Managing stress as a social worker: in conversation with Becky

In the world of social work, stress has unfortunately become a bit of a buzzword. From helping families in crisis to providing support to the vulnerable and being exposed to trauma, it’s no wonder this profession can take a toll on mental health. 

By talking openly about stress, social workers can acknowledge the challenges they face, share their experiences with colleagues, and learn from one another’s coping strategies. This can help to reduce the stigma surrounding stress and mental health and create a culture of support and self-care within the social work profession.

This week, we chatted with Becky (one of our lovely candidates here at Social Personnel!) to find out more about how she manages stress as a social worker. 

Tell us a bit about yourself 

“I graduated with an MA in Social Work in 2017 and have been practising for five and a half years, stepping into a management role four years post qualification,” says Becky.  

“I considered completing a bachelor’s degree in Social Work but found that the universities I was looking at weren’t accepting applicants under the age of 21. Instead, I completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology before going straight into an MA in Social Work.” 

She tells us this was “definitely the right decision” given her maturity and life experience, adding that “going into social work at 25 was daunting enough”. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

“It varies from day to day but I usually have a very full calendar of meetings with other agencies or with my own social workers and internal panel processes. There is always an influx of emails on a daily basis and a lot of Quality Assurance tasks such as QA’ing and authorising court reports, LAC and child protection reports.”

Becky explains that she mainly works in the office since becoming a supervisor, but is still actively working on a case as it was in the child’s best interest to maintain familiarity and stability. 

Biggest challenge(s) of being a social worker? 

“Working in child protection, we listen to, witness, and absorb trauma.” 

She explains that unfortunately, this daily exposure to trauma can result in desensitisation to “often quite harrowing stories of children and parents.” 

“From a physiological perspective, our own nervous systems are traumatised and there is often no support in place to address or deal with that trauma. The constant challenge is continuing with your day or having to move on to the next issue without any time to process the information you have just taken in.” 

Becky also highlights the ill-representation of social workers in the media as another challenge, and says the profession is constantly “criticised, disregarded and vilified.” 

“It is not regarded with the same respect as others in the public sector,” she adds. 

“Consider how many times you have seen a poster stating that police, nurses, GP receptionists will not accept any forms of abuse or aggression directed towards them and consider whether you have ever seen any documentation talking about the treatment of social workers.”

What helps you manage these difficult situations? 

 “I try to educate myself in my own time around regulating the nervous system and healing the impact of trauma. Of course, this is easier said than done and put into practice.” 

Becky also tells us movement, meditation and mindfulness have all had a significant impact when it comes to improving her mental health. For example, going to the gym, practising gratitude and journaling. 

How would you go about supporting your colleagues if they were having a hard time? 

“I encourage my workers in my unit to talk openly and honestly about how they are receiving the information, how it has impacted them and how it has made them feel.”

“Self-care and reflection on positive aspects of the role” are also important to focus on says Becky, “as well as the impact they have made and the achievements of the children they work with.

“In my current role, I do assess how I can help take some of the pressure off of them by assisting with their workload but this is sometimes to my detriment,” she laughs.

What inspires you at work? 

“I feel inspired when I am able to identify positive outcomes for children and can see positive trajectories that children or families are taking. It does feel hopeful to know the work we do can make a difference,” Becky shares.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in the social care profession? 

“Boundaries and self-care are an absolute must from the get-go. There is no place for ego in a profession like this,” she emphasises.

“We are no more superhuman than other agencies and therefore we need to recognise our own limitations and the need for boundaries.”

Here at Social Personnel, our candidates’ well-being is our priority and as a candidate, you will receive one-to-one support from your assigned consultant from the first call through to work placement. 

Give us a call on 0203 8929 340 to find out more about our current social worker vacancies.

carlette Isaac

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