Graduate students and early-career professionals know how challenging, nay, grueling our work can be without a good night’s sleep. With all the demands of practice, coursework, family matters, research, and so forth, how can we hope to squeeze in a solid 8-hour sleep session?
Furthermore, how can we fall asleep when our minds are racing through that seemingly endless list of responsibilities and deadlines? We toss and turn and check our phones, remembering that each waking moment is wasted rest time.
All of us (well, hopefully all of us) try to practice good hygiene by bathing regularly, brushing/flossing teeth, and so forth. Yet, few of us try to practice good sleep hygiene.
Between running studies for your research, trying to get enough clinical hours, classes, comprehensive examinations, supervising undergraduates, lab meetings, teaching assistance-ships, and many other graduate school demands, it is sometimes a great accomplishment to squeeze in a few moments for lunch.
There is a general tacit agreement amongst graduate students and oftentimes, their supervisors, that achieving work-life balance is hard enough given the demanding schedules of graduate school; but achieving work-life-and-family balance can feel near impossible. Although it may be challenging, it is not impossible.
It is important to realize that therapists need to take care of themselves as much as we tell our clients to take care of themselves. After all – we are human, too!
With heavy workloads and complex cases, it is easy to forget the impact our work can have on our physical and mental health.
Often we work in isolation, with people in crisis or pain. Alongside the normal life ‘distractions’ we have additional responsibilities in the form of professional ethics, codes of conduct, licensing issues and insurance requirements.
All these elements can add up to a big emotional and energy cost for the individual therapist so it is essential to take steps to protect ourselves. Continual professional reflection can help to identify areas where we need to take steps to ensure the weight of the work we undertake is not taking a toll on our own health.