Every Social Worker Needs a Vacation: Fighting Burnout

Social work is a stressful field.  It can challenge you mentally and emotionally, even if you love the work.  Without taking the time to relax and recharge, you can easily end up facing the signs and symptoms of burnout.  To help you get back to your usual self, so you can do the important work you do, here are some ways to help you defeat the burnout monster before it strikes.

Celebrate Victories (Even the Small Ones)

An excellent way to keep your spirits up is to celebrate every victory, no matter the size.  Even though the work is hard, social workers provide a valuable service to the community.  Any time that hard work yields positive results, take the time to recognize it.  It is easier to keep pushing through the challenges when you stop and appreciate the lights at the end of the tunnels.

Celebrations don’t have to be large, or even long.  Taking a moment to smile after a job well done, or having coworkers gather daily to discuss their successes, can help keep morale higher than not acknowledging the good times.

Every Social Worker Needs a Vacation: Fighting Burnout

Ask for Help When Needed

Social workers are generally the ones who provide help to others, so it can seem foreign to ask someone for help yourself.  However, feeling buried under your workload, or having issues coping with particularly difficult cases, can start a downward spiral that ultimately ends in burnout.  If you are feeling overwhelmed in any part of your life, don’t be afraid to ask for help from coworkers, family, friends, or mental health professionals.  In the end, you’ll be thankful you did.

Be Aware of Secondary Trauma Stress

Secondary trauma stress occurs when the trauma of a client becomes difficult to manage.  It can have signs similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, but the source of the trauma is considered indirect.  Some know the condition as compassion fatigue, though experiencing an event vicariously through a client can also lead to symptoms.  While maintaining an emotional distance is often advised, it is not always easy to switch off that part of your brain.  This is one of those times when asking for help should be a priority, as the effects of the condition can have widespread implications in one’s life.

Maintain Healthy Habits

To keep yourself in the best condition to battle stress, it is important to maintain healthy habits.  Make sure to eat right and take time to exercise.  Keep a regular sleeping schedule, and try to meet recommended minimums on the majority of your days.  Don’t skip doctor or dental appointments if you are feeling unwell, even if you think you are too busy to go.  By taking care of your physical self, you will be better equipped to manage your other selves too.

Take Breaks

Every now and then, all people need a break from their daily grind; social workers are no different.  Make sure you reserve time to yourself.  Unplug from your work email or other job obligations and focus on your wellbeing.  Reconnect with friends and family, or take time off for a vacation.  If there is somewhere you always wanted to see, like Paris or Madrid, find Europe flights and plan a trip.  Sometimes, even knowing a break is on the horizon is enough to lift your spirits.