Three Pandemic Lessons From a Social Worker
Happy social work month! I have always loved and deeply identified with my profession. I take pride in the values that social work espouses, and I am committed to furthering those values in anyway that I am able. As I thought about ways that I could honor social work month, I started to reflect on the past year of my career and the challenges and lessons that I learned. So much of what I want to celebrate this social work month stems from what has been one of the most challenging years I’ve had as a social worker. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
Nothing prepares anyone for living through a pandemic. I was never taught in graduate school how to help people navigate their mental health while navigating a public health crisis of this type. As the world changed, social workers (and other helping professionals) were trying to find ways to process the pandemic while developing strategies to help others with the same task. Doing this sort of emotional work for yourself and helping others with this emotional work takes a significant toll on helpers. As the pandemic continues to go on and pandemic fatigue sets in, I continue to learn and grow personally to best support other helpers and my clients to recognize their own strengths and resiliency which has helped us to manage for a whole year!
Self-care is so much more than bubble baths and journaling. It is setting boundaries with others that are authentic and respect our needs in relationships as well as the needs of others. It is meeting our basic needs consistently: sleeping, drinking water, eating regularly, exercise, a realistic routine. It is connecting with others and sharing our experiences and asking for support when we need it. It is taking time to slow down and connect with our bodies and our thoughts and learning how to process those feelings and thoughts. It is something that should be intentional and daily and not something we do as we reach our breaking point. I encourage you to find ways to reflect on what self-care means to you and identify strategies and routines that you can build on in your life to make yourself a priority every day.
We should be doing our own work constantly to identify and challenge our biases and to actively contribute to deconstructing harmful institutions that perpetuate racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, and xenophobic agendas. This work is not easy or fun. Some days it feels hopeless, but we cannot be silent about tough things. We have to recognize our privilege and honor the lived experiences of others. We have to challenge and change the way we look at things so we can change our behavior to actively contribute positively in our communities and society. Allow yourself to get curious about the experiences of others and about your own beliefs and experiences. Find ways to truly connect with others to dialogue. This blog is a great start!
So this social work month, let us all find ways to engage with those social work values by finding opportunities to engage in relationship, service, and social justice. Oh – and thank a social worker if you can 😊