Social Work is Difficult

Social work has got to be one of the harder jobs out there. Without much compensation, and reward for all of that hard work, sometimes it seems harder that necessary and almost pointless at times. That is why self-care becomes so important. Self-care comes in so many different forms. Sometimes we are doing it and do not even know we are doing it. There is meditation, spending time with family and loved ones, hobbies (crafts, gardening, video games, music etc.) and debriefing, etc. It seems so basic right? Then why is it that so many of us struggle with something so simple. I feel that it has a lot to do with time management. We have our careers, school, our families, our friends, not to mention shopping, cooking, cleaning, extracurricular activities and all of the other demands that fall on us. After a long day in the field, working with some horrible coworker (and some great ones), wishy washy service providers, seeing beaten and battered child and their parents, feeling there hopelessness and taking it on as your own, it become even more critical to engage in your own self-care. This is something no one else can or will do it for you. We want to teach our own children, the families we work for, and others in our life how to engage in self-care, yet we have a hard time doing it for ourselves. In the short few years that I have worked in the social work field, I have begun to realize just how important self-care is. How important it is to find time for ourselves so that we may continue to meet all of the other demands of life. In parenting classes, we talk to our parents about being on an airplane and the air masks fall down, who do you put one on first? Yourself or your child? It is amazing how many people would think your child. If you pass out from being overworked, overtired, overstressed, how are going to continue to care for yourself, let alone anyone else. I like this analogy because I feel it send a very clear message about self-care. Self-care should not be something we see as a choice or better yet, not a choice. We have to make time for ourselves. To rejuvenate. We must constantly reevaluate what works and what doesn’t. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do but it is highly important if we want to continue building our resiliencies and stay in the field. I know why I have chosen to work in this field yet no one told me how hard it would be or that I would have to continue working so hard on myself. However, it is worth every minute of it.

2 Responses to “Social Work is Difficult”

  • Haley Says:

    I completely agree with your thoughts on the difficult nature of Social Work and the vitality of self-care. Anyone in the helping field can attest to the incredible demands these jobs require. It seems there is more to do than there is time to do it, yet the expectations remain. In my previous job as group home administrator and manager, I was doing so much for the clients and staff that I neglected my own care. I developed anxiety complete with somatic problems and let my health and weight get out of control. Because of all that, I ended up not even being that effective in my work since I felt so badly about myself. From that experience, I have not only learned that I HAVE to take care of myself, but that I need to create boundaries. I am human and I have limits. Now, whenever I am asked to do something such as commit to seeing a client until 8pm every week, I say “no”. This has shocked some people, but I always come back with, “If I am not well, I cannot help the clients be well.” No one can really refute that statement 😉
    More agencies need to have this discussion and be tolerant of clinicians and helpers in the field who have boundaries and limits that protect them from major health problems and burnout.

  • Amber Says:

    Thank you for your post. I too struggle with the demands of social work, family, school, and time for myself. It seems that more often than not, I am putting myself last which means that self-care is not being done. I feel overworked, overtired, and stretched beyond belief. You give a poignant analogy of the airplane and masks. I have never thought of self-care in that way. However, it makes sense. So often we push ourselves to help others and sacrifice so much of ourselves. Yet if we are not taking care of ourselves first, we will not be able to help anyone else. So self-care must be an ongoing commitment.
    Thank you!

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