It’s no secret that social work is a very stressful job. Workloads have increased due to high demands, stress levels among the workforce have escalated and as a result, this has placed a strain on the work-life balance. Managing stress both at work and at home when the working day is done takes patience and practice. Here are our tips on how to reduce stress as a social worker and look after your mental health:
1. Understand what makes your job stressful
When you’ve had a bad day, it’s easy to overlook the exact situation which caused you to feel stressed. After the stress trigger has been fired, you could feel like everything you do afterwards is overwhelming and contributing to how you feel, even though these tasks usually cause no similar effect on other days.
Learn how to separate stress triggers from other tasks by making a note of when you started to feel stressed and what happened to cause that. Mind has created a Wellness Action Plan which will help you map out these stressors.
2. Find a way to manage your triggers
After you’ve recognised which circumstances turn a good day into a bad day, put a plan into place to make sure you’re prepared for them. This is a great stress management strategy.
As a healthcare professional, stressful situations may be an inevitable part of your job, replace the dread of facing it with acceptance. Training yourself to know that it’s unavoidable will help you to cope with it when it arises in the future.
3. Get some support
Whether it’s your manager, a fellow social worker, or a friend within a different occupation who can offer an outsider perspective, having a line of support for when you feel stressed is key. Identify someone you can trust, and talk through your troubles with them when you need to.
Alternatively, make use of the abundance of information online that’s published by mental health organisations. The Mental Health Foundation have a huge focus on stress and provide information on the signs of stress and how you can help yourself.
4. Learn to switch off
The hardest part of combating stress at work is learning to leave it at the door when you finish for the day. Carrying stress with you affects your free time and your home life, so switching off is incredibly important and will help you achieve a better work-life balance.
Plan things for outside of work which you can look forward to. Whether that’s meditation, spending time with friends, or finding a new TV boxset to get stuck into, having another focus will condition you to stop carrying the stress outside of the workplace. Watching TV happens to be the most popular activity to switch off from work with 55% of people revealing it’s their go-to de-stress technique.
5. Have some time to yourself
Taking time out of your week to focus on yourself and to have some time to relax is key when working in a stressful environment. Going for a walk, having a bath, or reading a book are a few ways to unwind in a quiet spot away from your chaotic job. If you’re really dedicated to beating stress, you could even learn to meditate. Apps like Headspace are great at guiding you on how to zone out and put your mind at ease. They’re also great tools to help you unwind at the end of the day and establish a good sleep schedule.
6. Practice healthy habits
Establishing a routine to your working day is very effective in reducing stress, even though it may be a very difficult task for social workers due to what the working day holds. Timing is crucial for creating a routine, so try to eat substantial and nutritious meals at similar times every day, and try to leave work at the same time every day too. Waking up and stretching or practicing yoga is a great way to wake up your mind and to start your day well.
7. Get enough exercise
Every list you could read about reducing stress will probably always include incorporating exercise into your life, and with good reason.
Scientifically, exercise is great for both your body and mind. It increases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain, and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline. While it's recommended to exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days of the week, studies have shown that 5 minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to produce anti-anxiety effects. Meaning that a short walk is enough to unlock the positive effects and is the quickest, cheapest and most effective way of clearing your mind of stress.
Charles Hunter can help your social work career
Social work is a fulfilling career but it doesn't come without it challenges. In order to continue delivering excellent care social workers must take the time to care for their own mental health. These seven 7 tips can help reduce workplace stress and achieve a better work-life balance. Charles Hunter understands the demands of a career in social care. We're a recruitment agency dedicated to placing the best professionals in social work, nursing and care roles. Our consultants have specialist knowledge and are always on hand to offer support. If you're looking to make your next career move view our current social work jobs here or read more of our blogs here.