Burnout? Get Out!
Few people know that March is National Social Work Month with the theme of "Social Work Paves the Way for Change.” If you ask a social worker what she does, her answer might be, “What don’t I do?” Social workers address persistent social problems, such as access to health care, poverty, lack of education, and discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality or income. The National Association of Social workers found that 78 percent of self-reported social workers are women. It is a profession dominated by women, but there is also a little social worker in every woman. Your daily life consists of you being a counselor, investigator, advocate, mediator, educator, researcher, coordinator or leader. Every woman can relate to being underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. According to the National Institute of Health, studies show that as much as 67 percent percent of social workers will experience burnout. Burnout can be confused with or lead to other mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, but is characterized by three main characteristics:
1) Emotional and/or physical exhaustion – You may have feelings of being overwhelmed and depleted. You may be easily angered or frustrated and experience tearfulness, restlessness, an increase in illness, and changes in appetite and sleep. 2) Detachment/depersonalization – You may feel disconnected from people, experience a loss of enjoyment, and have a strong desire to isolate—often described as cynicism or pessimism, which can spread from your attitude and work to your family and friends. 3) Reduced personal accomplishment – You may experience negative thinking and helplessness—as if nothing you do is good enough. You may be unproductive, perform poorly, or have low motivation.
3 R’s to Combat Burnout Recognize the signs of stress, and pay attention to your body and emotional state. If you are wondering if you are burned out, ask yourself these questions: • Do you drag yourself to work/home and have trouble getting tasks started? • Do you lack the energy or motivation to be consistently productive? • Have you become irritable or impatient with people? • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements? • Have your sleep, sex and eating habits changed? • Are you having increased physical complaints or using drugs or alcohol to cope?
Reflect on the things that stress you, and ask yourself if you are taking on too much. Come up with a plan to reduce stress, and enlist the help of your loved ones or a professional. Consider delegating responsibilities, changing jobs, or exploring time/stress management techniques.
Rejuvenate! Take time for yourself regularly, and take breaks during the day. Find activities that are satisfying and nurture your creative side. Maintain healthy habits and exercise. Most importantly, set healthy boundaries.
Social workers, thank you for all you do to improve and save the lives of the many people you touch. For those of you who are social workers, know a social worker, or have social worker tendencies, take time this month to thank them/yourselves with an act of kindness, a pat on the back, and a moment of relaxation. Remember, you can’t give anything if you have nothing to give, so keep something for yourself.