Social workers play an essential role in the communities they serve, and yet they are also among the individuals most vulnerable to career burnout. The emotionally challenging job is known for its high intensity, and many social workers are forced to find new ways to cope.
Even if you love your job, you might find yourself in a position where you feel totally burned out. This guide will help you learn the signs of burnout and how you can address them.
Why Are Social Workers Prone to Burnout?
Social workers are often assigned large caseloads, many times lacking organized support. These factors can lead an employee to feel that he or she never gets a break. The job can be exhausting, regardless of how rewarding it may be.
The nature of taking on a role as a social worker means that you will be working with individuals who need you. When you are in this position, you may find yourself experiencing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is characterized by a desire to maintain emotional distance, especially after exposure to trauma.
What Are the Symptoms of Burnout?
The symptoms of burnout at work come on slowly, and you might not notice them initially. One of the most common signs is exhaustion, often brought on by insomnia caused by anxiety.
You might also notice that you are not as focused as you once were. Perhaps you don’t pay attention to the small details, forgetting important facts.
Physical symptoms of burnout also exist. These include frequent illness, chest pain, digestive issues, and headaches. You might notice yourself becoming sick more often than usual.
Mental and emotional symptoms of burnout include depression, anxiety, anger, and detachment. You may experience flashbacks or intrusive thoughts as well.
What Can You Do to Combat Burnout?
1. Follow the advice you learn in social worker continuing education courses about finding balance at work. Take on a combination of simple and challenging tasks so that every job you take on is not so daunting.
2. Ask for what you need. When you feel that you are facing a mountain, you can’t take it on without the proper tools. Make it clear to your superiors that you need more resources.
3. Make every attempt not to personalize issues, primarily when you are working with demanding clients. At the same time, you can make meaningful connections with both clients and co-workers without relying on these relationships for your sense of self-worth. Boundaries are essential in this work.
4. Diversify the components of your life so that every day feels rich. When you are happy with your relationships, friends, work, and hobbies, you put less emphasis on adverse events going on in your life.
5. Build a support network at work and home. The more people you feel like you have on your side, the less isolating potential burnout will feel.
6. Take care of yourself. Find ways to engage in quick meditations or mindfulness exercises throughout the day. Make sure you are taking breaks from work to recover, especially when you feel yourself becoming anxious or stressed.
Finally, make sure to keep learning. Social worker continuing education courses help you stay up-to-date with new techniques. Social work courses also help you feel connected to the rest of the social work community as you learn new strategies for work and self-care.