Saturday, March 29, 2008

The "Self-Care" Caucus


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.

1 comment:

ember said...

So does this mean that no one knows how to practice self care? actully, that in itself is an interesting note.
Anyhow, I just found your blog, and to this posting espescially, it has hit a nerve at this moment in my life.
First, I am so proud of you! reading your postings somehow made me feel closer to you now. Sometimes I feel that a lot of our connections are history connections, and that I don't really know who you are now. however it may be, I love you, and I am interested in you as my friends now, and am glad to connect indirectly through blogs, mass emails, and whatever way it happens to be. That being said, back to the topic.
Self care. this is a huge topic in nursing school, and saddly, that didn't teach me much about anything that I hadn't learned before.
from life experiance, I can say that good self care is getting plenty of time to laugh. be it comedy shows, comic strips, having a weekly meeting with those that are sure to at least cause a lot of grinning or better, some good belly laughter. Have you heard about laughter therapy? there are actually groups of people that get together to laugh. It is facilitated with a person that might just start out with a bright loud fake laugh, but then the next person fake laughs, and the next, and then it is contagious, and real laughter breaks into it, and good seritonin is released into your body helping to relax and regulate/counter balance your stress hormones.
There is actually a lot on the internet about it. I am actually really interested in the topic as I think that it could be really helpful in the clinica setting as well as showing comedy and comics in hospital rooms instead of CSI, Big Brother, or other TV crap that doesn't seem to have any healthful effects on my patients.
anyhow, that is just a thought. actually, a bunch of messy thoughts, but what the hey, I am not a perfectionist, and you're trying not to be one, so there you go.
I love you, and send sweaty hugs from Cambodia.