How are our personal lives connected with our professional lives? And how can the two combined create an equation that expedites burnout to the square and lead to bad decisions? When my personal life seems to be shaken up, I noticed that it takes a toll on me while in my counselling office. I did not have the energy to work through a long day and had difficulty remaining in the present. Feelings and thoughts began impeding my sessions. When I became cognizant of my thoughts, I immediately felt guilty. This of course lead to thought errors. As I became mindful of my thoughts and feelings, I put my personal issues aside and completed all scheduled appointments. By the end of the day work day, I was not only mentally and emotionally exhausted, but felt physically drained too; however, my day wasn’t over just yet. I still had to work through the issues that were causing distress in my personal life. I immediately craved McDonald’s. That’s my go-to comfort food for when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m vegetarian, so in order to fulfill my craving, I order the BigMac without the meat patty. I request fresh fries and sometimes ask for tartar sauce on the side to dunk my fries in. Yes, I am admitting to my very unhealthy coping mechanism. However, having had a mindful moment earlier in the day, I had another mindful moment while making my way to the closest McDonald’s; the veggie BigMac will not help me feel better. So, instead, I made my way to the gym, got on the elliptical and spent the next half hour going through the motions. It was amazing! That night, when I got into bed, I reflected. I thought about how difficult maintaining personal and professional boundaries can be, how having a bad personal day coupled with challenging clients can take a toll on mental well-being, and then spent another 15 to 20 minutes re-experiencing the emotional rollercoaster I was on earlier. And then I thought about how stress squared can very quickly lead to unhealthy coping skills. Yet, as I laid in bed, I couldn’t help but smile. I was proud of myself for actually getting to the gym rather than eating food that would have made my stomach upset! But, I was also concerned about how the combination of my personal and professional lives created double the amount of stress for me. I felt overwhelmed. I started realizing how quickly my mental health can deteriorate if I don’t have a toolkit filled with strategies to deal with all kinds of stress. I was glad that I had a moment of clarity and went to the gym. I just hope that the next time I feel this overwhelmed, that I am able to pull out other strategies so that the thought of going to McDonald’s is not even an option.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA