Social work is often an extremely rewarding and fulfilling career, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t obstacles along the way. While watching a client blossom in your care is a wonderful feeling, you also have to deal with upsetting situations and clients who don’t seem to want to get better. Those situations are never easy, and some social workers might find it affecting their general mood even away from the workplace.
Due to this, it’s important that, as a social worker, you prioritize taking care of yourself. To ensure you don’t become overwhelmed in your line of work, use these fifteen self-care tips.
1: Separate Home and Work Life
Separating your home and work life is a must, especially when it comes to work that is so emotionally involved. As a social worker, you face numerous difficult scenarios every day, and taking that home with you is detrimental to your mental health. You need to be able to deal with childhood trauma, domestic violence, substance abuse, and more while at work, but once you’re home, you must switch off. So, make it your mission to leave all your work behind as soon as you step out of the door to focus on your own life.
2: Talk to Other Social Workers
In a human services career, you might face the issue of not many of your friends and family understanding what you go through. They might all have office jobs or roles that don’t face hard social situations each day, meaning you feel you are not fully expressing how you feel when you talk to them. To help with this, talk to your fellow social workers. They’ll understand how you feel, so you’ll be far more at ease ranting about your hard day or asking for advice.
3: Know Your Limits
In such an emotionally exhausting career, it is crucial to know your limits and stick to them. You’ll find that clients sometimes push boundaries or that you’re faced with a situation far out of your league (especially if you’re a newbie social worker). In these situations, make your limits clear and set strict boundaries. Otherwise, you could end up overwhelming yourself by being too far in the deep end and even jeopardizing your entire career.
4: Spend Time Alone
When you spend so much of your time around other people, spending time alone is a blessing. While visiting your friends and family during your free time is important, you should also prioritize the moments where you don’t have to speak to anyone. That way, you can completely focus on yourself and your own needs, whether that includes a quiet walk, listening to a new album, or enjoying an afternoon of pampering. Even just thirty minutes entirely to yourself is enough for a more relaxed state of mind.
5: Understand You Can’t Help Everyone
New social workers often go into the field wanting to help every client that walks through their door. Unfortunately, this optimistic way of thinking will not get you very far and only lead to disappointment. While your job is to support people through their most challenging periods, not everyone is in the position or mental state to be helped by social workers. Instead of focusing on where you cannot help, it’s important to focus on what you can do. That way, you will feel more fulfilled in your role.
6: Prioritize a Good Night of Sleep
To provide the best support to your clients as well as look after yourself, you must get a good night of sleep every night. Otherwise, the challenges you face will only get to you more. No one can put in their all when their mind is muddled from only four hours of sleep! If you struggle to sleep throughout the night, try these tips –
. Cool the bedroom
. Wear socks to bed
. Take herbal remedies
. Use essential oils
. Exercise in the day
. Have a warm bath before bed
. Use your bed only for sleeping
7: Write Down Your Feelings
It’s not always easy to talk to friends and family about what you’ve gone through, but you can write it down. Keeping a journal isn’t just for high schoolers with crushes – they are a great way for adults to pour emotions out in a healthy manner. Whenever you’ve had a bad day, or even a very good one, be sure to get your journal out and let it know how you feel. You will feel a weight is lifted once you have finished.
8: Do Something Creative
Another way to eradicate stress is to do something creative. It can be anything, from painting to writing to wax sculpting. You don’t even need to be good at it! Although, if you turn it into a hobby, you might end up developing a skill. No matter what creative activity you choose, having a creative outlet is great for your mind, as it provides something to focus on away from work.
9: Find a Counselor
Just because you support others doesn’t mean you don’t need to also support yourself. In fact, anyone working in the human services industry should consider seeking counseling, as there’s a lot on your plate every day. With a counselor, you can talk about anything and everything, and they will help you shift your thoughts into a more positive way of thinking. It’s not a miracle cure for stress, but it does help you manage.
10: Take Lots of Breaks
Working for hours on end isn’t helpful for anyone, especially those working with vulnerable people. It can feel never-ending – dealing with a mountain of paperwork followed by meetings where you have to face and help with tough situations. To make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself, allow plenty of breaks throughout the day. Even just a few minutes standing outside in the fresh air is helpful, as it gives you space to be away from the overload of work for a little while.
11: Know the Signs of Burnout
One of the most worrying risks social workers face is burnout, which often happens to those working in human services and healthcare. Burnout can creep up on you – it might start with a little tiredness and then descend into full-blown compassion fatigue. To ensure it never reaches that stage, you must understand the signs of burnout so you can find help before it gets out of hand. Some of those symptoms include feelings of failure, a lack of motivation, and feelings of isolation.
12: Practice Meditation
Social workers witness a lot of tragedy and upset. If you’re not careful, this can overlap with your normal life, resulting in poor mental health and high stress levels. The practice of meditation can help prevent this. Meditation goes back thousands of years, and it allows you to free your mind of thoughts and be at one with yourself. It might take a while for you to get it right, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll feel its true healing power. Try looking for guided meditation videos online, as there are plenty out there to help beginners get started.
13: Learn to Be More Organized
The key to self-care as a social worker isn’t just about doing nice things away from work – it’s also about making sure your workday goes as smooth as possible. For this, you must keep an organized system. By sticking to a schedule and maintaining a tidy workspace, you will find getting through your large task list a much easier feat. If organization is something you struggle with, consider downloading calendar apps, purchasing a physical diary, and using time management tools.
14: Pursue a Hobby Away from Social Work
Don’t make it so that social work is your entire life. No matter how dedicated you are to your job, doing so will only increase your stress levels. A way to ensure your mind doesn’t solely revolve around social work is to pursue a separate hobby. You could join a local sports team, start hiking, join a book club, or grow a beautiful garden. It doesn’t matter what it is – what matters is that it takes your mind away from social work once you are home.
15: Take Care of Your Physical Health
The state of your mental health is often linked to your physical health, which is why it’s so important to eat well and exercise enough as a social worker. If you feel under the weather, see a doctor; if your body is telling you to rest, get an earlier night than usual. By looking after your body as well as your mental state, you will have far more energy to tackle whatever the day throws at you.
Looking after yourself as a social worker is a must, due to how demanding the role can be at times. So, to support yourself, use these fifteen self-care tips, and you’ll soon find the perfect balance between supporting both your clients and your own health.