Self-care goes beyond eating a healthy diet or doing exercise. Though necessary, these elements represent the tip of the iceberg when creating an in-depth health and wellness plan. Self-care measures that ensure mental and physical health is essential for everyone. But their essentiality increases many folds for individuals engaged in helping and giving professions such as social work.
It is also a cure for burnout — a problem plaguing all professions but prominent in nursing and social work. Social work professionals experience immense stress because they work with clients who come for help in crisis and turmoil.
Burnout is a syndrome characterized by a lack of interest in work, emotional and physical exhaustion, depersonalization, lack of empathy, and self-doubt. Feeling burned out is a must when you do not prioritize your care. Luckily, there is no right time, and it is never too late to start practicing self-care; you can start now. Start practicing the following self-care strategies from today.
1. Step back and take a break
Social work is a pretty stressful profession. You meet people who have experienced physical abuse and assault or are fighting for their child custody and whatnot. Therefore, you need to step back and relax your nerves.
You cannot always be in high-stress situations because your mind sends signals of compassion fatigue and depression. More than 70% of the social workers feel some degree of compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is when you lose empathy and experience chronic exhaustion, depersonalization, weight loss, and poor work-life balance. If you don’t want all this to happen to you, take mandatory rest, read your favorite book, take a tour of the nearby park, or watch a movie of your choice.
To sum up, do everything that relaxes your mind and gives you a break from your painful and depressing work-related thoughts.
2. Make daily goals
One of the ways of caring for yourself is to reduce the stress in your life. Your biggest enemy is the thought of what will happen tomorrow and how you deal with this or that problem. Therefore, live in the day and make daily goals— they should be small and achievable.
Divide your day into small activities or chunks that you look forward to doing. These goals will help you live the present moment and not reminisce the past or ponder the future.
Tell yourself that you will deal with tomorrow when it comes; until then, you must focus on what is happening around you.
3. Learn to say No
You cannot solve every problem and relieves everyone’s pain; therefore, practice saying No. Decline the assignments that may take a toll on mental well-being or add more stress to your life. Saying no to others means you are saying yes to your sanity and health.
While your conscience might be pinching, telling you that all those people rely on you for help, you must resist the urge to take more work. You can try to make them understand that your plate is already full to the brim. You cannot take on commitments without jeopardizing the existing ones and your mental health. And then thank them for considering you worthy of helping them.
4. Reach out to your support system
Your friends, family, and even colleagues are often a part of your support system. Your relationship with them is a prominent source of comfort and nurturance. On an emotional level, they render a sense of belongingness and acknowledgment. And on the practical level, they are a source of valuable information, substantial assistance, and esprit de corps.
So, reach out to your support system whenever you feel pressured and stressed. There is no harm in relying on others for help. Pour out your anxiety, fear, and worries, and have their opinion. Often this exercise is very effective in relieving your worries and stress build-up.
5. Make self-care an ongoing process
Self-care is not something that can be practiced intermittently; it is an ongoing process, an attitude, and a mantra of life. You must have a dedicated attitude towards self-care. Make these changes in your life:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid processed food
- Never skip your breakfast
- Don’t receive more work than you can do
- Paly with your pet
- Laugh with friends
- Get ample sleep
There are countless ways to dedicate yourself to self-care; those above-mentioned are just a few of them. When you adopt one healthy habit, make sure to stick to it until it becomes your second nature.
6. Don’t avoid your emotions
When we feel anxious and stressed, our first response is to resist and push our emotions away; don’t do this. When you feel anxious, connect with your emotions because your brain is trying to signal something.
If you cannot interpret your emotions and thoughts, take the help of a mental health professional to put your anxiety into words.
Listen to your moods and behaviors all the time. Look for answers if you experience something off, like fidgeting for no apparent reason or wanting to be isolated. Figure out your issues and solve them. You cannot let issues pile up while working as a social worker.
7. Engage in mindful mediation
Mindful meditation is a surefire way to fight stress and diminish the symptoms of depression. There are a lot of ways to engage in mindful meditation, but all of them start with you keeping your distractions aside. The biggest distraction is your cell phone. Mute all your notifications and log out of your social media accounts.
Sit down at a quiet corner— ideally near natural elements (plants, trees) — and let your mind focus on something positive. It could be a scene, a memory, a feeling, or anything similar.
Try to focus your mind and feel your worries leaving your body. Mindful meditation will help you get a break from your hectic work life and allow you to work on your troubling feelings and thoughts.
Burnout and compassion fatigue can be overpowering and all-encompassing, especially when you are a social worker—but they don’t need to be all the time. Self-care strategies can help fight these issues. Some self-care strategies are mentioned above; others can be altruism, graciousness for blessing, and being non-judgmental.