When Physical Therapists Need Therapy: Coping with Emotional Stress


coping with emotional stress

As in any profession in the healthcare field, it can be emotionally draining being a physical therapist. Especially due to the nature of the job; helping young children with developmental delays, elderly who have trouble with their basic functions, people who have been severely injured, etc. it can be really devastating. What do you do when you have to tell a patient that you can’t do anything more to help them? How do you handle the inner-turmoil?

There’s no debating the fact that not everyone is strong enough mentally to handle a job in physical therapy. You need to have a high level of compassion, but not get so caught up sympathizing that you can no longer keep up with your professional demeanor. Emotional distress can take over your life if you don’t take the measures to fight it. It’s like a dark cloud that follows your everywhere.

Extreme or chronic stress causes problems for anyone. Both physically and mentally, strains from the pressure’s of life can cause terrible side effects such as:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach Issues
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of Focus/Motivation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep Problems
  • Fatigue
  • Sex Drive Changes
  • Anger
  • Changes in Diet (Over-eating/Under-eating
  • Higher Risk of Tobacco/Alcohol/Drug Use

How to Cope with Emotional Stress

  1. Practice Mindfulness- “Mindfulness” is the word for the act of becoming more aware. More specifically, physical pain seems to occur when someone struggles with heavy feels of emotional trauma-such as chest pain and when you are able to focus on that pain, you can sometimes no longer feel as bothered by problems in your head. The best way to practice mindfulness is to try meditation. There’s tons of ways you can quietly meditate and it can strong improve your life. Studies have found that people who practice mindfulness dwell less on negative thoughts. It is said to be a technique that can relieve problems such as sleep issues, relationship strains, depression or even eating disorders.
  2. Distract Yourself- Distraction may seem contradictory to “mindfulness.” But, if you find that you just simply cannot bear to focus on whatever has been eating at you emotionally from your physically therapy work environment, it can be therapeutic to fill your mind with something completely different. (Note: drinking away problems is NOT a positive may of distracting yourself. In fact, turning to alcohol at times of emotional stress usually just makes it worse.) But practicing some feel-good activities like a fun day with friends, watching a funny movie or getting swept up with a new home project can really turn your emotions around.
  3. Talk to Someone- Opening up about what bothers you really allows you to take some of the weight of your shoulders. Whether you talk to loved ones, close friends or an actual therapist; it can really make you feel better. Often times when you realize how common your feelings are, it makes them seem more bearable. Problems become more tolerable when you share them with others. The insights and similarities in experiences you can receive from people put everything into perspective.
  4. Take a Vacation- Sometimes work burnout can cause increases in emotional stress. And when your stress is caused from things in the workplace, logically a getaway helps. If your budget or work schedule allows, take some time off. If you cannot afford to take a regular vacation, travel therapy jobs for short-term assignments are a good way to feel like you’re on a vacation while still practicing your career. You can browse or apply for travel physical therapy jobs here. If you can’t take a vacation, at least change around your schedule to allow for more rest.

Physical therapy careers can be some of the most rewarding careers. But, don’t let attachment and compassion for patients negatively affect your life. Remember, you can’t be as effective in your profession and help as well if you yourself are battling your own demons. Keep positive so you can rest assured you’re being the best professional for your clients.

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Author: Allied Travel Careers

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