Saturday, March 29, 2008
Has anybody heard that Social Workers get burned out? Of course. If you don't know anything about what Social Workers actually do, you probably at least know that they get burned out quicker than most other people. Well this is a story about Social Workers getting burned out, and how we're planning to avoid it.
At the UNC School of Social Work, the student organization has subcommittees called "caucuses", which provide a chance for like-minded people to get together and do like-minded things. For example, we have the "social-justice caucus" and the "black student caucus", the "spirituality caucus" and the "diversity caucus" just to name a few, and each have co-chairs and sponsor activities for all who want to participate. Recently, there was a meeting at which first-year students were asked if they wanted to participate in next year's caucus leadership. I got bored half-way through the meeting, and left, which is when the excitement started. In my absence, a friend decided to volunteer me to head up the "self-care" caucus, which currently doesn't even exist. I believe the way I heard about my new undertaking was when a cohort approached me: "I heard about you wanting to... "
So I laughed, but the topic does interest me, so I'm sticking with it. When I told another classmate what I would be involved in next year, she looked at me funny, and I had the feeling that I might be explaining myself more than once in the coming days. In some sense, I think that this caucus is weak-sauce because everyone else is trying to save the world and here I am campaigning to save... the massage train, or the yoga group, or... the chocolate consumers? But really, how much of the world is a Social Worker going to save if they are jaded and completely burned out? Or as a friend recently told me in the hall, we're like cars: it's worth it to keep a car gassed and tuned-up, rather than having to completely fix the car after it's been neglected. Or the more poignant issue for Social Workers: how can we as a group of people - the majority of us having some degree of "helper complex" - remember that we don't need to feel bad about spending time on ourselves, because of that internal monologue that tells us that "there are so many people who have it harder". The internal monologue is making correct observations, but Social Workers plowing themselves into the ground are not going to achieve world peace.
So, if you have any ideas about what you do for "self-care" that might be helpful for others, please post them in the comment box. I have some ideas, but as the new guru (read: yeah right) at the School of Social Work, I'd love to be armed and ready for next year with a lot of ideas for people to try, until they find what brings them to a healthy place.
So, okay. We're fearful people. And why? Because we're perfectionists. Do you think that we'd have more than two blog entries in three months if we weren't so anal about how everything sounds? Of course we would. And I'm not even going to tell you how long it took to hack out those brief paragraphs, or how many times I revised them. Here's to a new page in life: a page that allows for error, and humanness, and wittiness borne not only from carefully sculpted jokes, but from complete mistakes. There. That took a minute and forty seconds to write. There is yet hope.