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Working Moms

5 Self-Care for Moms Who Work in Social Services

A Mom’s job is never easy. Caring for children is an incredibly time-consuming and energy-intensive task. When you add a career on top of parenting (or vice versa), it becomes that much more difficult. And when that career is in a social services field? Those Moms deserve medals.

Social services include the roles held by social workers, educators, many types of care personnel in clinic or healthcare settings, and others. Social service jobs often involve working with vulnerable populations or individuals with high levels of need. These demographics often require large amounts of care, patience, compassion, and empathy.

Social service jobs often draw from many of the same reserves that parenting requires. Because of this, Moms that also work in social services need to be diligent about incorporating strong self-care and recuperation rhythms in their lives. Without finding ways to replenish themselves and reduce stress levels, Moms that work in social services can find themselves drawing from empty tanks and eventually experience burnout, severe or prolonged stress, extreme exhaustion, and other physical or mental health symptoms.

 

Moms that work in social services can find themselves drawing from empty tanks and eventually experience burnout, severe or prolonged stress, extreme exhaustion, and other physical or mental health symptoms.

The Demands of Social Service Occupations

We have a decent scientific body of work that helps us understand the effects of social work and how the human body, mind, and spirit responds to the stressors that come along with that type of profession. A couple phenomena in particular have been identified as very common experiences that many people working in social services share.

Professional burnout can manifest in a variety of types and severities, but it usually refers to the condition of being depleted or exhausted, feeling cynical or negative towards one’s work, and performing at a lower rate of efficacy or proficiency than is typical or normal.

Though burnout can refer to phenomena in other contexts, professional burnout indicates that those symptoms are caused or exacerbated by stressors or patterns that occur in the workplace. Because of their intensely demanding natures, burnout occurs at high rates in healthcare and service professions.

Compassion fatigue refers to the “emotional, spiritual, or physical stress” of caring for people that have experienced, or are experiencing, traumatic or harmful situations. Direct contact with those who have experienced trauma can create a residual or second-hand traumatic experience that often mimics Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

This is a common occurrence in a number of professional fields, such as emergency responders and some healthcare roles. Social workers in particular often experience these symptoms in their work.

Moral injury refers to an acute version of compassion fatigue. It is usually caused by an event in which an individual is forced to act in a way they do not believe is morally right or correct, or when they are part of a team or professional unit that does not act in a morally right way according to the perceptions of that individual. This can be a difficult experience to navigate and can leave lasting effects or trauma.

These conditions describe only some of the difficult stressors and strains that social service professionals can experience in the course of their jobs. Providing social services can be hugely demanding work, and when unattended to, these stressors can accumulate or intensify over time. Because of this, self-care designed to help reduce stress is vital.

What is “Self-Care,” Anyway?

It’s a section in a bookstore, a common theme on Twitter and Instagram, and a word that gets tossed around frequently in today’s self-help culture – but when pressed, many of us don’t have a clear picture of how self-care actually looks in practice or how it might apply to our own lives.

Self-care doesn’t need to be a nebulous topic. In fact, it can be extremely practical and straightforward. Self-care can be defined simply as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.”

Self-care can be divided into two related categories.

The first of these includes activities, routines, or commitments that are completed for the purpose of keeping you physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. These activities aren’t always actively enjoyable or recreational, but they will contribute meaningfully to your health in some way.

Examples include incorporating exercise into your regular routine, sticking to a healthy bedtime, putting your phone away for certain hours or the day or night, or choosing to include larger amounts of vegetables or healthy dietary choices in your normal eating habits. These activities and choices are like investments. They improve your health and emotional wellbeing and help prevent the negative ramifications that can be caused by the combination of stressful work demands and parenting.

The second category of self-care includes activities that you engage in simply because you enjoy them. Many people think that this type of self-care can be a waste of time, or don’t realize that these types of stress-releasing activities are valuable. In reality, engaging in relaxing or fun activities actually contributes significantly to your mental and emotional wellbeing.

By incorporating these types of activities into your routines, even if they don’t occur frequently, you are actually investing in your health just as effectively in some cases as you do by making the types of healthy lifestyle adaptations mentioned in the first category.

Tips for Incorporating Self Care as a Mom and a Social Service Worker

To benefit from self care, you can’t just read about it on a page. You have to incorporate real action steps into your life. Here are a few tips to make that happen even in the midst of both career and parenting demands.

Put it in the Calendar

Making a lifestyle change happen requires defining all the details. Don’t just say to yourself, “I want to try and spend more time with friends I’ve lost touch with.” Schedule a coffee date with one of them. Likewise, rather than saying you’d like to eat healthier, take five minutes to look up a healthy recipe you want to try and add its ingredients to your shopping list. If you attach real dates, times, and details to a plan, it has a much higher chance of actually coming to fruition.

Start Small

We get it – many working Moms feel like every scrap of their time, energy, and attention is more than spoken for. Don’t worry if you need to start with incredibly small steps. Does that coffee date need to happen in a month? Can a diet change only amount to including a bag of frozen veggies for now? Don’t discount the incremental changes, and don’t stress if your self-care needs to come in small bits for now.

Ask for Help

It’s ok to involve the people in your life when trying to incorporate self-care. Talk to your spouse or partner, your parents, your friends, your work team or employer, and any other contacts that might be able to give advice, support your efforts, or engage in better self-care alongside you. If you ask kindly, you might be surprised at how people in your life would be willing and excited to support you and help make your self-care possible.

Sweet Night Savings

Evaluate Your Priorities

Many people – especially Moms – spend years trying to juggle parenting and career commitments before realizing that the balancing act has deprived them of their health and wellbeing, time they wanted to spend with their kids, or other goals they may have held in the past and had to give up. It’s important to think through where you’d like to be spending your time, and how priorities could shift or be adjusted to allow you to do what you’d like AND avoid burnout in the process.

These conversations are significant ones. Involve important people in your life who can help you take a clear look at how you are doing and whether there are ways to shift your responsibilities to allow more margin and recovery time.

Find a Self-care Buddy

Do you have a friend, spouse or partner, or family member that could be interested in joining you on your self-care journey? Whether it is someone with whom you can attend yoga classes, swap recipes, go on a walk once a week, or simply compare notes, enlisting others to join you can make your process way more fun, as well as bring someone into the mix who can encourage and support your commitment to engaging in self-care.

 

Use these tips to jumpstart your self-care journey. However large or small, choosing to add even just a small dose of self-care to your life can make massive changes in your overall wellbeing as a professional and a parent over time.

 

This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase through one of my links. Please see my disclosure for more information.

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TWL Working Mom

Jennifer is the Owner of TWL and Co-Owner of a Influencer Facebook Group Influential Mamas.  Along with blogging + freelance writing and selling Zyia Activewear, she is a mom, army wife and full-time teacher. Jennifer lives in Washington State and is a born + raised New Yorker. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, the beach, writing, listening to books and drinking coffee.

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