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Life as a provider

7 ways to restore your social fuel when you talk all day, every day

An abstract illustration that represents a social circle

Here’s how you can ensure you bring your best self to your friends and family and your clients.

As a therapist, you spend a lot of time investing in other people. So when you lock up your office or close your laptop for the day, you might find yourself feeling socially depleted — like you don’t have anything left to give your loved ones. 

The problem? Social connections are an important component of self-care, and you can’t just “turn off” the important relationships in your life. Instead, find practical ways to restore your social fuel between sessions to ensure you bring your best self to your friends and family and your clients.

1. Choose your friends wisely

When it comes to friendships, try to focus on quality over quantity. And remember: You’re a therapist, but you’re not your friends’ therapist!

In a Reddit thread about social burnout, one psychotherapist shares their hard-but-necessary choice to limit one-sided relationships: “I dropped off many unhealthy friendships and only spend time with people who nourish me.” 

Focusing on the healthiest relationships in your life will prevent you from being further depleted, and just as importantly, create opportunities to “fill your cup” and glean some much-needed emotional support from people who care about you.

2. Take time to reset

If you’re particularly drained after a session, carve out some time to decompress before scheduling social activities (or even talking to your spouse or roommate). One Redditor, for example, tells her husband she needs at least 30 minutes after work before attempting conversation, and on weekends, she limits social commitments so she can have time to rejuvenate.

3. Invest in a hobby

Participating in something you’re interested in is a great way to incorporate some joy into your life, which can help you refuel from a compassion-focused job. Hobby-oriented activities are also a smart avenue for building relationships that may not feel as emotionally depleting. Take it from one Redditor: “I’ve started cycling and getting guitar lessons to reinvigorate my social life. In both cases, you get together for something other than just gossip and gabbing.”

It’s worth repeating: Hobbies are supposed to bring joy. Resist the urge any time you feel your hobbies turning into an obligation. On the days or weeks when a night on the couch sounds better than practicing your painting, that’s perfectly ok, too.

4. Nourish yourself physically

Listening to your clients all day doesn’t just leave you emotionally tired — your body probably takes a hit, too. To refresh your energy levels — and to give yourself a chance to physically process everything you’ve taken in — integrate some nourishing movement into your routine. One Redditor walks and swims every day, while another purchased an under-the-desk treadmill to walk between sessions. Either way: Find ways to fit movement or other sources of physical renewal into your daily routine.

5. Keep conversations low stakes

If you’ve been supporting clients through their struggles, you may not have the mental capacity, or even the patience, to go deep in conversation with people outside your job. Give yourself permission to keep conversations low stakes when you need to — even if that means being honest and telling someone you want to keep things light on a particular day.

“I want to talk, but about anything else but emotional stuff,” says one therapist on the Reddit thread. “Teach me your secret avocado toast recipe. Tell me all about your cat and how absolutely perfect he is. Give me mindless gossip and let me give you shitty, half-serious advice on how to deal with your significant other’s annoying bullshit!”

6. Be honest

Sometimes, the thought of being in a room with another person or responding to a text might feel like too much to deal with. And that’s OK. Be transparent as needed when you just don’t have it in you to engage. It’s ok to cancel plans when you need a day to recharge.

It may help to come up with a boilerplate response, such as “I’m so sorry, but I’m feeling drained right now. Can we talk another time?” The people who care about you will understand — and hopefully, honor — your limits.

7. Look to therapy

What you may describe as feeling drained or tired could be social exhaustion, if you’re feeling especially overstimulated, stressed, anxious, or frustrated about having to communicate with others. 

A therapist can help you navigate social exhaustion, and integrate the other tips on this list if they feel out of reach for you right now.

Headway is a free service that makes it easier and more profitable for therapists and psychiatrists to accept insurance.