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Part VI: Physical activity is Non-negotiable for Self Care

As a coach dedicated to empowering social workers encouraging them to take a hard look at the need for self care, I've got to emphasize THE fundamental truth: self-care isn't selfish. It is essential. Social workers are the only form of support for countless individuals navigating life's complexities. Yet, in the process of aiding others we often neglect our own personal well-being. This is why I constantly drone on and on about the need to make regular physical activity a cornerstone of our daily routine.

What are the multidimensional advantages of staying active? First, physical activity is a catalyst for mental well-being. (See all citations in John Ratey’s book Spark) Consider a simple morning walk: the fresh air, rhythmic steps, and quiet moments serve as a powerful mental reset. Walks foster a clear mind, they reduces stress, and enhances cognitive function. These are all vital for the demanding nature of a social work professional. Getting out of bed in just enough time to get ready and maybe make it to work on time is not serving you or your clients.

Scheduling time for activities like yoga or Pilates is a transformative practice. Beyond the physical benefits of flexibility and strength, these practices cultivate mindfulness and resilience. They teach us to be present, to breathe through challenges, and to find balance within the chaos that comes with our work.

Participation in organized sports brings a different dimension to the table. This doesn’t have to be anything ultra competitive. A fun community rec league in something as simple as kickball is perfct. Team sports foster camaraderie, encourage teamwork, and provide stress relief. Whether it's a game of pickup basketball or a regular weekend soccer league, the sense of community and endorphins from physical exertion are a large type boost for mental health.

Social work very often involves long hours, high stress, and emotional strain. Regular exercise can mitigate the toll these take on the body. It strengthens the immune system, improves cardiovascular health, and boosts overall vitality, ensuring that we are equipped to handle the demands of the profession.

For funzies lets look at Jessica’s situation (not really her name, but just like someone you most certainly already know), she’s dedicated to her craft in social work. She initially balked at prioritizing her own well-being with excuses about not having time. Then, thanks to the nagging of close friend/co-worker, she began integrating a daily yoga practice. At first it was only 15 minutes each morning. The impact was so transformative she was able to “find the time” to increase the practice to 45 minutes daily by getting up 30 minutes earlier. She “found that time” by going to bed 30 minutes earlier. She found THAT time by logging off of social media in the evenings. These two acts (daily yoga and decrease in social media exposure) increased her patience and focus at work while she also became a source of inspiration for her clients. She lost weight. She visibly moved better. She instinctively began to eat better. Her change in diet helped her skin to look better. All of this demonstrating the power of self-care in action and all of the cascading effects that follow.

Advocating for social workers' engagement in physical activity isn't about adding another task to an already packed schedule. We know you’re busy. It's about fostering a culture of holistic wellness and creating time for ourselves. When social workers prioritize their own mental and physical health, they are better equipped to serve their clients. It’s the ultimate win/win/win.

As a coach, my role is about instilling a mindset where self-care is recognized as a non-negotiable aspect of their professional arsenal. It’s about helping my colleagues in the field of social work create habits that will put their mental and physical health on autopilot. It just becomes something we do. By investing in our well-being, we elevate our capacity to make a meaningful impact on the lives we touch every single day. The seen AND the unseen. People are watching and noticing.

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