Did You Know Burnout is Real?

By  Harleny Vasquez, MSW

Connection with natureBurnout is a common word thrown around in the field of social work, but have you ever taken the time to recognize the signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing exhaustion? Such indications can be a serious sign that your body telling you to slow down.

Social workers are constantly faced with the challenges of helping others, while dealing with pressures that may lead them to experience compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. However, they must not forget to advocate for themselves. While they may learn in graduate school to assess, treat, and advocate for clients, often they aren’t taught to practice self-care.

Here’s a checklist that can help you recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout—and what you can do to prevent yourself from feeling completely wiped out.

Signs/Symptoms

  • Being easily triggered, which can bring unwanted feelings.
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed
  • Feeling numb about your work
  • Checking emails as soon as you wake up
  • Experiencing tension headaches, stomach aches or intestinal issues
  • Taking frustrations out on others

What to do?

  • Increase your energy, check in with yourself daily and write down all your sources of stress.
  • Ask yourself if what you’re feeling is out of the ordinary, then write down your before and after and see if there is a pattern. For example, If you typically smile at everyone and stop–you may be able to catch what is causing this shift.
  • Identify the root of the problem and create a toolkit to be able to decrease your source of stress. That toolkit could include, your self-care method of practice, whether listening to music decreases your stress level or going for a walk. It can be an easy method that you can refer to at times of stress.
  • Repeat positive affirmations to practice self-love and self-care.
  • Start a Gratitude Journal and unplug by shutting off your phone or at least adjusting notifications, turning off your TV, meditate, pamper yourself.
  • Don’t forget to take care of your basic needs in the areas of emotional and physical health.

Preventing Burnout

  • Remember your purpose—your “why” for entering the field.
  • Take a mental health day and ask yourself, “What is truly important in my life?”
  • Set boundaries and set goals on the most important tasks?
  • Know when enough is enough.
  • When engaging in negative self-talk, practice positive thinking to challenge your inner-critic. Keep track of all statements and behavior through by keeping tracking of them in a journal or a notepad.
  • Always restate your true purpose, practice self-care and remember— you come first.

Social workers must remember that to be the best that you can be for your client, you must be the best you can be for yourself.

 

Harleny Vaszuez

Harleny Vasquez

A reformed burned out social worker, Harleny Vasquez is a Career Mindset Coach for Burned Out Social Workers. Reach her at services@yourevolvedmind.com and across the social web on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

4 comments

  1. Thank you so much for the great article and offering the pointers on What To Do? and Preventing Burnout. After having experienced burnout firsthand, I would also add to the pointers both Consulting and Knowing When to Walk Away (not necessarily from the field of social work but rather when it is time to walk away from your current position).

  2. I appreciate this article and you validating real issues such as vicarious trauma and burn out. I worked in Child Welfare and the pressure was immense! I agree that is it important to advocate for ourselves as social workers because many of my colleagues forget the advocacy aspect of social work. If we can’t advocate for ourselves, how can we advocate for clients?

  3. I took the time to read you article while I was off from work this week. Currently, I am in a social work job that I am not happy in because the agency has been sold and all the things are changing. I am one of the last few people at my agency. I have been thinking for the last 6 months that it is time for me to look at other opportunities in the field. I have update my resume,using my network to find jobs and making some decisions that will benefit me. I believe that people know when it is time to leave a job and I know it is time to leave the one I am in. Keep up the good work and helping other social workers.

    • I took the time to read you article while I was off from work this week. Currently, I am in a social work job that I am not happy in because the agency has been sold and all the things are changing. I am one of the last few people at my agency. I have been thinking for the last 6 months that it is time for me to look at other opportunities in the field. I have update my resume,using my network to find jobs and making some decisions that will benefit me. I believe that people know when it is time to leave a job and I know it is time to leave the one I am in. Keep up the good work and helping other social workers.

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