By Donzell Lampkins, MSW, LISW
Social workers are addressing the Coronavirus pandemic on multiple fronts—as they should since helping during a crisis of this magnitude is part of the social worker’s code of ethics. The NASW Code of Ethics states, “Social workers should provide appropriate professional services in public emergencies to the greatest extent possible.”
Some social workers are working remotely while others, such as medical social workers, are risking their lives to serve the most vulnerable groups. Either way, the social worker’s occupational stress levels have intensified. Social workers are very good at taking care of others, but often neglect taking care of themselves.
Social workers should schedule a specific date and time to evaluate their overall wellness. The 8 Dimensions of Wellness is a great way to review the interdependent areas of their life, which includes emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual, and environmental.
For example, if a social worker was laid off from their job without pay and didn’t have savings, this could increase their stress and anxiety, which could impact their interactions with their partner or child, which could negatively impact their living environment.
Some practical things social workers should consider are speaking with a financial advisor, scheduling an appointment with a clinical social worker, finding new ways to stimulate their mind, trying a new home workout routine, or connecting with a faith community online.
A few social workers were kind enough to share what they’ve been doing to take care of themselves at this time.
Joi Britt, a dynamic podcaster, and licensed clinical social worker based in Brooklyn, NY, said “I’ve taken care of my environmental wellness by being in nature. Getting outside and breathing fresh air was important to me before COVID-19 and feels even more important now.” “Taking a deep breath and having the air hit me makes me feel alive. It also helps me tremendously with my anxiety,” Britt added.
Environmental wellness isn’t the only thing she’s prioritizing. “For my intellectual wellness, I have been reading articles, focusing on how to improve my business, and learning new skills to improve my work as a therapist,” She said. “There are some books I’d previously started that I want to finish but my personal development feels key right now.”
Khalid Scott, a devoted father, military veteran, and licensed clinical social worker based in Chicago, IL, shared his self-care musts. “I’m a single dad with a 17-year-old high school senior who’s having to come to terms that she might not be able to have a prom or high school graduation in June.”
Emotions are heightened and the uncertainty of it all doesn’t help. However, Scott and his daughter, Anayah, cope with “prayer each morning and night, finding designated spaces to spend quality time together and alone, singing and dancing, pulling out photo albums and reminiscing about family and friends, and cleaning.”
Arron Muller, a licensed social worker based in Brooklyn, NY, also shared how he’s been physically taking care of himself during this time. Muller said, “I’m not working out currently because I don’t have the drive right now but I’m doing stretches to relax my muscles.”
Everyone’s financial situation has been impacted one way or another. Muller added, “I haven’t been spending as much due to staying home. I’ve also been using this time to work with credit companies that allow forbearance while continuing to pay the bills that I can.”
As social workers continue to take care of themselves, it’s important to create goals as illustrated by three social workers above. It’s not about doing everything; it’s about doing what’s needed. Social workers: please take care of yourselves. You’re worthy of receiving essential care and you should be your No. 1 priority.