Self care and need for support

Self care is vital for wellbeing and recognising this and taking personal responsibility for self care is important for all service providers working with people with BPD. Regular exposure to emotional intensity and ensuing crises can be very difficult and increases the risk for vicarious trauma and burnout. Not only is self care required for your wellbeing but also so that you can perform well in your professional role.

Compassion fatigue can strike the most caring and dedicated workers alike. Service providers are not immune from the same personal problems that affect the general population, to mental illness or to crisis. However, those working in the helping professions who experience psychological distress are often unwilling to seek help. It is important to accept and recognise your own limits and boundaries, and enhance your overall wellbeing.

As service providers, you need to model and encourage self care including:

  • Organisational support
  • Effective supervision in the workplace
  • Continued professional development
  • Reflective practice and mindfulness
  • Taking personal time with willingness to seek help for yourself.

The key consideration when working with people with BPD is to remember not to personalise challenging or difficult behaviour, and to externalise the possible functions of their behaviour.

Exploring professional development opportunities to support working with specific complex needs issues will increase your confidence, skills and capacity – and support your wellbeing.

Make a commitment to yourself and complete the self care assessment tool for an overview of strategies you can improve on.

Stress indicators

Tired all the time, but can’t sleep well? Forgetting things? Can’t concentrate? Muscle tension? 

These may be signs your body is telling you that you are stressed. Knowing your triggers will help you know when to pay more attention to your self care.

For more information about stress and calming techniques download People Sense – Combating Stress.

Strategies for self care

  • Remember the basics: nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Are you working too many hours, skipping lunch and working through breaks, relieving stress with alcohol? In the long run, these are habits that won’t serve you or your goals.
  • Make your personal space pleasant. Is your work space calming? Take time to decorate it with pictures and sayings that make you smile. And while many of us feel comfortable with our clutter, having a clear and organised space can make a busy day feel less overwhelming. Take a couple of minutes to clean up and get organised.
  • Make sure you have a trusted person to check in with – and do check in with them! Too often we don’t want to bother someone by sharing our struggles, but when you do, it gives you a release and gives other people permission to do the same. Ask yourself, what advice would you give the people presenting with BPD you work with if they were feeling like this? It certainly wouldn’t be to hold their feelings in!
  • Do things that make you smile. Did you know that when you smile, the brain actually releases endorphins? So even if you are not feeling particularly happy, the physical act of smiling can at least get the ball rolling! Sing your favorite song out loud. Find humour in your daily life.
  • Take advantage of opportunities for professional development. The right training, presentation, or article can build competencies and bring refreshing new perspectives, making your work more effective and rewarding. See training and education.
  • Connect with helping professionals locally and beyond. Share your experiences and learn from others working with BPD so that you can provide quality care. Don’t be afraid to ask for support.

For more information

Good Therapy – A guided self-care assessment for helping professionals

Response Ability – Wellbeing and self-care

Australia Psychological Society – Self-care for psychologists: Lifeline’s learnings

The Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy – Distress, therapist burnout, self-care, and the promotion of wellness for psychotherapists and trainee: Issues, implications and recommendations

Reach Out – Self-care for professionals

Transforming compassion fatigue into compassion satisfaction: Top 12 self-care tips for helpers

University at Buffalo – Our self-care starter kit


Australia Psychological Society – Self-care for psychologists: Lifeline’s learnings