Social work can be a rewarding, restorative and inspiring profession; however, it can also be exhausting, stressful, and emotionally taxing as well at times. There has never been a time when burnout among social workers has been more pressing than at the moment when a global pandemic is engulfing the entire world.
A social worker is a frontline caregiver of a child or a young adult who may be experiencing isolation, medical concerns, or economic hardship due to a variety of circumstances. The result is all new levels of work-related stress, including fatigue, that lead to inefficiency.
As a social worker, it is absolutely vital that you also take care of yourself in the course of caring for others since caring for others can take a toll on your health.
Recognize Compassion Fatigue
It is sad to say, but burnout is a common occurrence among people in careers connected with caring for others. Compassion fatigue is a condition that may develop when caregiver burnout is exacerbated by their involvement in traumatic situations.
It is important to be aware of some signs of social worker burnout that can lead to compassion fatigue in social workers.
- Feeling discouraged about your work or losing your enthusiasm
- Increased irritability at work or with clients
- Having trouble staying focused
- An increase in fatigue or a decrease in productivity
- Inconsistency in sleep patterns
- Undiagnosed medical conditions
- Indulging in unhealthy stress responses, such as overeating, drinking, or taking drugs
One of the most important reasons burnout occurs in social workers is when they are unable to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Those who pursue this profession are often studying, and engaged in regular classes while working, which can cause burnout. Enrolling in a masters in social work online program can relieve much stress as it allows students to study on flexible hours.
Tips for Dealing with Burnout as a Social Worker
To prevent burnout in social workers and compassion fatigue, it is important to take some measures to look after yourself and prioritize your well-being when dealing with stress.
You will find eight tips below that will help you to keep stress at bay:
Make sure that you set limits for yourself
There is no need to feel uncomfortable setting limits relating to your schedule, the needs of clients, or even your commitments to your family. In order to prevent burnout and to identify clearly when you are working and when you are taking a break, it is important to maintain a structured schedule.
Stay healthy by eating, drinking, and sleeping
Good health is essential for social workers so they can maintain the rigorous working hours and demands of the job. Burnout is much less likely to occur if you eat well, remain hydrated, and ensure adequate sleep to avoid fatigue.
Boundaries must be maintained in order to prevent conflict
One of the most important things you can do to prevent burnout is to maintain a firm boundary between yourself and your clients, colleagues, and even your family and friends. There are usually a number of ethics courses, continuing education courses, and work-related retreats that cover boundary issues, but they are worth repeating here, too.
Keep your boundaries and resist going along with the pressures that may, over time, turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if you give in to them.
Give yourself time to relax
The best way to relieve stress and prevent burnout is to do something creative. Social workers often recommend creative activities to clients in order to reduce their stress levels, such as music, journaling, and art. Such pursuits can also be beneficial for them in their practice.
An excellent self-care strategy is to indulge in any enjoyable activity that relaxes and restores you by making you feel rejuvenated and relaxed.
Do not become a sponge
Observe how you respond to clients who recount traumatizing experiences during interventions or interactions. Do you find yourself preoccupied with this later on in life? In relation to the client’s situation, are you experiencing flashbacks?
Many social workers tend to be on their guard when it comes to absorbing what their clients convey and share, and in many cases, this information can be painful and troubling. As a social worker, you may experience vicarious traumatization when you witness the experiences of your clients – this can be extremely debilitating and overwhelming for those who suffer from it.
It would be advisable to take a vacation or have an honest conversation with your supervisor if you are experiencing this kind of trauma; it indicates a high risk of compassion fatigue.
Take part in physical activity
Engaging in vigorous physical activity can increase resilience and reduce stress hormones.
You can start the day with a quick run before work or unwind with a simple walk during your breaks, as the American Psychological Association states, exercising “fuels the brain’s stress buffers.”
Doing short stretches of physical activity throughout the week can still help you reach the recommended levels of physical activity.
Relax and take some time off
You are granted a personal day at work for a reason. It is very important not to let this time go to waste by using it for other purposes and depriving yourself of time that is very much needed. You should also plan a vacation and take the time to enjoy it.
Any slight change of environment and scenery – even if for only a day or two – can be invigorating.
Find someone to talk to
Consider talking to a supervisor at work or a therapist outside of work about work, your stressors, or whatever is on your mind.
Since it is such a confidential job, it can be difficult for you to share your problems and concerns with your friends or family members, so it is crucial that you find someone who can listen to your concerns and can offer you guidance and advice when you need it.
Having spent a great deal of time and effort to obtain your education and license, you should be sure to protect your work commitments by being attentive to your own needs as well.
If you want to deal with your social worker’s stress before it is too late, you should not wait. Take action now to reduce symptoms of burnout and alleviate compassion fatigue by implementing strategies today.
Creating a consistent self-care regimen is imperative for social workers. You should engage in certain activities at least once a week, even if it is not something you do every day. To remain empathetic and effective as practitioners, social workers must take time to process and rejuvenate.
Social workers interact with people of all ages who have experienced multiple stressors and traumas. When you internalize your clients’ experiences and stresses, you are more likely to suffer vicarious trauma. Being able to talk to supportive colleagues or process feelings with a supervisor or therapist is important in preventing burnout.