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Self-Care for Therapists: Avoiding Holiday Burnout

These self-care tips can help therapists avoid burnout and thrive during the holiday season. 

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Holiday Stress and Burnout

The holidays can be a magical time to connect with loved ones and spark meaningful celebrations. This time can also cause stress. The pressures of having everything go well, cooking elaborate meals, and buying gifts can be taxing. Splitting time between families, managing time off, and bad memories related to the past may also contribute to stress.

The holidays can be particularly taxing for counselors and others in the helping professions. Burnout (which was added to the ICD-11 as an official diagnosis) can be a real experience for therapists during the holidays. When we experience exhaustion, feel negative about our jobs, and are less effective at work, we may be crossing into burnout.

The Importance of Self-Care for Therapists

Self-care involves anything that reduces our stress and recharges us. Therapists have an ethical obligation to manage our self-care. The ACA, NASW, AAMFT, and APA have standards in their code of ethics addressing the need for counselors to engage in regular self-care. Your state licensing board also most likely addresses this need. Modeling healthy behaviors sets an example for our clients.

Wondering where to start? Here are some self-care ideas for therapists during the holidays:

  • Exercise regularly, especially if you live somewhere where it may be too cold or dark to do your regular outdoor exercise.
  • Decide which holiday activities fit your self-care plan, such as dinner with friends, watching your favorite holiday movies, and baking cookies.
  • Take time off when you need it, without guilt. Schedule extra time off to get rest from the busy holiday if needed.
  • Practice saying “no” and conserving your energy. Don’t feel obligated to attend every holiday party and festive outing if you need to rest and recharge. 
  • Set aside time each day for deep breathing or mindfulness moments where you can check in on your stress levels.
  • Identify people in your support system. Think about who you can reach out for support if needed.
  • Schedule time with your own therapist if you need to process your holiday stress or solidify your self-care plan.

Ongoing Self-Care

Although consistent self-care is especially important during holiday season, it’s important to have a year-round plan in place to prevent stress and burnout. During periods where there may be extra stress or pressure, taking time to re-evaluate your plan is necessary. A good idea may be to have a therapist friend or two with whom you can share support.


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Kari Rusnak manages her telehealth private practice and is currently licensed in Mississippi, Colorado, and Utah. Kari is a Board Certified Telemental Health Provider and trained in EMDR. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist and her practice focuses on LGBTQ+, those in open/poly relationships, chronic pain, and sexual health. Visit her website at www.karirusnakcounseling.com.

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