Social workers often spend hours each day counseling clients about the importance of practicing self-care techniques, yet they may not have their own practices in place. Although self-care is important for everyone, social workers especially can benefit from the stress-relieving nature of mindfulness and self-care. The key to long-term sustainability in the field is to determine which self-care technique is most effective and turning them into a habitual practice before a crisis arrives.
The Importance of Habitual Self-Care for Social Workers
Most people in the field of social work have a strong desire to help others and tend to give until their own energy reserves run low. The ability to be a good listener requires the ability to be present in the moment, even when traumatic details are being shared. After meeting with clients, social workers need to process and release any negative emotions that may have come up during sessions; failure to do so can lead to anxiety, restlessness, burnout, compassion fatigue and more.
Social workers who do not have habitual self-care practices in place may cite reasons such as lack of time or the need to help others before themselves, but putting these practices into place is often what sets apart social workers who feel genuinely satisfied in their career choice and those who ultimately abandon their practice as a result of compassion fatigue.
Simple Self-Care Ideas
Finding a routine of self-care methods that work before a crisis situation occurs is the key to success. It’s best to try just one new method at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed and to evaluate the effectiveness of each practice. Any or all of the following may be helpful:
- Yoga. Many people think of yoga as mere stretching of the body, but in reality, the practice engages the entire mind/body system and helps create an emotional anchor through breathing.
- Mindfulness. This practice helps us remain in the moment with whatever emotion or sensation is present at that instant. By simply letting the experience be as it is without trying to change anything, many people notice that unpleasant emotions or sensations quickly dissipate on their own.
- Exercise. Any type of exercise is likely to reduce your stress, but finding something that you really love to do is key to maintaining the habit long term.
-Nutrition. While this self-care habit should be a foundational component of daily living for everyone, sometimes we need a nutritional boost. Try adding fresh vegetable juices or splurge on a high-quality supplement you’ve been considering.
- Do whatever feels good to you. Stress will often just melt away during a massage or a walk in the woods, while playing with children, or after an exceptional meal with a loved one. Proper self-care means doing what feels good to you when you need a lift.
- Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal, creating reminders to remain grateful, recruiting positivity partners, giving thanks to others and practicing random acts of kindness are all ways to express and perpetuate gratitude. Social workers find that gratitude allows them to be more present with clients, avoid burnout and improve work performance.
It’s imperative to learn the strategies and importance of self-care as early in your career as possible. Learn valuable strategies from our recent infographic on this topic.
If you are interested in pursuing your master’s in social work online through Case Western Reserve University, now is the time to start practicing self-care.