How to Avoid Social Work Burnout


Burnout strikes social workers at a high rate due to the chronic stress associated with the helping professional role. Social workers must recognize and treat stress in their own lives before they can adequately help others. Left untreated, stress evolves into the physical and mental exhaustion, otherwise known as burnout.

  • Follow healthy habits like eating balanced meals and getting regular exercise. This keeps you healthy and your energy up. Get plenty of sleep, but beware of too much sleep, which is a sign of depression.

  • Relax. Don't sweat the small stuff. Take breaks during your workday to do something silly or nothing at all. Expend pent up tension by doing something contradictory with stress, like singing or dancing. If you feel drained, schedule a few minutes to sit in a nice environment and breathe.

  • Adjust your expectations. Stress is often the result of unrealistic expectations. And instead of focusing on what you didn't do, look at your accomplishments. Remember that you still make progress, even with small steps. Social workers often give advice like this to their clients, but experience trouble taking their own advice.

  • Set limits. Social workers find it difficult to say "no" to others, yet to not do so leads to overloading yourself, one of the leading causes of burnout. Setting limits applies to your personal life as well as your professional life.

  • Work well with others. Social workers isolate themselves by trying to do everything themselves. Ask for help and take advantage of outside resources. Everyone possesses different strengths and knowledge to share with others. Social workers benefit from a strong support system.

  • Stay away from negativity. Some people complain or feel bad all the time. A negative attitude is catching. Surround yourself with positive people instead.

  • Take a vacation. When suffering from chronic burnout, remove yourself from your usual environment to gain a different perspective.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to research, social workers carry an increased risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from trauma work with clients.

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