Properly Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the World of Social Work
Social workers do incredibly important work for people from all walks of life. It’s a career that’s perfect for people who want to make a difference in the world. However, it’s also an extremely stressful career that can affect one’s mental health.
In the social work field, burnout and compassion fatigue are extremely common. People get emotionally exhausted from the secondhand trauma and inequalities they confront on a daily basis. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your own mental health if you are a social worker or plan to become one.
Mental Health Starts with Physical Health
Caring for your mental health means having a solid baseline. If you’re not getting enough sleep or you’re eating takeout for every meal, your mental health will start to suffer. It’s very important for social workers to create sustainable, healthy habits.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep can cause a range of physical and mental health problems over time. You’ll also have trouble focusing on your work if you’re exhausted.
Getting enough physical activity is also important. That doesn’t mean you need to hit the gym five days a week, but it does mean you should walk, run, swim, do yoga, or engage in some other form of moderate exercise several times a week. It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet and drink enough water.
Practice Mindfulness & Self-Care
Mindfulness practices can help you manage your mental health as a social worker. Meditation can be a helpful daily practice to help you feel grounded in the present moment. One of the major benefits of meditation is that it can be done almost anywhere.
Aside from proactive mindfulness, you should also learn some techniques for calming yourself down when you encounter a stressful situation. The National Association of Social Workers recommends learning deep breathing exercises and keeping a journal to help you cope with your feelings.
Proper self-care for social workers also means taking breaks and ensuring that you get enough rest. Spending time with friends and family or enjoying hobbies is important for taking care of your mental health.
Leave Work at Work
One of the most important aspects of caring for your mental health in social work is leaving work at work. You need to protect your life outside of work so that you don’t take the emotional burdens of others on yourself. This can quickly lead to compassion fatigue.
As a social worker, you will meet people with heartbreaking stories of trauma, loss, and severe mental or physical illness. Social workers are extremely compassionate, and it’s all too easy to let the problems of the people you work with take over your mind 24/7. Be mindful to separate your work and home life, giving yourself time to rest when you get home.
Work with a Mental Health Professional
If you find your mental health suffering as a social worker, don’t ignore it. Make an appointment with a mental health professional to help you manage your symptoms. Even people who work in the mental health field frequently need help from a mental health professional. They can help you with treatment options and recommend resources to help you manage your mental health.
Caring For Yourself Allows You to Care for Others
There are so many reasons to celebrate being a social worker. It’s an extremely noble profession and it can be very fulfilling work. But it’s also very easy to put too much of yourself into a career like social work. When you don’t take the time to care for your mental health, you can’t be present and focused on helping others.
Caring for yourself is important not only for your own sake but also for the people you help. Keeping yourself healthy will allow you to help more people and might prevent you from leaving the field of social work due to burnout. Your mental health matters and allows you to keep doing some of the most important work there is.