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Self-Care: The Key to Caring for Others

Inevitably, anything that is constantly repeated loses its glamor and excitement. Familiarity breeds contempt. It’s human nature to lose interest and focus on things done repeatedly, especially if it is a menial task or responsibility that’s performed daily. How do we stay excited, focused, and engaged in repetition? Most of us have jobs and those jobs are usually a daily responsibility with several fewer exciting tasks sprinkled throughout. Are we still eager and excited to tackle them, or do we dread entering the office knowing what the day already has on the calendar for us?

Being a case manager is a rewarding job; however, it also involves being exposed to the traumas, disappointments, crises, joys, and achievements of those we serve. In just the month of April, Daily Work case managers had 163 appointments scheduled. Many of those with job seekers facing significant barriers - some can’t speak English, some are looking for better paying jobs to better support their families, some are fighting eviction, some are looking for higher education, some are purchasing homes for the first time. All of them need our time, attention, and help. These interactions affect people in the helping professions greatly which is why self-care is so important.


Work-Life Imbalance

Every professional has had to at one time in their career consider balancing work life with home life. Taking time to carefully contemplate the effects of the work stress created by our responsibilities and how they greatly affect our home life and vice versa should be closely monitored. 

Mostly, we try to manage our work life and our home life through compartmentalization.  We think that we need to set boundaries and separate the two as widely as possible. Consider the idioms used to describe how work and home life are often managed: “The great balancing act.” “Walking the tight rope.” “Burning the candle at both ends.” What a difficult, daunting, and daily dilemma. But is that the right approach? Surely, we can see that the common denominator in both work and home life is us. Maybe the best approach is ensuring that at either location, we’re being the best we can be for both. In the words of Michelle Obama, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to-do’ list.” To do that, we need to make self-care a priority.


It Will Always Start with You

Self-care isn’t selfishness, it’s a necessity. Simply put, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Effective emotional regulations and mental health monitoring are rooted and perfected in self-care. “Practicing self-care can be an antidote to burnout, which is a combination of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. While employees in many fields experience burnout, social service professionals are particularly susceptible because of the high levels of empathy required by their jobs. They also experience the stress of working with clients who are often in crisis and of working for an agency where resources may be scarce. It is intrinsic to their work that social workers strive to ease their clients’ suffering, which can lead to emotional and physical depletion.” Self-care is a way for social service professionals to balance activities and preserve longevity and happiness in both their relationships and their careers. To do this, they need to accept that it is OK — and actually, essential — to put their needs first. 

Self-care can include various activities, such as eating well, sleeping enough, exercising regularly, meditating, relaxing, hobbies, or socializing. Self-care can also involve setting boundaries, saying no, delegating tasks, or taking breaks. By practicing self-care, you can reduce your stress levels, boost your energy, improve your mood, and enhance your resilience, according to an article titled, “How can case managers cope with stress and burnout in a demanding and complex role.”

Recently a Daily Work case manager noticed the effects his case load was having on his life – he was spending an undue amount of time worrying about his clients. He decided to address this by using breathing and grounding techniques he picked up from meditation. Both techniques bring him back to the present and help him to focus on a plan of action that best empowers his clients.


The Best You, You’ll Ever Be

“Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to know your stress symptoms,” according to a WebMD article entitled “Find Your Calm: Managing Stress and Anxiety, Stress Symptoms” by Hedy Marks. Below are a few of the signs that you’re overstressed.

  • Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up
  • Over-burdened or overwhelmed
  • Anxious, nervous or afraid
  • Difficult breathing
  • Unable to enjoy yourself
  • Depressed
  • Fatigue 
  • Like you've lost your sense of humor
  • A sense of dread
  • Worried or tense
  • Muscle aches and headaches 
  • Existing mental health problems getting worse

As we listen to the many voices that nudge or encourage us to better ourselves and our lives, hopefully the voice that we are listening to the most is our own. We receive a lot of information from a lot of different sources throughout the day. How often do we listen to the emotional, physical, and spiritual us? Fortunately, our bodies have safety monitors already set in place to inform us when our bodies are stressed out or frustrated. Are we listening?



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