Social work is without doubt one of the most rewarding professions; we enter the line of work because we believe we can make a genuine and positive difference to the lives of those we work with. We support, we advocate and we celebrate successes of those who have been marginalised from society. We work as a shared journey promoting compassion, empathy and respect for others. We endeavour to go above and beyond and to be that ‘helping hand’ when needed or required.
We are human beings
However, given the very nature of work involved, it can be challenging, emotionally and mentally taxing. We are not heroes, we do not have super-powers and to think this way undermines the very nature of what it truly means to be a social worker… We are human beings! Self care in social work is something that we must all practice if we are truly going to make a difference. So, what can we do to promote self-care in social work?
Here are a list of useful things you can do to promote Self Care in Social Work
Work vs life balance: Remember to have a social life
Stay connected with friends and family members. If you feel isolated, connect through community events. It is so important for your emotional well being that you connect and stay connected with others. Make sure to place emphasis on a good work vs life balance. For me, this was rugby; for at least three nights of the week I was either training or playing rugby and it helped me feel like I was more than just a social worker.
Know your strengths
Our weaknesses are always shouting out for our attention. Try to focus on your strengths or what you’re good at. Allow yourself time everyday to focus on them. You can even list them out so you never forget what they are. Build your life around them. The more you live within your strengths, the less your weaknesses will matter.
Take your lunch break
It is really important that you take your lunch break. I recommend eating away from your computer or desk; this stops the temptation of working through lunch. It also gives you a chance to reflect on something other than work related. This will increase your productivity.
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves being more aware of the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you become more aware of your own moods and reactions. There are some excellent mindfulness apps out at the moment; headspace and calm being two that I currently use (I love the sound of rain on the calm app – this takes me from a 10 to a 3 in seconds).
Utilise your social work skills
It sounds strange but utilise your social work skills to help develop your own thinking. For example, I reflect constantly on both work and non-work events. I also use future planning techniques (solution focused therapy) when I feel particularly anxious about work/life. This helps me provide an achievable structure that is manageable.
Get into nature
As I mentioned above, I love the sound of rain. When it rains, I will often stop and allow myself 30 seconds to listen to it hitting my car roof. I also enjoy walking in the rain; I get lost with my thoughts and feel connected with nature. Whilst I am passionate about being a social worker, it makes me realise there is more to life than just work, work, work. So, make time to connect with nature and you can do this whether living rurally or in cities.
I am not a nutritionist, but what you eat, and when you eat, can make a big difference to how well you feel. I tend to eat healthy(ish) Monday to Friday and then have the weekend to relax.
Get away from social media
Yep, you’ve probably found this article on social media (thanks for reading), but I believe it’s really important that you have ‘down-time’ from social media. This can be for one evening or a few hours. It will allow you to focus your attention on something else as social media, as good as it is, can be very toxic.
Get the sleep you deserve
We live in an age where society is chronically sleep deprived. If you’re the first in and last to leave, not only does this promote an unrealistic image of managing workload, it will also impact on your sleeping patterns. I aim to get a solid 7 ½ to 8 hours a sleep a night. I start my unwinding process at 9am, when the TV is switched off.
Try something new
I try and take 30 minutes a week to do something new; whether it be working in the garden, building a website for the first time or completing yoga at home. This helps me escape from thoughts relating to work as I just focus solely on the task in hand.