Self-Care & Career Counselling: Finding Balance Between Taking Care of Clients and Yourself

Kaitlin SchillingBlogs

Work as a career development practitioner can be overwhelming and stressful at times. We hear it all the time: self-care is important, but what is it and how can we best practice it?

self-care
/ ,self’ker/
noun

the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health
“autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
“expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”

Taking care of yourself is more than bath bombs and face masks. It is about understanding who you are and what you need to create a feeling of inner calm and relief. When talking about self-care, it is important to look at it from a holistic approach. This approach focuses on your needs as a whole person and allows you to bring attention to each aspect of your life. This can be broken down into different aspects: physical, psychological, emotional, social, professional, environmental, spiritual, and financial. We’ve broken down each of these for you.

Types of Self-Care

Physical

Physical self-care involves your health, nutrition, sleep, rest, and moving your body. Getting enough sleep, eating well, working out, or going for walks are all things you can do to practice physical self-care.

Psychological

Self-care image of tree foliage with the word breathe among it
Mindfulness is a breath-driven practice, good for both mind and body. Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash.

Taking care of your psychological well-being involves creativity, mindfulness, learning, and thinking and can include things such as reading, learning a new skill, or journaling.

Emotional

Managing your emotions involves maintaining your stress levels, developing compassion for yourself and others, and navigating how you are feeling. Setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and making time to reflect on your emotions are all ways to practice emotional self-care.

Social

Caring for yourself socially involves having healthy and trusted relationships around you to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness. Examples include meeting new people, hanging out with friends and family, and asking for help when you need it.

Professional

Maintaining your happiness professionally involves having clear boundaries while sharing your strengths. Ways to put this into practice are: knowing your roles and responsibilities, pursuing professional development opportunities, balancing your workload, and taking time to chat with colleagues.

woman in toque lying in nature reading  a book
Taking time outdoors can be incredibly restorative to your well-being. Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash.

Environmental

Caring for your environment involves well-maintained and organized work and home environments. Decluttering at work or home, spending time outdoors, taking vacations, or monitoring your technology time are all things you can do for environmental self-care.

Spiritual

Spiritual self-care involves honouring your values and beliefs and incorporating activities that help develop and maintain spiritual awareness. Practicing spiritual self-care includes reflecting in a journal, volunteering, walking in nature, meditating, or praying.

Financial

Taking care of your financial well-being entails having a conscious and honest relationship with your finances. Some examples of practicing self-care include knowing and understanding your income, knowing when bills are due, making financial plans and goals, and understanding how your finances make you feel. For more information, check out this financial self-care blog.

There are many ways to incorporate self-care into your life and many activities to aid in coping with stress. Developing a wellness plan can help you understand your self-care needs, as well as reduce your stress and maintain your health.

It’s All About Balance

Hand holding card that says: Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.
Self-care must not be forgotten, even though the ‘others’ in your life are important. Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash.

Balance is the key to putting yourself first. Sometimes our different needs require different types of self-care. “To give to others, [career practitioners] need to nourish all aspects of self. The self extends far beyond the needs of the physical body. Therefore, giving of the self requires self-nurturance of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects (Burkhardt, 2001).

Certainly, the work career counsellors do can often be stressful, as they dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others. This, in turn, can cause burnout. Burnout is a very real thing in helping professions, including career counselling. Being able to be fully present with clients means career development practitioners must take responsibility for meeting their own needs. Skovholt, Grier, & Hanson provide a model of self-care in their 2001 article, “Career Counselling for Longevity: Self-Care and Burnout Prevention Strategies for Counselor Resilience.

Remember, when we take care of ourselves, we have more to offer our clients than we do when we don’t. When we give our lives balance, we are better able to manage work stress, allowing us to excel in many areas of life. As Katie Reed notes, “self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.”


Campus Manitoba is a consortium of Manitoba’s public universities and colleges. Through collaborative projects and shared services, we facilitate student mobility and expand access to post-secondary programs for students in Manitoba. In addition to campusmanitoba.ca, our websites include ecoursesmb.casetyourcourse.ca, and openedmb.ca.