Authored Cory Ybarra, Youth Services Sheltercare Program Manager
The term “self-care” reportedly originated in 1983, and was defined as “the activities individuals, families and communities un
dertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health.” In more simple and personal terms – it can be described as actions that help you take care of your physical, mental and emotional health.
It sounds simple, but it can be challenging and even hard to admit that you aren’t taking care of yourself and need to improve your physical, mental or emotional health. Burnout and compassion fatigue can be common – and obviously detrimental in our ability to do our jobs – in the social work field. In order to avoid burning out on our jobs and clients, self-care is of the utmost importance.
How do we unwind after a difficult day or week or month of work? How do we forget something that was stressful or heartbreaking or demoralizing and move on with our everyday lives? How do we leave work at work?
Self-care doesn’t have to be extravagant. As social workers raise your hand if you have the money to fly to Cancun for a getaway this weekend. Self-care can be simple, and it is unique to your needs and preferences of ways to rejuvenate. Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and meditate. Or stare at a blank wall. Getting out and being active has shown to be one of the most beneficial forms of self-care.
There are many easy ways to self-preserve and only you will be able to figure out what works best for you. Here are some ideas for the next time you need to recharge, or take better care of your health.
• Go to the gym (lift weights, jog, do yoga, try an exercise class)
• Go for a walk
• Do some arts and crafts
• Play video games
• Turn off your phone
• Take deep breaths
• Go out to lunch
• Call your favorite person and have a conversation with them
• Take a nap
• Write in your journal – or start a journal and begin writing in it
• Take a day off from work (with your supervisor’s approval, of course)
• Spend time with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, volunteer at an animal shelter or visit the zoo
• Listen to music
You get the idea. Don’t allow yourself to get emotionally exhausted in this difficult line of work. Our clients’ well-being is the reason most of us became social workers. But don’t forget that your own physical, mental and emotional health is pretty important business, too.