this presentation. LiveWell’s unique design allows individuals to connect one-on-one with a certified mental health professional and peer recovery specialist for no additional costs, and it’s all part of the app. It helps individuals like you and me really just achieve wellness goals and live your best life. So, that’s something I’m really excited about.

So, moving on to the presentation part. I went ahead and included a quote that I really love, and I think it encaptures what we’re about to talk about today: “So many years of education and yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves and why it is so important.” A couple of disclosures for you: As mentioned, I’m a mental health counselor, a history of substance abuse treatment. That’s been a passion of mine for a very long time, and I’ve been in that space for about seven or eight years now here in Central Florida. Extensive research on the evidence-based aspects of self-care — that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today.

I always like to start off this presentation by asking the question, what is your why? What brought you into this space to begin with? Chances are if you are viewing this, you were in the helping profession, you were in the field of health care. A lot of people, they choose this space for a reason that is really personal to them, and so I encourage you to just take this moment to reflect and think about what got you here. I’ll be sharing my story — my why — with you all as well. My why has to do with compassion, and I feel like if you’ve answered that question above in the previous slide about what is your why, I’m sure that the term or idea of compassion came up at some point. So, I shared this quote by Pema Chodron with you because I think it is so indicative of exactly what compassion is, but also why many of us got into this field.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be truly present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

I personally grew up thinking that abuse and violence were normal. Chaos became my comfort. I didn’t know when anything would trigger my abuser and when I would become their punching bag. Later on, I developed severe anxiety as an adult with that whole adopted, cognitive concept of not knowing. As I got older, I became more educated, and I grew a yearning to understand human behavior. I worked really, really hard at getting better and healing mentally and emotionally. And it took over two decades, but I finally found my voice, and then I became passionate about helping others find theirs. So, compassion has two components. One is empathy, which you all probably have. And the second is a desire to alleviate human suffering, which again, you probably also have. And I think that that is a huge reason of why we are in this field.

That means something — it has to mean something — but we have to also pay attention to it. But not everybody talks about why we get into this field and where our compassion comes from. Having compassion can be a double-edged sword because being extremely compassionate and having empathy can make you predispositioned for something called compassion fatigue, which we will be talking about in the next few slides. So, compassion fatigue is not the same as burnout. Burnout is a term very often overused in many fields when a person becomes tired, but that’s simply not what it is. Most mental health providers experience some form of compassion fatigue in their lifetimes, in their careers, in their occupations. Unfortunately, some never recover from it. Some have to come out of the field, some fall victim to their mental and emotional health. We also have the highest rate of suicide among any other profession in the occupational industry. So, I promise this will become more hopeful as we go along, but it is important for you all to know that burnout is associated with stress and hassles involved in your work.

It’s often cumulative, which means that a vacation or time off often combats that burnout. Compassion fatigue is very different. It’s a state of tension and preoccupation with the individual or cumulative trauma of the clients that you see on a daily and weekly basis. That often includes you, yourself, re-experiencing the traumatic events of the client themselves. This often is in the form of you, the health care professional, absorbing the trauma through your own eyes and ears. It often is thought of as post-traumatic stress, secondary post-traumatic stress. So, that is a little bit about compassion fatigue. I think it’s important to note that you know you have moved backward from compassion to compassion fatigue when you feel overly weighted with unpleasant emotions, to the point where it can become unbearable. There is a blog by Sharon Salzberg that I hope you all take a chance to look at at some point. It is in the New York times, and it is called “Redefining Real Love.” The struggle is real with empathy and self-care. Hopefully, you all get a chance to read that at some point; it talks a little bit about what compassion fatigue is and how we can combat it.

As health care professionals, as a result, we are consistently exposed to psychological distress. Many of us are what I call “feeling healers.” So, not only are we exposed to the psychological stressors of others, but we also can experience. You have the capacity — the emotional capacity, which is a blessing, by the way — to truly experience the pain of others very deeply. This is compassion. This is empathy. This is what makes us effective healers. But the reason I refer to this as a double-edged sword is because it’s what we do with the distress that matters. That’s what impacts our work, and that’s what impacts ourselves in the long run. Psychological distress leads to poor health behaviors for yourself and, sometimes, poor life decisions.

The more I learned about being an empath, the more that I was able to really identify with being an empath. But I saw my peers, I saw my friends in the workplace and in the field falling into very deep, dark waters with no safety ladder. Left and right, I saw my good friends — who were just as passionate about helping others as I was — slowly placing the needs of helping others above their own needs. I think we have all been guilty of that at some point or another — perhaps we’re guilty of it now — but what happens is I saw them quickly becoming burnt out very quickly. I had someone tell me just a couple of months ago, “Wow, you were with JourneyPure for two-and-a-half years. That’s like the equivalent of a decade in our field.” And I mean, I chuckled a little, but you know, it’s very true. And it’s a little bit sad because this is a multifaceted issue, this level of compassion fatigue in our field, but there is a huge part of it that we are actually in way more control than we think. That’s where self-care comes in.

So, little stats for you. Mental illness is a major concern in the health care field, in our field, for three main reasons. The first is that the status of our mental health is often directly correlated to the risks, such as medical errors or decreased work performance in our field, just the same way that the status of our mental health is positively correlated with positive work performance and a lack of medical errors. But we have to look at all ends of it, and we have to be aware that if our mental health is declining and it is falling by the wayside, then that opens up the door for a decreased work performance and medical errors, which is super important and can be very scary in our field.

Mental health problems in ourselves that are not being properly treated by ourselves — oftentimes, because of workplace stigma, maybe lack of availability of resources. But those things that are not being treated by ourselves, they can contribute to a high turnover, compassion fatigue. So, part of being a professional is we have the personal responsibility to take extra good care of ourselves, and that includes our mental health. And the third of why mental illnesses are a major concern for us in our field — in the field of healthcare — is the potential costs. Our mental health decline could be the equivalent of high costs of medical institutions through decreased productivity in the workplace. And scarier than that, putting patients at risk because if we’re not okay, then they’re not okay.

So, what exactly are we at risk for? A couple of recent studies showed that the prevalence of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and sleep disorder — and all psychiatric disorders — among workers in the health care industry were higher than that of any other profession. I’m going to say that one more time. Ironically, the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among workers in our industry is higher than that of any other profession. That high prevalence is alarming, and it requires prompt action so we can protect the health of us. We have to protect the health of the protectors instead of being overconsumed by the focus that we have on protecting others’ mental health. We have to understand that we are not invincible and you can’t pour from an empty cup. We have to be able to recharge and take really, really good care of ourselves. So, we’re definitely going to go into a little bit more just how we do that.

Because of our calling, we have two things for sure: One is a really high sensitivity level, probably, and also a really high stress threshold. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily, but it can be. We require higher levels of self-awareness than any other profession. This means we need to know when enough is enough in both our personal and our professional lives. That takes a higher level of self-awareness than the usual. So, I’m going to refer to this boundary as the distress threshold. I challenge you, at this moment, to take a moment and learn what your distress threshold is. It’s going to be different from your peers, but what are some experiences that you have had that could have been teachings in your occupation, as it relates to what your distress threshold is? When is too much too much, and how do you know how to prevent it from going to the too much threshold?

How we do that is by practicing self-care. Self-care for us looks different than probably anybody else. So, in my research, I have come up with this unique but hopefully easy-to-remember definition of self-care, which I call the deliberate act of consistently tending to our physical, mental and emotional well-being for restorative and practical activities. So, this is the part that I was referring to earlier that we’re in control of. To combat compassion fatigue and to increase retention in the workplace in the behavioral healthcare field, this is the part that we are in control of. So long as we’re driving, we have to remain in that driver’s seat. This is how we combat burnout. This is how we grow as people and professionals. This is how we combat the stressors of the global pandemic, but it’s work, and we must work.

Self-care is the last thing from selfish; self-care is not selfish. We do what we do, as we previously mentioned, mostly because of what we have personally been through. But to be effective at what we do, we have to ensure our own personal safety and well-being at all times. And this isn’t selfish — this is actually being selfless because we’re being more considerate of how we interact with the people around us. Self-care is like a fingerprint, and that’s why I put this heart-shaped fingerprint image here, ‘cause I thought it was just the perfect representation of what self-care is. It’s different for everyone because it has to be; we all have different needs. When I think of self-care, I don’t think massages and spas, although those are nice too. But some of us don’t have the luxury to be in that luxury, which is where this practical word comes from. There are various types of self-care, and we actually need every single one of them.

Social media and media in general — you almost never see men pictured on self-care ads or posts or blogs. And I have to say, it’s infuriating. Men are people too. Men require self-care too. Self-care is an equation that you have to create for yourself. Every single person has to. So, I take this moment to let you know that I see you, I hear you and I’m here for you. Everyone requires a self-care strategy, including men.

There are five kinds of self-care: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. We’re going to take a moment to review each of those in just a second. So, this stay-at-home order — a lot of people, I think, are seeing it as a block and as an inability to do the things that they once did. A lot of people see the stay-at-home order and quarantining as an inconvenience. The stay-at-home order — the way I see it and the way I have to see it — it’s an opportunity for us to have to readjust our expectations and turn them into standards instead. It’s a chance to simplify the things in life we’ve historically done a great job at complicating, like physical self-care. This is the most basic form of self-care. What this means is maintaining good hygiene. Having a routine — having a routine is indicative of good physical and mental health. Waking up at the same or similar time every morning and sleeping at the same or similar time every night.

Watching what you eat. So, what you eat is going to impact your energy. It’s important to take a good look and really introspect at what your dietary needs and restrictions are like. Maintaining hydration is super important. Physical self-care is also seeing a doctor regularly. It’s seeing a mental health therapist regularly. It’s decluttering. Ensuring that since we are spending the most time — more time than we’ve ever spent at home before — since we are doing that now, we have to ensure that we have a clean, safe, comfortable and decluttered workspace to be in. Getting outside. I feel a lot of people — when I say get outside, I just mean you have to try to get some fresh air every once in a while.

A lot of people find some things to place as barriers which I don’t necessarily think are barriers, such as, “Well, it’s raining,” or, “It’s too hot.” It’s not raining 24/7. It’s not too hot 24/7. You’ve got to try. This is more imperative than it ever was before. Your self-care and your physical self-care is completely up to you. No one else can manage that for you, so you are in full responsibility to take really good care of yourself physically. Getting outside means not breathing the same air that you’re breathing in 24/7. It means exchanging real oxygen from outside with carbon dioxide. Also, it means getting your physical needs met, so that means by exercising, doing yoga, deep breathing strategies and meditation, fulfilling sexual needs safely as well, practicing mindfulness. All of these are included but not limited to all of the important tenets of physical self-care.

One of the next pieces is just something I really want to share with you guys. In that previous slide, we have mindfulness. Now, mindfulness comes with practice, and it is a skill that you can learn to get better at the more you practice it. But just like any other form of self-care, it does take work. Mindfulness can actually fit every other part of self-care. Mindfulness can be social, spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. So, I think it’s really important that we do take a moment to talk about this preventative measure — it’s a piece on mindfulness. In addition to some of the other qualifications that I mentioned prior, one thing that I really enjoyed was when I was studying how to overcome anxiety, depression, and PTSD. CBT came up a lot as one of the most traditional but most effective methods of treatment. But also, one form of CBT that is most effective — I think a lot of people often forget about MBSR: mindfulness-based stress reduction.

I’m going to take a little tiny tidbit of MBSR and share that with you today. In my studies, I learned that — and I have created this meaning of what mindfulness actually is — mindfulness is the act of exploring truth in the form of a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations, your surrounding environment, all through a gentle, nonjudgmental lens. Mindfulness doesn’t have to mean that you are sitting in a really uncomfortable-for-you yoga pose, trying to be one with the earth. If that’s something you do and that’s something you find enjoyment in, then I cheer you on and you go for it. But that’s not the same for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of being, and anxiety is the opposite of that. A lot of us in the field struggled with anxiety. It’s how we empathize with a lot of our clients, and I think being in the field by itself kind of just makes us anxious.

People have to face that for what it is, and how we combat anxiety is through mindfulness. It’s mindfulness as a practice; mindfulness is just being. It could be that you’re just sitting in a really comfortable position, wherever you are, and then you just have a light, downward gaze where you close your eyes for about three or four minutes and you just breathe and you feel your breath and you don’t judge yourself for having too many thoughts. You don’t try to push them all out. You just recognize them. You see the thoughts. You say, “I see you,” and you just try to be with yourself. There’s something so impactful about being able to practice that. So, while you create your mindfulness regimen, hopefully by the end of this presentation, you take the challenges I give you when you’re able to create your own. One of those other challenges is — practice five minutes of mindfulness twice a day, every day. After 30 days, just jot down in a journal or tell me how you feel. Call me, email me, let me know if you’re feeling better, the same or worse.

We move on to mental self-care. So, this means engaging in the things that you’re truly passionate about and the things that make your soul sing. I’ll just take a moment to mention this: If you are doing work that makes you unhappy and that you’re not passionate about, then you’re not meeting your self-care needs. I hope that if you’re in this field, it’s because you are passionate about it. So, this isn’t just occupation — this is what you do leisurely. Oftentimes, we have an aversion if someone tells us to do something we don’t want to do. That is just human behavior. If a doctor says your cholesterol is high, you need to exercise for 30 minutes a day and lower your fatty foods, you’re probably going to not want to do that. But you have to identify all of the things that are good for you, that are good for your soul, good for your mind, good for your heart. And that’s how you develop your routine.

Mental self-care is also seeing a no-bullshit therapist — excuse my language — regularly that you choose so that you can have a healthy outlet to reduce negative thinking. Here’s the thing: We all have a little bit of negative thinking, and we all have things that we need to have an outlet for. Our family, friends, spouses, kids — they can’t always be on the receiving end, and it’s not fair to expect that from them. So, see a therapist regularly. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you; you’re in the field and you know better than that. Every single one of you should have one. Every single person should have a therapist that they see. And if weekly therapy or biweekly therapy is something that you feel like you can’t afford — the time, the money, the investment, that sort of thing — want you to really think about that, but also consider LiveWell Coaching. Which again — proud to be the director of programming there — it’s an alternative to help you meet yourself through an app. I’ll tell you more about that whenever you’re ready to hear about it. Mental self-care is also getting regular restful sleep, so it’s meeting your sleep hygiene as well. Acknowledging your inner dialogue. Watching yourself talk. It’s the things that we talk to our clients about all the time. Using positive self-talk, pursuing ongoing growth, knowledge and education. And you’re already doing that if you’re sitting here watching this, so good for you.

Emotional self-care. So, honoring your emotions, I think, is what emotional self-care is. What that means is whatever you were feeling, feel it — no matter how uncomfortable or negative it may be. Self-awareness and emotional awareness go hand in hand. Emotional awareness is accepting all of who you are. This means processing through your past traumas and your past mistakes — not going around it by suppressing it to the point where these things have caused you to develop this hard outer shell. Just when someone asks you how you’re doing, you say, “Fine, okay,” even though you’re not. The only way to go is through — gotta go through things. This means dealing with the things that may be painful or uncomfortable. It’s impossible to know who you are without accepting your mistakes, your traumas, and learning from them and developing your self-identity as a result of the things that you have experienced. To accept your past, that means that you have to have gratitude and forgiveness.

Battling our own demons is what we have to do in order to achieve our emotional self-care. So, that’s things like, for some of us — for me — I can say it would be overcoming anxiety, combating depression and finding resolution for PTSD. I could not really truly call myself even practicing in the field of mental health until I came to terms with all of those things. So, I made that my personal responsibility. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to do the same. It’s never too late. Emotional self-care is also trying new things, stepping outside of your comfort zone, acknowledging your stress and dealing with it in a healthy way. If you’re seeing the stress, don’t try to push it out. Say, “I see you stress. I’m going to overcome you.” I know it sounds silly, but that’s the CBT circle. We have to identify the thoughts so we can tackle the emotions and behaviors. These are things we know, but we frequently have trouble putting it into practice. Emotional self-care has a lot to do with practicing forgiveness yourself — forgiveness of yourself, forgiveness of others — and it’s recognition and overcoming fear. Emotional self-care can also be practiced by listening to music. This is my favorite part: listening to music that soothes your soul. You’re able to practice honoring your emotions and emotional awareness if you can listen to music that soothes your soul.

We talk a little bit more about that just because it’s so powerful, so impactful and so easy to do. So, using music as a form of mindfulness. Here on the left is a snapshot of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park — may his soul rest in peace — singing “One More Light” at his last concert. And there are just tens of thousands of people all in the same place at the same time and they’re listening to the same song. If that’s not connection, I don’t know what is. Music is a unique and usable form of mindfulness. Think about your most memorable music-related experience, whether it be a concert or the first time you’ve heard a song that you loved. What are some thoughts that come to mind? There’s more to music than meets the ears.

There are so many musical components, and they are imperative to using music as a form of therapy. There’s the lyrics, the texture, the tempo, the dynamics, the rhythm, all of those are imperative components that make music music. But there are also factors of music that allow you to utilize music as a form of mindfulness. I think connection to self is arguably the most important form of connection there is, wouldn’t you say so? One of the most effective and tangible forms of connection to connect to yourself is through the art of music. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to learn or know how to play an instrument in order to reap the benefits of music therapy. Music is a powerful force of connection for humankind, as you can see in that image on the left-hand side. When you have trouble finding a word to express how you feel, but you know what song that you can identify with, and you will listen to that song for the three-and-a-half minutes, even though you’re not sure what you’re feeling but you’re feeling your feelings in a song — that is something truly beautiful. That’s connection. That’s emotional self-care. I challenge you to another challenge: Take a few minutes and make a list of your top 20 favorite songs of all time. Songs that make me feel a bit — songs that bring you peace. And when you find yourself in an emotionally challenging situation, or even if you just want to be mindful, play that playlist. It’s so important. Something you have control over. It’s fun.

What comes next is spiritual self-care. I’m not talking about religion here, and I’m not dictating what you should or shouldn’t do, but spiritual self-care is believing in something beyond you. Beyond yourself. It is identifying with what your beliefs are. Understanding your hope and your faith and your belief system, and seeing how that matches up to your actions and behaviors on a day-to-day basis. If you are religious or if you are spiritual and if you do pray pretty consistently, pray every day. Not just when things are bad but when things are good too, because a part of that is practicing gratitude. Gratitude is very spiritual in and of itself. It’s something that we should practice for at least a few minutes every day. Do it as a family, do it by yourself. Either way, spend just five minutes and just talk about the things that you are truly grateful for. That is what spiritual self-care is.

Spiritual self-care is also the ability to ground yourself. Grounding is another mindfulness space and CBT technique that most of you have probably heard of before. Spiritual grounding has to do with the actual earth, dirt, water or sand. You can practice grounding by walking in the grass, by planting, having your hands really immersed in the dirt, feeling the earth. If you’re lucky enough to be near a beach or water or the sand, using that as a grounding technique as well. If not, find a really, really good temperature in your shower and make sure you step in there with your feet and just find a couple of minutes to be mindful with the sensations of what your feet are in. And that, by itself, is grounding. That is spiritual self-care. Again, we need all of these in order to be the most effective at having a healthy self-care regimen. We can’t just pick and choose these things. It may take some time, but that’s where the routine comes into play.

Last but not least is social self-care. So, talk a little bit about relationships here, simply because I can’t talk about social self-care without talking about relationships. We are relationship-building humans by trade. What that means is we’re hardwired for connection. This is probably why we’ve been given our calling in the field of health care. So, it can sometimes become confusing and poses a challenge when trying to maneuver personal relationships, because they’re so different from the ones that we have professionally. You still have to be able to practice all the tenets of healthy relationships. Healthy relationships with anyone — with friends, family, children, peers, yourself — they flourish because of each person’s effective self-care. Think about it for a moment. One simply will not be able to maintain a happy, healthy relationship with another if he or she does not have this ongoing level of self-awareness. Relationships with anyone flourish because each person is whole all by themselves. And those are the five tenets of self-care that we talked about very briefly but were able to talk about and touch on today.

I’ve given you a few challenges. I hope you used them, and I hope you implement them in your own life. These are some references for some of the resources I used for our presentation today. If you’d like to get in touch with me, whether it be related to the presentation today or to learn more about how to get connected as a health care professional to LiveWell Coaching, please feel free to contact me at the information you see on your screen. It’s been a pleasure talking to you all today. I thank you so much, and I hope that you live very well and you take very good care of yourselves.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Share on Social Media:

FacebookTwitterLinkedIn