Most of us have heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” While this statement resonates with many of those in human services, the idea of applying this philosophy in our own lives is a challenge. According to the Social Service Review, the turnover rate for those in human services can hit upwards of 60% in any given year, with a lifetime burnout rate of 79%.
As many know, burnout and turnover in social services has a negative effect on those we serve. Many individuals and families will go through numerous workers while trying to navigate through the social services system.
In honor of Mental Wellness Month, we would like to offer a few tips to help those in the social services industry prevent burnout and compassion fatigue.
Set Limits– Don’t be afraid to set limits around your time with the clients you serve and your coworkers. Make sure that as much as possible; you are sticking to your routine work schedule. While at work, make sure that you are making the time to stay on top of your paperwork in order to prevent the stress of getting behind.
Eat, Drink, & Sleep Well– Being in human services can be stressful. This stress will only magnify if you are not taking care of your basic needs. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, make sure you are drinking enough water, and eat as healthy as possible.
Maintain Boundaries– This does not just mean boundaries with clients. While client boundaries are extremely important, setting boundaries around not talking about work after work hours and not taking work home with you at the end of the day are extremely important. We cannot stress enough how important a work-life balance is.
Make Time for You– Each week, set aside some time to do something that you enjoy. Whether it be reading a book, practicing a craft, going for a walk or whatever else you can do to ‘fill your cup.’
Don’t Be a Sponge– In human services, we see a lot of trauma, and in turn can experience secondary trauma. While easier said than done, it is important to practice mindfulness and set emotional boundaries with those we serve. Doing this helps us to take care of ourselves and preserve our ability to continue to serve others.
Exercise– Whether it is a leisurely walk or vigorous physical activity, regular exercise can boost mood, help sleep, and fight depression.
It’s Okay to Take Time-Off– For many of those in human services, the idea of taking time-off can be stressful in itself. What if my clients need me? What about all of the paperwork and crises that will be waiting for me when I get back? As a social worker, there will always be work waiting for you, so you might as well take the time to unplug and recharge your batteries.
It’s Okay to Talk to Someone– We stress how important therapy and social support systems are for our clients, but many of us struggle to apply this in our own lives. It is okay to see a therapist as part of your self-care routine, and always make the time to maintain relationships with your family and friends.