How someone who looks after the mental health of others takes time to check her own mental well-being
By Dr. Francine Bofill
I am a psychologist.
I work with people who are distressed, who are experiencing mental health conditions, and even those who just have no words to share, just tears.
Often, people around me would say the kind of profession I have is very stressful because I get to listen to concerns of people I hardly know—strangers, they say. In several instances, I spend 45 to 75 minutes listening, exchanging thoughts, in between the sighs and tears. Before the next client, I am given five to 10 minutes to complete my notes and, if I am lucky, I get to have another two minutes for a bio break until I get to meet the next client.
In between days, I work on assessment reports, I mentor aspiring psychologists, and hold update meetings with families of patients. At nighttime, after evening consultations, I read journals, books to help me with the direction of my counseling sessions. I keep updating my learning and practice. Such a hectic schedule. Maybe.
Psychologists get tired, too
I get tired honestly. I have wanted to always snooze my alarm in the morning, turn off my mobile phone and ignore all notifications. I am tired but not because of the weight of the problems of my patients. I am tired because I am a human person. I have my own set of needs: to be listened to, to cry whenever I hit rock bottom, and to be stubborn and say nothing when I am overwhelmed.
Whenever I realize I am tired, it is also the same time I get to be reminded to wake up earlier, to attend to my phone, and to keep going. If I see everything only as routine, I easily get tired. But there’s something more to it than just waking up. It’s tiring, sure. But there’s something more to it than just getting tired.
The best way to soothe tiredness is to see something bigger than being tired.
Caring for the self
Self-care allows me to return to the very foundation and meaning of what I do. I remind myself that, first, I am a human person who just happens to be a professional. And being a person, I, too, am capable of helping others get through these human phenomena of being mentally and emotionally tired. That, as a person, I need to remember that for me to be able to do what I do, I have to care for my well-being. It could be physical exercise, which I have been having a difficult time to sustain. It could be mental exercise in the form of reading books, which I truly enjoy. It could be interactions I have with my close friends or even strangers, and being open to people I trust the most about random and deep things in my life.
I would like each one of us to simply just be a person—no matter what your profession is, no matter what you have achieved or failed to do.
While it is paradoxical that one way to manage stress and pressures is by doing good to others, helping others manage their issues and stresses could be a draining experience. I return to the core of my person. I spend quiet moments, sometimes by just simply watching the sun go down in an open space. While nature helps me a lot, personal and heartfelt interactions with loved ones is a must. Netflix and Korean dramas are avenues for “me-time,” sure. But silence and deep sleep matter a lot. A good sleep restores my energy and enthusiasm while silence balances everything and allows me to return to my core—as a person, as a neighbor, and as a child of God.
It has been a cliché to say we need to focus on our mental health and to talk openly about it. Maybe I could change it this year. But I would like each one of us to simply just be a person—no matter what your profession is, no matter what you have achieved or failed to do. We all go through life’s challenges but we have different ways of responding.
It is just normal for us to feel deflated in spirit, broken in life, and to be needing help from friends and even strangers who can be in the persons of mental health professionals. A person may be substantially complete on his or her own, however, personhood requires always identifying himself or herself with the other.
If life is good to you at this time, pass it on to the person next to you. How? Be a person. Listen. Relate with them and accept that no man really is an island and even islands are interconnected underneath.
I am a psychologist, that is only my second nature. Perhaps you need us especially at this time, but I am primarily a human person who also needs you to do your part. Be the “other” for others.
Mental Health to a better world
A good mental health involves holistic components. Our individual and societal successes depend largely on the stability of our mental health. With the advancement in science, technology, and various fields of life, we are given many chances to be and do anything. But where you can be anything, be kind. Be a true and good person and let us advocate not only for mental health alone but for a better world.
The author is the Clinic Director of BPS Psychological Services Inc. | FB: BPS Psychological Services | 09669187058, 09238447755, 02 7 2157840