6 Ideas for Self-Care for Social Workers

Self-care is an essential part of ensuring that you're providing the best possible care for your clients.

Nancy J. Evans Hall March 31, 2016
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As a former social worker myself, I understand exactly what kind of pressures so many social workers face daily on the job.  It’s often the kind of work you “take home with you” whether you want to or not.  While it definitely has its rewards, the many emotional—and sometimes physical—stressors it can put on someone can be very hard to deal with.  If you are a social worker, society needs you, and we thank you, so here are some practical tips to hopefully give your life more balance, peace, and harmony:

1. Try yoga.  Wait! Before you think of all the reasons why not to do it, here are some good reasons why and, more importantly, how. Its stress-relieving properties are widely recognized as being extremely positive mental and physical coping strategies. If you’re afraid you’re not flexible, you don’t have to be. The primary focus is on breathing. Plus, there are several styles and levels of practice, so you can just start where you are. And since your schedule can be hectic and unpredictable, you can invest in a few inexpensive DVDs and work in some yoga “me” time at home rather than pay for classes you’ll never attend. Did you know you can select DVDs with 10- or 15-minute exercise options? That means you can almost always work in the time to decompress mind, body, and spirit.  If you find that yoga’s just not your thing (I know it took me a while to learn to love it), you can choose from a variety of other workouts that you do enjoy that also help relieve stress and are good for your overall health.

2. Climb into the bathtub. A tried and true method of simple relaxation is a hot bath, especially before bed. Just add some aromatherapy bath oil or bubble bath and enjoy! For an added “chill out” factor, put on some soft music and light some candles. This can be more than just an occasional treat—it can be a habit!

3. Meditate. This can be an excellent tool for grounding and centering yourself and for relaxation. This can be as simple or as involved as you make it. You could do it as a part of your yoga practice or on its own. Practice in the mornings to get you jump-started or in the evenings to calm you down, or do both to positively balance out your day from start to finish. You could download a meditation app to your phone (many offer options such as only bells or guided meditations at varied lengths of time), get a DVD or CD, take classes, or just sit quietly in nature or a special place in your home. Prayer itself could be your meditation. Investigate and experiment with ways that are effective for your wellbeing.

4. Schedule something to look forward to in the short- to medium-term. This can be anything from attending a concert or festival to taking a vacation. You can plan for a spa treatment or a shopping trip. Whatever works for you!

5. Practice a hobby or attain a new skill or new knowledge. Write, paint, build models, knit, sculpt, take a course on interior design, collect coins, take up gourmet cooking, work in horseback riding lessons on the weekends—whatever you choose, just make sure you’re doing it for your enjoyment.  If the mere thought of it starts to bore you or stress you out in any way, it’s no longer serving you as a method of self-care. Find something else fun and interesting!

6. Build a strong, positive, healthy, and consistent support system. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if and when you need it, including professional and/or spiritual counseling.  You may even have some great resources offered through your workplace that are tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

And remember: What you do is valuable!

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Nancy J. Evans Hall

Nancy Hall is married to the love of her life and has a wonderful teenage daughter. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A.T. in Humane Education. She had the privilege of studying at Oxford Univerisity in England for a while and eventually moved overseas for nearly 4 years. She enjoys traveling, writing, yoga and Pilates, rock music and festivals, and all things animal-related -- she has several rescued pets. She currently works as an academic advisor at a state college.

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