Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Perspecitive (aka Fighting Burn Out)

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Yesterday I spent some time with two co-workers. Its always nice to hang out with other social workers.  I have a few really good social worker friends, and they just GET IT. For part of the night we talked about the insane few weeks I've been having. They hear bits and pieces as I fly through the office but they wanted all the details last night.

I've had a rough few weeks. Children disrupting from placements. Hotline calls to parents whose children have been returned home. Meeting with parents to tell them that their children will not ever be coming home. Having to call the police to physically break down a door in order to hospitalize a mother having a psychotic break - twice.

Then we had a staff meeting at my agency last week where the program director seemed dumbfounded to learn that most caseworkers don't just work 9-5 and only on weekdays. (Even I, a supervisor, have worked some portion of every weekend for the last 3 months.) I almost laughed out loud except that it made me furious.

In truth, I have been coming home emotionally drained. I love my job, but it has been an almost never ending stream of crisis and bad news lately.

I'm not feeling burned out... yet. When I am at work, I feel focused and energized. Ready to take on the world. But I come home and the adrenaline rush crashes ... big time. I know I need to take care of myself or I won't be able to keep this up. My westcoast twin recently wrote a sadly accurate post about how terrible we social workers are at self care.

But I'm making some attempts to be better about it.

Quitting my part time job was the first step. I agreed to stay on as an occasional substitute, so that makes my panic a little bit less. But I'll be able to pick and choose when I decide to work, which makes me feel so very relieved. I also am hoping to do some babysitting for a little cash. Cross your fingers for me!

I am going to start going to yoga again. I bought a Groupon for my favorite yoga spot a few months ago, but have been too busy and tired to use it. I am going to try to start this week. I want to go at least three times a week but hope it will be more like five times a week. Its an ambitious goal - but I know those hours of deep breathing will do wonders for my mindset.

I am going to be better about spending time with friends. No more working on weeknights means I can make more plans with people who lift my spirits and make me laugh. It also means I can spend a little more time with my four-legged friends! My dogs will be very happy to see me home more often. I vow to take them on longer walks and maybe even attempt to teach them "fetch" again.

Lastly (and least likely to actually happen) I am going to cook at home more often. I eat out way too often and usually while driving. (I know - SO not safe Heather!) I need to eat healthier and cooking at home will hopefully encourage me. Also, with my reduced income it just isn't feasible to eat out as much as I have in the past few years.

Help me stay accountable to these resolutions - won't you friends? Also, if you can think of any other good ways to spend me new free time and take better care of myself - please feel free to comment! :)


  1. Hey, I just want you to stay alive! :)

  2. Good luck! You really deserve this break and you know it! It's so hard to find the time. I was in a similar spot a couple months ago - the only thing I figured out that helped a lot was getting up earlier in the morning to hit the gym before the day started. That way no crisis could interrupt me, because nobody else was awake yet! LOL. Hang in there, and thanks for all the work you do in the world.

  3. Not eating out and immersing yourself in yoga really helps in the saving money dept.  I've been slacking off in both areas myself, but would love to join you in these goals.

  4. Do it do it do it! I just went to a training on vicarious trauma and she outlined risks for burn-out and I realized that THAT is why most counselors burn out the first year post-graduation. Because all the risks? You have 'em in spades when you're interning starting with not making a living wage. But I digress. YOU must NOT burn out because the world needs you. Therefore it is your duty to the world to do yoga, eat healthy and hang out with friends. Also watch trashy romance movies, read light novels and laugh LOTS. Do it.

  5. Set up small "dates" with yourself.  This month, go out for a manicure.  Next month, go to that new restaurant in town.  Next month, lounge around the house all weekend in your robe.  You get the idea.  Basically treat yourself not every day(because then it wouldn't be a treat) but allow you to go out and relax.  I like setting up "dates" so I can have something to look forward to.


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