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Working within a social work job will always be stressful – with so many caseloads to deal with, budget cuts to contend with and a growing demand for services, it’s certainly not a job for the faint-hearted.

But whilst some people may thrive on the stress levels, for others it can start to become tiring and has been a critical factor in why so many social workers are affected by burnout.

We look at some of our top tips for how you can cope with even the most challenging working environment to protect yourself and keep your sanity in check!

Build strong working relationships

We spend most of our lives at work, so it’s important to foster positive relationships with peers and colleagues. When you work with people you like, it’s much easier to cope with stressful environments.

Simply having someone to talk to whilst you make a coffee or have someone you can trust to offer you honest feedback can be enough to help you cope with any challenges that are thrown at you. It’s also beneficial to have a strong supportive network around you to pick you up on the days when things get on top of you – there really is nothing like having a friend around to offer a reassuring hug when you need one.

Take the opportunity to learn new skills

We all know that we need to update our skills and participate in regular training, but did you know that it’s about more than just keeping your CPD portfolio updated?

Taking the time to learn new social work skills could revitalise you in unexpected ways. You may find that using a different model of practice could change the outcome of a tricky case, or perhaps a new style of communication enables a service user to open up to you. You might even find that reading about a new project (such as those often featured in Social Work News) could inspire you to try something new in your area.

In any job, it is easy to get struck down by the daily routine but taking the opportunity to learn new skills or get involved in a new initiative could be enough to remind you of why you chose to train as a social worker in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

In any busy working environment, it can be hard to have any one-to-one time with your line manager, and in social work it can be even more difficult to set aside team for meaningful supervision. But its important to ensure that you have regular communication with both your line manager and your colleagues.

If you have any issues, make sure that it is communicated clearly with your senior teams. Draw attention to where you need support – after all, management can only help when they are aware of any situations that may be occurring.

Equally, if you see something which has been particularly effective, then make sure you shout about it. Taking the time to recognise your own achievements, and that of colleagues, can help to turn a stressful environment into a positive one where successes are shared and celebrated.

Prioritise your work-life balance

It’s not a myth, we promise! It is possible to have a positive work-life balance as a social worker.

It may sound impossible, but there are a few easy techniques to improve your work-life balance, and once you start making these small changes, you’ll find it much easier to cope with stressful periods.

Maintaining a life outside of work isn’t a luxury – it’s something which is vital if you wish to work to the best of your ability. It’s important to wind down after a hard day at work to refresh yourself both physically and mentally. Perhaps you may like to go for a walk in the evening or take a yoga class – even something as simple as reading a good book whilst relaxing in the bath could be enough to help you switch off from the stresses of the day and unwind.

If you find that you are staying late regularly, and that you’re struggling to stop thinking about work then please speak with your line manager and ask them for any support.

Start the day afresh – don’t dwell on previous issues

When you leave the office for the day, try to resolve any issues or conflicts before you leave. It’s the easiest way to ensure that you can switch off when you get home.

We would also recommend writing a daily ‘to-do’ list of things you need to do the next day – you may find that it clarifies your mind and helps you to prepare yourself for the day ahead without focusing too much on what still hasn’t been finished.

If you find that your job is still too much for you, then it may be time to think about finding a new social work job. Whether you are looking for a locum or permanent job role, Sanctuary has a wide range of UK social work job opportunities available.
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