Social work is among the most noble professions, and it can simultaneously be gratifying and challenging. Working in a high-stress environment, constantly extending emotional support, and being there for others can become exhausting and wear you down. Social workers are at continual risk of emotional drainage or exhaustion as they actively walk through and manage others’ problems, including traumatic experiences or triggers. Such emotional burnout can drastically impact their work performance as well. Therefore, social workers must take care of their emotional and physical well-being to be able to extend full support to others.
Significance of Self-Care for Social Workers
Self-care, in simple words, means taking care of one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You can do this by eating healthy, taking time out for yourself, being mindful of your emotional needs, and knowing when to stop or ask for help. Self-care is essential for everyone, no matter their lifestyle or profession. However, people working in emotionally and mentally draining fields need to look out for themselves.
So here are some tips that self-care workers can follow to avoid mental and emotional burnout.
1. Breaks are important
Resting is crucial in any field of work. Taking time out from your daily work routine and relaxing helps keep one fresh and calm. It is one of the best self-care tips for social workers to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Social workers need occasional breaks to stay emotionally and physically healthy. The appropriate time to take a short break is after dealing with one client and before starting work with a new one. Jumping from one client to the next can affect your mental and physical capacity. Doing some fun activities during such breaks can help you take your mind off work. You can:
- Hang out with a close friend and converse
- Take yourself out on a picnic
- Watch a movie and cook a meal for yourself
- Read your favorite book and take naps
2 .Seek Help When Needed
Doing social work can never be easy, and one can never get used to it as it presents new clients and their unique life challenges. If you are a social worker who helps navigate addiction problems and has profound experience in this area, you may face a client who can give you a challenging time. In such cases, ask for help and guidance within your workplace instead of pushing yourself to the edge. Discuss the problem and the possible ways to manage it with your coworkers. Learn from their experiences and see what improvements you can bring to the overall strategy.
By doing this, you would not be straining yourself and could work with others on your problems. At the same time, you must also try to look out and be there for your coworkers. See if someone needs help but is hesitant about asking.
3. Saying No is not Shameful
Not everyone can do everything, and it is okay. Despite being trained to help others in steering their problems, you may not always be able to do so. You may face a client that can prove tiring for you and lead to vicarious traumatization; a negative feeling or trauma a social worker or any other clinician can develop over a constant exposure to victim trauma. Step away if you see yourself developing such reactions and refer the case to your coworker you trust and are willing to work on. Do not push your emotional limit to a breakpoint, as your emotional and mental wellness is necessary for you to work for others.
4. Do not Ignore Your Physical Health
Maintenance of physical health is as significant and necessary as that of emotional and mental health. Staying active and responsive are the prerequisite for being a great social worker. You can support others effectively only when your health is optimal. Eat healthy and fulfilling meals. Take your vitamins. As studies have shown, exercising daily or weekly will keep you physically fit and improve your mental health.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness means being conscious of your presence in a moment. It entails being aware of your associated emotions and behavior in a particular situation. It is well established that being mindful is necessary for social workers’ self-care and emotional flexibility.
Once you know how you feel in a situation, it becomes easier to control or change those emotions. Mindfulness helps you recognize and alter your behavior so that you can avoid practices that make you feel burned out later. Many workplaces hold seminars and workshops on such topics. Take time to participate in such activities and apply the learned practices to your daily life.
6. Build a Support Group
Social workers know the importance of emotional support and compassion as they provide these to people to help them walk through life’s challenges. However, people who extend help often do not get it themselves. Try to build a support group in your workplace where the workers can sit and talk about their work and experiences. Such discussions can help people understand and learn from others. For example, seniors can tell the hard times they have faced and encourage the new workers to stand their ground. They can also ask for advice and suggestions and share their updated knowledge and techniques. Such a helpful and inclusive environment helps build connections and reduces the toll work can take on you.
Social work is not an easy job. It demands your compassion, empathy, and emotional involvement. A social worker sees and lives through the difficulties and traumas of their clients and extends unconditional support so that the client can successfully get out of the situation. However, doing so takes a toll on the health and wellness of the social workers. It can make them feel burnt out and exhausted. It can even cause emotional fatigue or drainage. The development of such reactions can affect the personal as well as the professional lives of the workers. Therefore, it is significant that social workers take care of their psychological and physical health so they can perform optimally in all spheres. Above mentioned self-care strategies can help the social workers to stay fit and well.