The course, Introduction to the Social Work Profession opened with a module, not about the glories of the profession, but rather the demands and the emphatic need for self-care. Symptoms of “compassion fatigue” as one of the embedded TED talks warned was to be monitored on a daily basis. Compassion fatigue unlike burn-out characterized by dispassion is a form of PTSD that retains and absorbs emotions from clients that results in derivative anxiety or secondary traumatic stress, like second-hand smoke. The “cost of caring” the module warned can involve:
- Intrusive mental images
- Avoidance, detachment, social withdrawal
- A loss of sense of safety or control
- Feelings of disillusionment, anger, fear
- Losing sleep and/or having nightmares
- Lack of energy and/or emotion
- Loss of concentration
- Over-identification with clients
- A sense of “self-entitlement”
Antidotes to this list of unpleasant symptoms involve physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relationship and workplace self-care. Notice the needs your body, spirit, and mind. Ask for support. The antidote to secondary traumatic stress is primary and secondary stress-relief. Yoga and meditation help with almost all of these symptoms through movement, breath, and stillness. I feel well prepared.
Now that I have a daily meditation practice, I feel the pause it brings. I need it. It does make a difference. If meditation is not your thing, no problem, just take time to notice yourself and ask, what do I need today? How can you address your own stress if you don’t recognize it? How can you ask for help? Find a way to see yourself regardless of your profession.
For those of you saying I don’t have the time or what’s the point I can’t do anything about it, consider the quality of your life that doesn’t allow you to be present in your life. Hmmmmm…
In the end, you don’t want to be an angry victim of your own life.
This module also warned that social work is a thankless profession with little pay. From philosophy, a profession of outcasts and corrupting non-conformists, a low-paying thankless job is an improvement! What, there are jobs for helping others and being punished for it? Perfect.
Sign me up.
Hoping you take three full breaths right now and notice yourself,
P.S. Shout out to Community Yoga in West Lafayette for my teacher training and preparing me for this next step in my evolution.