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How to Prevent Social Work Burnout

Three Self-care Tips for Social Workers

Social workers can have incredibly taxing careers given that they may work long hours, nights, weekends and even holidays. Coupled with this, they may not be paid as well as they should for the altruistic work they do. On top of all this, their day-to-day work is not easy, and many in this profession begin to feel “burnout” after sometime. But there are steps that social workers can do to prevent or overcome burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is “a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress,” according to Help Guide, a non-profit resource about health issues. There are many physical, emotional and behavioral signs of burnout, such as:

  • Feeling exhausted and drained
  • Withdrawing and procrastinating at work
  • Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early

Fortunately, there are ways for social workers to prevent burnout before it affects their careers.

Social workers care for others, but it’s important for them to care for themselves. The New Social Worker Magazine emphasizes the practice of self-care, which is “the balancing of activities in which social workers can engage to preserve personal longevity and happiness, their relationships and their careers.” Below are three ways social workers can start practicing self-care.

  1. A Change of Lifestyle

    Social workers can practice self-care by making changes to their lifestyles, both at work and at home. At work, social workers can eat and talk with their coworkers or add plants to their office. A healthy lifestyle is also important, so professionals should start eating healthy, exercising and sleeping regularly. It’s also recommended to take up a hobby or other new activity. For example, read a book, write in a journal, paint a picture, do volunteer work or go on vacation. No matter what one does, it’s key that social workers make time for oneself.

  2. A Diversity of Work

    Social workers can diversify their work. For example, they can shift their client focus. Social workers who practice group therapy can make individual, couples or family therapy a part of their practice. They can also ask for new work. However, if social workers have too much work, they need to know how to say “no” or inform their boss that they’re overworked. Those who know how to say “no” can better apply themselves to the work they do have.

  3. A Helping Hand

    Social workers can also ask for professional assistance. Nearly 90 percent of mental health workers receive personal therapy before, during or after their professional training. In fact, it’s part of a social worker’s duty to ask for help if needed. According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, social workers should seek professional help if they have problems that may interfere with their performance.

Care for Yourself and Others with an MSW

You can take the steps to care for yourself and ensure you have a long career as a social worker. You can also expand your knowledge of caring for others with an online master’s degree. The online Master of Social Work from the Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Service can prepare you for licensure as a clinical social worker. To learn more about the online MSW program, call 855-295-5711 or click here to request more information.