It’s inevitable that you will focus on others in an industry like social work, – whether you are helping an individual, a family or an entire community. Odds are your day job is rewarding, but also emotionally taxing. While it can be hard to squeeze in the “me time” we all strive for, practicing self care is crucial to maintaining your own mental balance.
The World Health Organization defines self care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”
The best social worker self care ideas
The irony of self care for social workers is that you are most likely already helping a client implement their own self care tactics. We invite you to practice what you preach and do some reflection on your own self care practices with these tips.
Start the day with a treat
This doesn’t mean start the day with a cookie, though we can definitely get behind dessert for breakfast!
It’s easy for our minds to automatically shift into thinking & planning mode at the start of a long day. If you create a morning ritual that makes you excited to get out of bed, you can break the cycle of worry by focusing on the good. There’s endless options here depending on what brings you joy – make yourself a fancy coffee, knotch a few pages in your current read or even just walk around the block. Find what gives you that zen feeling in the morning and kickoff the day on a high note.
Take advantage of micro breaks
We all have busy days, and when work is piling up it’s easy for your own care to be the first to go. This is especially true for those working in a people-focused industry like social work. While your job may be helping others improve their lives, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you see an empty block on your calendar, even if it’s five to 10 minutes between meetings, be proactive in filling that time with something to help you unwind. Do you need to call a family member for a quick pick me up? Or maybe just eat a snack before you finish out the day? Being proactive with your self care throughout the day will make for more sustainable and lasting habits.
Build your joy journal
A joy journal, also known as a “smile file,” is a place where you can gather various feel good items in your life. Do you have an email from a co-worker giving you a major shoutout? Or even a hand-written note from a recent client? Snap screenshots and good old fashioned photos of these items that bring you joy.
When you’re feeling down, or simply want to fill a micro break with something fun, whip out your joy journal album on your phone and remember the bright side.
Prioritize a specific health goal
You already know there’s so many ways to improve your physical health: between drinking more water, getting a daily sweat and hitting that magical 8 hours of sleep. Instead of trying to improve everything at once, focus on one area you know could use improvement.
Do you love a morning run, but can’t seem to stay hydrated during a busy work day? Focus on water intake first, take note of how making the change impacts your physical and mental wellbeing – THEN you can tackle the next goal. Consistent progress will last longer than forced quick changes.
Make time for self reflection
Carrying the weight of other’s well-being can be draining during the work day, and that switch doesn’t turn off after working hours. It’s crucial to make space for self reflection in order to prioritize your own mental health.
This doesn’t have to be meditation (though if that’s your thing, we have a writeup on all its benefits here), it just needs to be something that allows you time with your thoughts. From gratitude journaling to vision boarding, there are so many quick ways to explore your own thoughts. If you think better in the morning rather than after work, take up the morning pages practice. The morning pages practice task is simple: write out anything that comes to mind first thing in the morning. This is an amazing therapeutic exercise to clear your mind before you dive into the busyness of the outside world.
Whatever floats your boat, just make sure you find a few moments to check in with yourself!
Lean on your loved ones
This may be the toughest idea of the bunch. It can be extra difficult to ask for help yourself when you’re in the industry of helping others. The good news is that asking for support when you need it is just like any other habit, you get better with each and every opportunity to practice.
Not sure where to start? Be open with those closest to you about what you’re going through and areas that are feeling overwhelming. Odds are your people will have their own ideas on how they can jump in and help. Receiving support from others will not only alleviate stress, but it will free up some extra time for you to do all the self care activities!