Every day, you go to work. You support people during some of the saddest parts of their lives. You listen to stories, which should only be that. Stories. Yet unfortunately, are realities for so many of the people you serve in your day to day work.
Neglect, crisis, mental health, addiction and societal injustices are not uncommon for you to witness. In fact, they are what make up your job for the most part.
You work within a system, connected to others systems. Often these systems are disconnected and you feel a bit like you are swimming against a giant current of red tape.
Your friends and family who are not in the social work field may have a difficult time understanding how your job can be so draining. You may hear comments like “You chose that career, you knew what you were getting into” or “I don’t get it…your job isn’t physical…how are you so tired?”.
You are a navigator, a multi-tasker, a mediator, an educator, a driver, a case manager, a problem solver, a crisis manager, a positive thinker, a cheerleader, a bad news deliverer, an organizer, a communicator, an advocate and a community support for people who have nowhere else to go.
While you are busy being all these things to all those people, somethings you forget about a very important person. You.
Sometimes you forget to eat lunch because you have so many families who all need you and the work really never stops. So a couple of nibbles of your stale granola in your desk ties you over until dinner.
Sometimes you come home so emotionally tired, that all you want to do is wrap yourself in a blanket and watch Netflix until it is officially bedtime. Which sometimes is OK, and other times makes you feel like you have wasted a whole evening.
Sometimes you figure, “whats a few extra hours of overtime?…”.
Sometimes you forget to use the washroom, because you’ve been in back-to-back meetings or your inbox just keeps filling with e-mails or someone is in crisis. Then you realize hours later that your bladder is REALLY full.
Sometimes your back is really stiff because you haven’t been able to separate yourself from your computer. Even taking a walk to the water cooler feels too distracting when you are in the middle of writing another case note.
Sometimes you are so busy taking care of other people, that you forget to take care of yourself.
But, if you were to view yourself as just as important as the clients you serve, would you still forget to take care of you?
Sometimes, we forget to set boundaries and practice effective self-care.
The work will always be there. And so will our clients. And so will the crisis.
The voicemail can wait for you to fill your water bottle.
Clients have survived their whole lives without you! A two second pee break will give you the ability to focus on what they are saying, rather than on how you wished you would have used the washroom back at the office. They will still be there for you to call or visit after your bladder is empty.
The inbox will NEVER be empty. So, just stop expecting it to be. Go eat something other than stale granola or chocolate. Its not very nutritious.
If you need a mental health day, because your job is one of the emotionally impacting professions out there, take a mental health day. You’re a social worker – not an ice sculpture.
We care about our clients, and we go above and beyond to ensure we are doing the best job we can for them.
Lets do the same for ourselves.
Because if we forget to take care of ourselves, in the midst of taking care of others, is that really taking care of anyone?