Speaking of caring, why are you considering social work as a profession? Is it because you enjoy helping people? Or, is it because you like the idea of being a catalyst for social change? Whatever your reasons or inspiration, you probably want to become a social worker because you care. Not only do you care but you feel the need to take care of people. As a social worker, you will spend your entire career caring and helping. Though social workers tend to be excellent at helping others find solutions to life’s troubling obstacles, they are not always the best at seeking out help for themselves.
If you have spent any time, at all, around social workers then you are probably very familiar with the term “burnout”. Burnout is a term that social workers, and others in caring professions, use to describe the feeling of being so over- burdened and overwhelmed that one begins to feels ineffectual and eventually apathetic. Though occasionally feeling overwhelmed is normal, it is important to find ways to cope before you reach the point of burnout. Social work is an exceedingly rewarding field but also one that can require long hours of emotionally exhausting work. Social workers often feel burned-out because they spend so much time caring for others that they neglect their own life issues.
Typically, burnout can be avoided by employing methods to care for yourself: Social workers call this “self-care”. Self-care looks different for every person. For some, self-care means treating yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant at least one night during the week. For others, self-care may mean setting boundaries like leaving your work cell phone at the office on nights when you’re not on call or not answering emails after 6. For me, self-care is releasing my stress by kicking a heavy bag at my gym. For others still, self-care may be seeing a therapist or counselor.
No matter what your methods are for relieving stress and anxiety, it is important to find healthy ways to cope with the pressures of the job. Social workers are given the hugely important task of helping shape the lives of others. Even though social workers are trained to handle deeply personal and emotional issues in the lives of others, they often put their own lives on the back burner. Many social workers believe that if they are not thinking about or working with a client or a case, at all times, then they are not doing enough. That could not be further from the truth. It is impossible to do your best for your clients if you are carrying the burden of unsolved issues in both your life and theirs. Figure out what makes you well and make time to do it! No excuses! Trust me; Caring for yourself is caring for your clients.