Sunday, April 12, 2009

In the Zone for Self-Care

How do we know when we have practiced good self-care?? How do we know if we haven't? If we are self-aware (see Standard #2 of the NASW Standards for Cultural Competence for details), we will have a lot of clues and signals that tell us we are in trouble or are "in the zone." I have read a LOT of books and journal articles about when we are in trouble (burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary post traumatic stress), but I have not read much about the positive side of good self care.

What are the clues that we are doing well or "in the zone" for healthy social work practice? Here is my big clue: The last time I woke up at 3:00 am and couldn't go back to sleep was so long ago I can't tell you exactly when it was.

When I started this post, I imagined having a long list of clues. Hmmm. Not that easy. This will be a work in progress. Share your clues that you are "in the zone" and doing well.

P.S. I just discovered Amy Baird's Life in Brief blog (what a great example of how a Web 2.0 social worker). Keep up the good work Amy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Self-Care Strategies

How do we teach new social workers strategies for self-care? Why is it so hard for social workers to take care themselves when they are SO good at taking care of clients?

I have been wrestling with these questions recently as I have seen several students come close to falling apart under the stress of their internship, family problems, financial difficulties, etc. At BPD conference in Arizona last month, I learned how one social work program requires their students to have a self-care plan as soon as they declare social work as their major. What a great idea! They also require their students to update their individual self-care plan every year, so that when their students enter their Field Education experience, they already have an effective self-care plan that helps them succeed in their internship. I think this is an excellent idea and hope that we integrate this into our updated curriculum.

I also have realized how I have NOT done a good job of intentionally following an updated self-care plan. What strategies do I have to insure I am protected from burnout, compassion fatigue, and the other occupational hazards of the profession?

One of my new strategies is to go geocaching. This quote from summarizes of my new self-care strategy:

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
I started at the end of January 09 and so far have discovered 113 caches! (My husband has over 200!) There are many benefits to geocaching. Here are a few:
  1. Gets me out of the house and into the community
  2. Takes me on a journey of discovery to places I would not have found on my own
  3. Exposes me to amazingly creative geocachers who hide caches in the most amazing places
  4. Introduces me to new friends (Wee Willie, TreasureNut, and others)
  5. Creates another way for me to spend time with my spouse and best friend!
Geocaching is one strategy in my self-care plan - more are needed. If you want to know more about geocaching, check out this VERY detailed blog.

I'm off to go caching with my hubby. Take care!

P.S. Check out the photos from today's geo-journey