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by Sean Sweeney
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Zen rocks

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Few of us would claim that the job of an SLP is flowers and sunshine all the time. It can be super-stressful managing a caseload, planning interventions, completing evaluations, dealing with administrative hoo-hah, and keeping clients, families, and a whole other cast of characters happy. However, if our position were not challenging, many of us would surely get bored and move on to rockier pastures. The key is to be able to step back from our whirlwind work lives and avoid burnout. In this, as in many other areas of my life, I often turn to technology. Here are 5 ways technology can help SLPs with chilling out instead of stressing out.

Slow Down and Breathe– We are pretty good at teaching people how to breathe with their diaphragms but often forget to do so ourselves. Try checking out a meditation podcast to relax after a stressful day, or prepare yourself for the day to come. One great meditation series is the My Thought Coach podcasts by Stin Hansen. I have them all on my iPhone for those days that have me feeling a little too stretched! Another resource is the White Noise app, which you can use to surround yourself with relaxing sounds. My favorite is crashing ocean waves, but you many prefer a camp fire, wind, a purring cat, or even a clothes dryer.

Other Therapeutic Listening– Often we don’t need to be lulled into a meditative state to take ourselves away from the stress of work. Try finding your favorite music and building your own stations with free streaming radio services (and apps) such as Pandora or Slacker. As SLPs, we often work to help people tell their stories, and treasure stories ourselves. I love listening to the This American Life app (all the episodes are also available to stream on the site) on route to work, allowing the funny and often moving stories of ordinary people to distract me for a while before settling in to focus!

Remember the Body-Mind Connection– Our busy days can cause us to neglect our bodies, eat stuff we shouldn’t eat, and be sometimes unable to muster the energy to exercise after a long day of sessions. However, watching what we eat and getting enough exercise can become a healthy positive cycle that reduces stress and boosts productivity. Technology can help. Websites such as FitDay or The Daily Plate and apps like Tap’N’Track keep us mindful of our nutrition (and it’s harder to eat that sugar-crash-causing donut if you know you will have to enter it electronically later). Likewise, you can begin or add to an exercise regimen using resources such as The Daily Burn or iFitness.

Keep your Ducks in A Row– We all get more stressed if we realize (or think) we have forgotten something important. Technology can help keep you organized. Check out my posts on simple (and free!) Google tools like Calendar and Tasks. There are also a lot of great blogs that offer organizational tips. To read posts on efficiency with a techie spin, check out Lifehacker, and you might also like Zen Habits or I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Knowing When to Disconnect– As much as technology can be our friend in all of the above stress-reducers, and in connecting us to others for professional development, we need to be able to step back from work and enjoy other pursuits, friends and family. Although my school system’s email program has an iPhone app, I recently deleted it from my phone. It is very unlikely that there will be some language emergency or technology crisis that I need to know about at any given moment, and the habit of checking work email while at leisure just invites agita (Adam Dachis of Lifehacker wrote an excellent post on this). That email that may annoy you? Why read it during a family dinner, or even know that it is there? No one should expect an immediate reply from an email sent during off-hours. It’s just that simple!

What are your tried-and-true ways for keeping sanity and serenity in your busy life?

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens.

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Elissa October 20, 2010 - 11:07 am

Nice post. I certainly relate to the topic. The hardest part, for me, is disconnecting once the work day is over and leaving to go home. Sometimes it is hard to not feel guilty for leaving people, old and young, who are either sick or in general need lots of assistance.

Sean Sweeney October 20, 2010 - 12:41 pm

Thanks, Elissa- yes, I know what you mean, and great point. Hospital or residential settings have the added stress of knowing that your clients are still there at your workplace when you leave!

Carrie B October 22, 2010 - 1:25 pm

This article was great. I’ve used several of the links/apps you’ve suggested. It’s so easy to be scattered at our jobs. Even if we have a plan at the beginning of the day, frequently unexpected issues or obligations show up to throw a wrench in it. I’m learning to accept that this is the rule rather than the exception. As we get busier and more “plugged in” our attention gets divided in so many directions. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and take some time to get re-energized.

Christine November 14, 2010 - 10:38 am

I finally got an iPad and eliminated the 20 lbs of paper (literally, I weighed it!) that I was hauling around from building to building. I feel more organized, and it’s opened a new world of therapy options for using with my students.

Sean Sweeney November 17, 2010 - 10:11 am

That’s great to hear Christine- what apps helped you to do that? Did the iPad replace worksheets or are productivity tools taking place of papers? Thanks for the comment.

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