How to Navigate the Winter Worries of the Sensitive Therapist
Thoughts of the winter season are expected to bring excitement of the holidays and enjoying time off with family, but Highly Sensitive Therapists (HST) may have a completely different experience this time of year. On top of the stress of buying gifts, hosting guests and managing dreary weather, we often feel overwhelmed by the busyness of the season and financial anxiety over client cancellations. It can be challenging to enjoy this time of year the way we’re expected to so we often end up feeling guilty or ashamed of not measuring up.
If we could wave our magic wands, most of us would choose to spend these darker days in hibernation, like our bear friends, where we can focus on refueling and catching up on downtime or having small, but meaningful gatherings with loved ones. Instead of going with our natural rhythms, we’re often pushing ourselves to get everything done, doing our best to survive holiday celebrations, support our clients and run our businesses all at the same time. It’s an exhausting experience for us!
The winter months can be worrisome for us in different ways than our non-HST colleagues, who may not be as perceptive of subtleties or as easily overwhelmed by a busy schedule. If you’re struggling with any of the following this time of year, know that you’re not alone.
Changes in Routine: Whether we’re taking time off for the holidays, inclement weather or sudden illness, there are many schedule changes this time of year which can be unsettling for the HST who thrives on routine and predictability. Since our brains are wired to process deeply before acting or making decisions, we don’t enjoy surprises or sudden change.
Financial Anxiety: Many Highly Sensitive Therapists are already managing lighter caseloads in an attempt to prevent overwhelm and emotional burnout. Losing additional income due to client vacations and cancellations over the winter can be a financial burden and understandably create a lot of anxiety.
Seasonal Mood Shifts: Being keenly aware of subtleties in our environment such as light or temperature changes and having the ability to pick up on the lower affects of others around us, getting through the darker days of winter can be difficult. We often feel irritable, overwhelmed and scattered which leaves us unmotivated to get notes, admin and marketing tasks done.
Navigate the Challenges
As much as we want to hibernate during this time of year, that’s not always possible. Instead, see if you can honor your needs and circumstances.
Let Go of Comparison: It’s tempting to compare ourselves to what others are doing, but remember that Highly Sensitive Therapists have different capacities therefore we need to hold ourselves to a different standard. If you see your colleague bustling with clients or scheduling 10 clients the day before vacation starts, resist the urge to criticise yourself and turn inward instead. Ask yourself, “what do I need in this moment?” Remember that it’s okay to have a different experience.
Set Quotas/Boundaries: In an attempt to show up as the perfect therapist, family member, or friend, we often end up exhausted this time of year. As always, think about approaching this season with a “quality over quantity” mindset. Decide how many additional activities such as holiday parties or family gatherings you can commit to each week and then be intentional about what you say “yes” to. Once you’ve hit that quota, you know it’s okay to say “no” and set boundaries around your time.
Take Advantage of Extra Free Time: Try to embrace any availability you have in your schedule and use it to your advantage. Perhaps you have admin tasks to catch up on, a book you’ve been wanting to read or a marketing project you’ve been putting off. You can use this time to set yourself up for success in the new year. Visualize what the next year of your practice will look like and identify the action steps needed to get there.
Do a Financial Audit: This may be a great time to look at what expenses are no longer serving you. Perhaps you want to cancel a directory listing that hasn’t produced any referrals this year or cancel membership to a professional association that you’re no longer interested in.
Start a Savings Fund: If you’re feeling financially stressed, work toward creating a savings fund for next year’s holiday season. One approach is to calculate how much money you will need to cover your expenses for the month of December and then divide that number by 11. For instance, if your monthly expenses are $1500, you’ll set aside $136 per month from January to November to cover the December lull without financial anxiety.
REST: If you find yourself with free time in your schedule, resist the urge to fill it in an attempt to stay busy, especially if you’re on the verge of overwhelm or burnout. Instead, catch up on your downtime. You can try taking naps in between sessions, shorten your work day or consolidate your appointments into fewer days per week.
Although we are expected to be cheerful, the holidays and winter months are more likely to leave Sensitive Therapists feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Instead of feeling guilty, we can recognize the fact that we have a different capacity than our non-HST colleagues and embrace our needs for slowing down. Turning inward is perfectly aligned with the natural rhythm of the winter season.