10 tips for keeping your spirits up as a social worker

Susanna Kahr

Although very rewarding at times, social work is also recognized as one of the most stressful jobs out there. The training to become a social worker is exhausting, demanding, and complex and most social workers report that it is really exhausting trying to do everything to meet the needs of others, day in, day out, and with such life-changing consequences. In fact, a recent study suggests that social workers may experience higher levels of stress and resulting burnout than comparable other jobs! To put it frankly, it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. Social workers, we salute you and we’re here to give you some tips to help you keep your spirits up! 

Keep up with family and friends

This is really important. Although the shifts and the nature of social work might make you feel isolated and alone, it’s important to keep up with your loved ones. You should prioritize face-to-face time as much as possible as hugs and one-on-one conversations with your nearest and dearest will help you to keep your spirits up, even when it’s tough for you at work. 

“My co-workers are family AND friends.” – anonymous employer review at McKenzie Regional Hospital

Practice mindfulness

One great way to boost your mental health is to set aside time to practice mindfulness. Whether that means committing to eating mindfully during your lunch break, taking some time every morning or evening to meditate or taking up a mindful hobby such as painting or crafting, mindfulness is a great way to focus on the here and now and to reset your mind. Taking some time out everyday will help you to build up your mental resilience and keep your mind and body happier. 

Exercise

It can be tough to find time to exercise, trust us, we know! But, exercise, like mindfulness, is a great way to take time out of your hectic schedule, focus on yourself, work up a sweat and feel better in yourself. The best tip for starting to exercise regularly is to find a sport or activity that you really enjoy. If you don’t like running, then you don’t have to force yourself to go running, you can choose to go to yoga or pilates, or even commit to going on a longer walk every now and again. 

Did you know that you can practice mindfulness during your lunch break? Here are some tips!

Get enough sleep

This is another one that’s much easier said than done, especially if you’re struggling to leave work at work and fixating on difficult cases before you go to sleep. First try to stick to a reasonable bedtime, and if you need help falling asleep then you can make your bedroom a no-phone zone and read instead or invest in some lavender oil which you can spray on your pillow. Regular exercise will help you to sleep better too! 

Practice gratitude

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and focus on the negatives in a job like social work, but a good way to rein yourself in and stop fixating on the difficult aspects of your job is to practice gratitude on a regular basis. A good way to do this is by starting every day by listing 5 things that you’re grateful for. These things don’t have to be job-related and can be as small as ‘I’m thankful that I ate a good breakfast today.’ Starting to focus on the blessings in your life is a great way to combat negative thinking and to set yourself up for difficult days. 

“I feel extremely lucky and grateful to be a part of their family.” – anonymous employer review at Salem Hospital

Learn how to breathe… and keep stress levels in check

In moments when you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s important to practice breathing deeply as this will help you to regain control of your mind and stress levels. Get comfortable, take a deep breath in through your nose and then let it out. You can repeat this as many times as you need to, but it will help you to feel better in a matter of minutes. 

Hold on to a sense of purpose in your job

One key to great mental health is a feeling of purpose. So, whilst it might be difficult to remember why you entered social work in the first place, you need to remind yourself of your purpose. Think about all of the great things you’ve achieved for those you’ve looked after, and the lives you’ve changed. This is especially important when things get tough! 

“We are currently working on our clinics purpose. A little more oversight on this would help to bring everyone together to make sure that some are not doing more work than others.” – anonymous employer review at National Veterinary Associates

Eat well

A great way to boost your mood is to eat good brain-friendly food and make the effort to really look after yourself. Wherever possible you should strive to eat a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients, and make your breaks count, as much as you can. 

Talk to someone

Choose a trusted colleague or supervisor to confide in and tell them how you’re feeling. Social work can feel like an isolating job, but the more you reach out to your coworkers, the better you will all feel. If you’re struggling with poor mental health or burnout, it’s your employer’s responsibility to get you the support that you need. 

By the way: Here are some tips to boost your mental health.

Seek professional help if you need it

Sometimes the stress can build up to the point where you need some help to work through it. If this happens, ask your employer to assist you in finding a counselor. Remember, you’re doing a tough job and stress is a very personal thing, so if you feel like you need help, then give yourself the space and time to find ways to cope with your stress levels. 

 

+++

Here at kununu we’re on a mission to make the world of work more transparent. We want to know what the stress levels are like for you and your co-workers in your current company. Whether you feel supported or on the brink of burnout, let us know in a review on kununu and help us to help jobseekers find the best possible employer for them.