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Preaching and practising

Published On: September 20, 2019 09:18 AM NPT By: Anweiti Upadhyay

How professionals take care of their mental well being

It has been more than a decade that PsyD. Brinda Thapa has been working as a mental health professional but she confesses that she too has to make it point to keep her own mental health in check. Having to listen to so many people and counselling them regarding their problems every day can be a little taxing for her mental wellbeing. 

“I’ve never been the kind of person who easily connects with people so I can separate myself from my patient’s problems quite easily,” says Thapa explaining that this trait of hers is immensely helpful in her profession where one can easily get overwhelmed by the issues one has to deal with. That doesn’t mean Thapa doesn’t have to actively work with her emotions.

For PsyD. Karuna Kunwar, psychologist at Centre for Mental Health and Counseling, however, detaching herself from her patients’ issues comes a lot harder. Kunwar, who is also frequently involved in different projects related to mental health, mentions that more than the patients she treats through regular clinical sessions, she gets more emotional while treating survivors of gender based violence and children who’ve been victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse.

“I’m constantly practicing techniques and methods that will help me remain neutral and not connect emotionally with my patients’ issues,” says Kunwar who on an average works with three to four patients at Centre for Mental Health and Counseling on a daily basis. But as she’s also working on other projects apart from that, the number of patients she treats or issues she deals with varies greatly.

She explains that all mental health professionals are trained to remain neutral and to be able to separate themselves from the issues they deal with very early on in their college life. She further mentions that a lot of mental health professionals regularly participate in trainings regarding this and get updated on new techniques.

Like Thapa and Kunwar,  PsyD. Saroj Ojha, professor of psychology at T. U. Teaching Hospital, tries not to be mentally burdened because of his therapy and counselling sessions with patients. He states that since he has been trained to never personalize patients’ problems, he tries to stick by this rule, difficult as it sometimes might be. 

While the mental health professionals this scribe spoke to do basic activities like exercising regularly, having timely and nutritious meals, and getting enough sleep every day as they believed these little habits contribute a lot towards the overall mental wellbeing of an individual, they all also had various other methods of taking care of their mental health.

Kunwar carries out a lot of mindfulness exercises to keep her mental health in check. She does breathing exercises and attends stress management trainings. At times when she is feeling too overwhelmed, sad or anxious, she reminds herself to be in the present to avoid thinking too much about the patients she has seen that day. 

“I’ve trained to build up strong resilience against troubles. So instead of panicking in the face of an inconvenience, I analyze the problem and tackle it head on,” she says adding that as this is a general solution to troubles people usually face, others too can also benefit from doing this. And when one can’t do this on one’s own, that’s when you seek help from a mental health professional, she adds. She also mentions that sometimes when she is too emotionally distraught or tired from work, she goes on lengthy holidays with her family to get her mind off it all.

As for Ojha, as long as he sticks to his daily schedule – which incorporates things like getting seven hours of sleep, exercising for an hour and having timely healthy meals – he feels neutral or happy with his life. He states he doesn’t feel negative or overwhelming emotions very often. The one thing that has the potential of stressing him out is being late. So to avoid that he puts a lot of effort to make sure he leaves early for any meeting. “I prefer being half an hour early to being even a minute late,” he says.

Apart from this, Ojha also believes in doing the right thing at the right time. He explains that when he is at work, he is dedicated to everything he has to complete and oversee and always gives every project his 100 percent. But once he is done with  work, he leaves everything behind and enjoys whatever it is that he is doing at the moment.

Thapa, however, believes that visiting other mental health professionals does the trick for her. Her sentiment about visiting another mental health professional resonates well with Kunwar too. She reveals that at her workplace every psychologist is assigned a supervisor who regularly checks in on them to know about their mental well being.

As someone who doesn’t get anxious or stressed too often, Thapa states that she can for the most part take care of her own mental health quite well. She mentions that she does get angry every now and again. During those times, she consciously stops herself from thinking too much about the thing that is ticking her off and focuses her attention on another activity. After some time, her anger dissolves and she can think more clearly about the issue and work on resolving it.

Whenever she gets sad, Thapa mostly takes long walks. Walks clear her mind and help her come up with solutions to problems. Other times, she picks up a book and starts reading. Thapa is an avid reader and claims that reading takes her mind off of things that are bothering her and helps her calm down. Thapa also mentions that she tries to keep a positive outlook in life by focusing on the good aspects in everyone and everything. “Everyone has negative thoughts and emotions but instead of hanging onto that, I try to focus on the positive aspects. Even when I’m in a bad situation, I tell myself that this had to happen for me to grow which instantly betters my mood and changes my outlook,” she says.

The mental health professionals this scribe spoke to seemed to have figured out how they can calm themselves down enough to think clearly whenever they get sad, stressed or angry. “It’s different for everyone. What works for me might not work for everyone else. But figuring this out will help you a lot in the future when you come across situations that’ll spark these emotions,” syas Kunwar adding that taking care of your mental wellbeing is an ongoing process that everyone has to constantly invest in.

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