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This piece is part of HuffPost’s international series on therapy. It originally appeared on HuffPost France.
A session with a therapist is often followed by an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Sharing your anxieties, reflecting and plunging into your emotions can certainly be exhausting. But what about the person sitting across from you ― the one supporting you on your journey?
A full day of consultations involves hours and hours of active listening. How do mental health professionals keep themselves from dwelling on the stories and hardships shared by their patients? Some end up suffering severe headaches; others stave off stress with a foot massage.
Fortunately, all of the therapists below are able to recenter themselves with the help of some good habits that we can all put into practice. Here’s what they do:
Relax in a bath with some good music
Once I’ve locked up my office for the day, I often take a bath with classical or punk music playing in the background, depending on my mood at the time. However, I try to do my part for the environment, so I can’t, to my great disappointment, justify taking a bath every day. There is a massage parlor just below my place. A foot and head massage helps me achieve a state of relaxation that I wish all my friends could experience. I’m able to let everything go. ― Joseph Agostini, clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in Clamart, France
Limit emails after hours
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I tell my patients to write me emails if they feel the need over the holidays. However, I limit myself to reading them once or twice a week, under the shade of an olive tree with a cool drink in hand. I am available for them, however, day or night, if an absolute emergency arises. It’s part of my job as a therapist to not turn my back on someone who desperately needs to talk. ― Agostini
Get active — especially in nature
After seven consultations running one hour each, you are wiped out. Around 8:30 or 9 p.m., when I finish my day, I usually get some exercise. … I make sure to take advantage of the lake and the mountains. I swim, I go running or I go for a walk. I really feel the need to get back in touch with my body after long days like this. After my consultations, I feel mentally fatigued, but not physically. As soon as possible I like to get in a 30- to 45-minute workout.
During my consultations, I take notes while sitting in a position that is not exactly comfortable. I write with my notebook on my lap so that it doesn’t distract the patients. In between each session, I finish my analysis and prepare for the next session, but I also do some lower back stretches. Exercise is incredibly important to me. It’s among the reasons I decided to come back and settle down in my hometown of Annecy. After living in Paris and Rome, I really wanted to reconnect with nature. ― Magali Croset-Calisto, sex therapist in Annecy, France
Work out with pets
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I’m lucky, I work at home and I can easily go take a walk in the woods. Once my consultations are over, which is always before 8 p.m., I spend some time alone. Since I’m bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, I can’t really talk about what happens at work. I often go for a run in the forest with my dog. I have a playlist with the year’s top hits, really upbeat music that helps me unwind. Otherwise, I meditate for 10 minutes or so, or I go to the gym to clear my mind of everything that people have confided in me throughout the day. ― Carole Bloch, psychotherapist and family coach in Brussels
Lean on colleagues
My consultation days are Monday, Friday and Saturday, and I often finish around 9 or 10 p.m. Sometimes I suffer from migraines or I end up with a headache. Actively listening to a patient for 45 minutes requires immense energy and concentration. I take at least two breaks during the day to take care of my daughters when they get out of day care and when it’s time to put them to bed. Sometimes, when I’m really worried about a patient, I take some time to call a few colleagues to ask for advice. I might also speak with other physicians, like the patient’s general practitioner, in order to bring the issue to their attention. ― Camille Rochet, psychologist in Versailles, France
Engage in mindless activities after the day is over
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I work in an extension of my house. Once I finish my last consultation for the day, I’m already home. I spend a bit of time alone, as my decompression chamber. I check my email and do things that don’t require much mental exertion. Then I join my husband and we have dinner. I prefer to exercise in the morning. I often go running before starting the workday. After my consultations, I don’t want any obligations hanging over my head, I don’t want to think about anything. I just like to spend time with my husband and watch a movie ― simple pleasures. Most importantly, I don’t do the dishes right away, that’s something that can definitely wait till morning. ― Rochet
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
You Should See Someone is a HuffPost Life series that will teach you everything you need to know about doing therapy. We’re giving you informative, no-B.S. stories on seeking mental health help: how to do it, what to expect, and why it matters. Because taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Find all of our coverage here and share your stories on social with the hashtag #DoingTherapy.
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