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Social workers, social work managers and others who work in the sector can experience a lot of stress. This comes from several sources; the inherent nature of the work, working with people experiencing stress in their lives, and workload.  Keeping all those balls in the air and worrying about not dropping any and maintaining the systems, which are meant to support us in our work, can sometimes feel as if they are the problem not the solution. 

So what can we do about “stress”? 

Well some of the causes are external and collectively we need to challenge such factors as unsafe workloads, government policies and poor IT systems that may be hindering not helping. We can do that much better by speaking collectively and, where necessary, turning to personalised support to deal with specific problems in the workplace. 

However, we will always be facing stressful situations and no amount of collective action will be sufficient to help us deal with stress. That is where we need to think about how we manage our own lives. As social workers we can be excellent at supporting others, but often forget about ourselves and our own lives. Some social workers even work with service users helping them apply mindfulness to manage their lives, but fail to apply it to themselves. 

What is mindfulness? 

In a few hundred words I cannot do it justice. It is a practice that has developed over thousands of years, principally from the Buddhist tradition of meditation. However, there are roots of mindfulness in many of the great philosophical and religious traditions. Reflective practice has elements of mindfulness in it. It teaches us to reflect slowly away from the heat of the moment about our practice. It is very hard to think clearly if our mind is over stimulated. 

To hear more about mindfulness techniques and how social worker Angela Douglas applies these in her daily practice, have a read of pages 11-13 in the autumn issue of Sanctuary Social Work News

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