Social workers can help people through life’s toughest times, often by providing them with mental health support that they otherwise would not have access to. These experiences can be extremely rewarding, but may also leave you feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. You must take time to preserve your own mental health if you want to continue to help others and avoid burnout.
Think of your mental health as a plant. If you don’t invest time in giving the plant water, checking the soil, and making sure that it gets enough sunlight, then it may whither away. When you take care of the plant, it can flourish and give back by cleansing the air, boosting your mood and concentration, and being aesthetically pleasing. Much like the plant, investing in yourself allows you to flourish and give the people who need your help your all. There are a few ways for you to invest in yourself.
Set Aside Personal Time
It is easy to get into a routine of eat-work-sleep, and even taking work home with you. However, it’s imperative that you give yourself time to do whatever it is you would like to do. Try to give yourself at least an hour of “you” time every day. Whether its reading a book, watching your favorite movie, writing in a journal, or engaging in any other hobby, what’s important is that you allow yourself time to either start or decompress from your day.
Talk to Someone
This is a two-pronged point. The first point is that having a social life outside of work is essential for maintaining a healthy state of mind. Your friends and family serve as your support network and they allow you to take a step back from issues you may be facing at work. Having a work/life balance is important in any profession.
The second point is that you should regularly see a mental health professional. There are therapists and counselors who specialize in working with those who also work in the mental health field. They can provide insight and help you get through any of your work cases, and of course any other life circumstances that may be bothering you even after you’ve left the office.
Move Your Body
You don’t have to do some super intense CrossFit-type of workout (unless you want to of course), but you do need to move. Take a walk around your block, use the stairs instead of the elevator, go to the gym, go for a run, dance, or take a yoga, cardio, or strength-based class. This can even count as part of the personal time that you set aside for yourself. Moving, and especially exercising, is known to improve sleep, relieve stress, and profoundly reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. You’ll be able to think more clearly, allowing you to be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
As a social worker, you provide mental health-related support for many if not all of the cases you come across. Why not invest time in your own well-being too? You can only help others as well as you help yourself.