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Part II: Creating a Self-Care Plan

Social workers live and play behind the scenes. The role in our communities of providing support and assistance to those in need is very seriously underrated and un-talked about in most circles. As discussed in part 1 of the series, in the midst of all this caring for others, it's easy for social workers to neglect their own well-being. Having a well-structured self-care plan cannot be overstated.

Choose Activities that Resonate

The first step in creating a self-care plan is identifying activities that resonate with you personally. While there are plenty of universal self-care practices, it's important to choose activities that genuinely bring you joy and relaxation. Examples to consider:

  1. Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity is a powerful way to boost mood, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. This could be anything from yoga, running, weight training to dancing or team sports. Most everyone has asked the question “What is the best workout routine to accomplish X?” The answer...“The one that you’ll do.” Even if a trainer could program the PERFECT physiological workout routine, if the trainee doesn’t enjoy it, they won’t work the program and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Find something you enjoy, something you look forward to doing.

  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices promote mental clarity, reduce anxiety, enhance emotional well-being and increase mental toughness. Whether its guided meditation, breathing exercises, or mindfulness apps, finding moments of stillness is transformative. It’s really wild how mindfulness slows and stretches time allowing us to enter Flow state more easily and more often.

  3. Hobbies: Engaging in activities you're passionate about, whether it's painting, cooking, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, will provide a much-needed mental break and a sense of accomplishment. Learning something new keeps our minds young the way lifting weights keeps our bodies young.

  4. Spending Time Outdoors: Nature has a soothing effect on the mind and body. Whether it's a leisurely stroll in the park or a weekend camping trip, spending time outdoors will reset your spirit. Even something as simple as barefoot reading in the back yard has a way of grounding us and decreasing pain, fatigue, and many other chronic issues folks unnecessarily suffer from.

Allocating Time

Once you've ID’d activities that increase your positive vibrations, you have to MAKE time for them in your schedule. Daily, weekly, and monthly. If needed put these on your calendar just as you would any other appointment. Trying to “find time” is futile. MAKE time. You have some to spare I promise.

  1. Daily Rituals: Morning routines are incredible. If you wake up and roll out of bed with just enough time to shower, get ready, and get into work you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball very first thing. This type of behavior is shooting yourself in the foot day after day and the chronic stress it causes is unhealthy and unnecessary. You’re giving your life force away from the very first second of the day. Take some time for yourself. Get some stretching in, take a walk, read something positive. If at all possible get some daylight on your face and in your eyes. Mornings set the tone for the whole day. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

  2. Weekly Rituals: Set aside specific time slots each week for more substantive self-care activities like a yoga class, painting session, or a longer walk/hike. Exercise is best done daily, but three times weekly is ok and once per week is better than zero. Start somewhere. It may be helpful to get some skin in the game by paying in advance for some classes, equipment, or membership. If you’ve already paid hard earned coin for a yoga or art class you’re more likely to attend. Make it social if you want to tackle two birds.

  3. Be Flexible (but not too flexible): Life is unpredictable. It's important to be flexible with your routine without cheating yourself. If you can't stick to your planned activities one day, find alternative ways to nurture yourself. Make a rule to never miss two days in a row. Never miss a Monday is another good rule of thumb. Get the momentum started. Snowballing downhill.

Resources for Support

There are so many resources available to support a self-care journey that it can be overwhelming. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to find the perfect app or system. A simple piece of paper with a To-Do list can just as easily do the job. But if you want to get fancier, here are a few:

  1. Self-Care Apps: Apps like Headspace, Calm, and MyFitnessPal can provide guided meditation, workout routines, and other self-care resources tailored to your preferences. MyFitnessPal also has a food tracker with thousands of nutritional values making it easy to log caloric intake and macro nutrients if you’re into that. What gets measured get managed.

  2. Online Communities: Joining online forums or social media groups dedicated to self-care and well-being can provide a sense of community and offer valuable advice and support. These groups can act as accountability partners and looking back through past posts is a great way to find answers to questions already asked. Beware of the negativity online however. It’s also easy to get distracted with your phone in your hand. “I’m just gonna check my email real quick”…..45 minutes later it’s time for your next meeting and you’ve squandered the time you set aside to take care of yourself.

  3. Workshops and Webinars: Many organizations offer workshops and webinars on topics related to self-care, mindfulness, and stress management. These can be excellent opportunities to learn new techniques and connect with like-minded individuals. These can be intimidating at first. GOOD! Pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone will expand your comfort zone. Do it and then do it again.

Creating a self-care plan is not only essential for the well-being of social workers but also for the quality of care we provide to our clients. By selecting activities that resonate, allocating time effectively, and utilizing resources for support, we can ensure we have the physical, emotional, and mental resources needed to flourish in the demanding roles we’ve chosen. Self-care is not a luxury; it's a vital investment in overall health and well-being. When we make ourselves a priority, we increase the chances our clients will thrive also.

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