I was recently exploring the wonderful world of the internet and came across a list (one of the 2,508,245 in existence) ranking the most stressful jobs. Of course, I was not very surprised to see the role of social worker present. Another list I found ranked social work as one of the most stressful, yet worst paying jobs.
There is of course no denying it. Social work is a stressful job and burnout rates are high.
“Listening to peoples’ challenges all day and expecting not to be affected is like jumping into the ocean and expecting not to get wet,” is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever heard as an emerging social worker. Stress is just a reality of the work that we do. Social workers are faced with long, emotionally draining days and, with increased funding cuts, can find ourselves taking on more and more responsibilities. Work is never an easy place.
I of course appreciate that this problem isn’t unique to social work and that across the workforce, burnout and stress are becoming increasingly prevalent.
Much of the education and training social workers invest in focuses around self-care and burnout prevention. As I am asked literally every single day how I do my job (“Oh my goodness, Tristan! How do you, like, do it?”), I put together a list of some of the best ways to take care of yourself both in and outside of the social work field.
I’ve paired tips I’ve found particularly helpful with .gifs from Parks and Recreation. While Leslie Knope is a workaholic, she also has balance. Don’t believe me?
Read this quote:
“We need to remember what’s important in life: Friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work…Doesn’t matter. But work is third,” says Knope.
1. Treat yo’ self:
Nobody puts it better than Donna and Tom! Every now and then, splurge a little. Do something nice for yourself. Whether it’s sleeping in, eating your favourite food or buying yourself something new, do something to treat yo’ self! Sure, you have a mountain of work you could be doing instead, but taking a few moments for yourself will help you feel a lot better in the grand scheme o’ thangs.
2. Try not to get too emotionally invested:
This can be tricky! Trust me, I am just as guilty of this as everyone. While it’s important to care about what you do and be passionate, you also don’t want to be sitting up in bed at 3:52am exhausted, but too stressed or upset to sleep. Try to leave your work, and its worries and concerns, in the office, so that you can return emotionally refreshed.
3. Surround yourself with positive people:
Everyone needs their Leslie Knope: A relentless cheerleader and fountain of positive energy. So much of our mood is influenced by those around us and the emotions they express, so it’s important to surround ourselves with people who bring out our bests. Sure, everyone loves to vent, and needs to get a good rant out, but I’m sure you can think of a handful of people who are so negative they just bring your entire mood down. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Life is too short to spend moping!
4. Let some things slide:
I’m not telling you to suddenly start doing a terrible job, nor am I advising you half-ass all your big projects. You still need to work towards that big promotion. Instead, realize that everything is not a make-it-or-break-it crisis. Sometimes you need to let a few minuscule tasks slide to focus on the end result. If you exhaust yourself on the details, you might not have any energy left for the things that really matter. Become comfortable with the potential for not having everything completed to perfection, because there are truly only so many hours in one day. Prioritize your tasks, realize what you just need to get off your plate and what requires more polish. It’s all about finding the balance.
5. Exercise and leave your house:
I was a nay-sayer once. I mean, how could USING energy give you MORE energy?! But it does. It’s amazing what some fresh air, a little stretch or some time at the gym will do to make you feel better, both physically and mentally. We all know the science and have heard about the endorphins. I know that after a long day at work, exercise is the last thing you want to do, but give it a shot. It’s amazing how much a walk with my dog will clear my head after a hectic day.
6. Get out with friends:
I know. You just want to sit in bed and watch Netflix. I do too. But, going out with friends and being social is so helpful in keeping us positive, grounded and motivated. While your cheerleaders (mentioned above) are important, every time you plan a night out, you don’t need to put “pep talk” on the agenda. Meet an old friend for coffee, go out for lunch with a co-worker. Do anything to get your mind away from work and give it a much needed vacation!
Comment below on how you get through some of your busiest times and how you keep yourself motivated, before, during or after you’ve pulled your hair out.