6 things psychologists do to look after their own mental health

Your psychologist has your back, but who has theirs? Three psychologists reveal what they do privately to keep emotionally and mentally fit.

When you need a bit of help with your social, emotional or mental health, you may turn to a psychologist for support.

But have you ever wondered how those who look after you, look after their own mental wellbeing?

We ask the experts to tell us what they do for a little self-TLC.

1. Meditate in the morning

The ancient practice of meditation can do everything from change the brain to combat stress so it’s no surprise that it’s a must-do for psychologists.

It’s something Brisbane psychologist Kali Lohman spends most mornings doing.

“I do a 30-minute sitting meditation because I feel better when I do than when I don’t, but even five minutes is better than nothing,” says the Mindful Psychology director.

One benefit of meditation is that it can be done anywhere, says Melbourne psychologist Dr Addie Wootten.

“I often find the best place for me is to meditate in the car, after I have parked, and before I go into the office,” says Dr Wootten, CEO of not-for-profit organisation Smiling Mind.

“It’s quiet, I’m alone and I can take as long as I need to – usually 10-20 minutes.”

2. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental and physical technique that helps you focus on the present moment and is said to help bring on feelings of calm.

It’s something that Kali does daily.

“I practise many moments of mindfulness throughout the day such as frequently turning my attention to the present moment – noticing my breath and where my attention is, relaxing my body, and returning it to the present again and again,” says Kali.

“(It’s about] awareness of my thoughts and letting go of the unhelpful ones.”

3. Spend time in nature

Hanging out in the great outdoors is something Lara Kocijan, clinical psychologist at Sydney-based The Indigo Project, makes a point of doing regularly.

“I swim in the ocean as often as possible, and get out of the city and go hiking in national parks on the weekend,” she says.

Dr Wootten finds solace in her own backyard.

“I spend most of my weekends in the garden,” she says. “Getting dirty and creating something beautiful really helps me reset and focus on what’s important to me.”

4. Stay active

Eating well and making time for exercise is hugely important for good mental health and wellbeing.

“I view my mental health in the same way I do my physical health – it’s something I need to work on every day,” says Dr Wootten, whose regular routine involves making time to “sweat it out” at the gym.

5. Hang out with family and friends

Kali says chatting to my family and friends about she’s feeling — both the good stuff and bad stuff – helps keep her in a good frame of mind.

Lara agrees, but says she is also not afraid to bail on plans if she needs to.

“I regularly schedule time with my loved ones but I am willing to be honest with them if I need to cancel because I need inward connection rather than social connection,” she says.

6. Take regular breaks

Lara is a fan of taking “preventative” holidays.

“I used to just take holidays when I was exhausted but I recently took time off work and had a holiday because I noticed if I pushed it to Christmas I wouldn’t have coped well,” Lara says.

“(This) will become something I do more regularly now. It was so nice not to spend the first four days of a holiday sleeping trying to recover from exhaustion.”

Written by Tania Gomez.