Social Distancing for Social Workers During a Global Pandemic

Social distancing has become the new urgency for different industries, sectors and corporations around the world. The creative challenge is to figure out how each of us will shape the nature of our work. Many social workers are making home visit remotely or providing therapy via video conferencing, and many in this sector are being forced to find creative ways to provide services that will benefit our clients while also allowing us to maintain our physical and emotional well-being.

This transitioning from in-person services to different forms is leading us to formulate, experience and witness new ways of creativity, resilience and persistence like what we saw with the quarantined Italians singing from their balconies.

Creativity

‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things’ – Steve Jobs

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Before we connect our experiences, as he said, there is no better time than now to examine deeply what each of us have in our toolkits. What matters, now, is to consider and believe what we have, to be of significance. What we have in our toolkit is as unique as we are. So, create.

Here is my toolkit. I hope it inspires you to reflect on what you have in your toolkit to utilise it to the best. To add sparks of joy, grace and meaningfulness. Because we are in this together.

My toolkit

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

1) Education

Apart from my Master’s in Social Work certificate from a University, good grades, 1000 hours of unpaid internships, and my other volunteering experiences, I consider the following to be equally significant to serve clients effectively.

2) Vision

I am curious about human potential. To unearth, cultivate and channelise it gently, thoughtfully and effectively. In ways that spread inspiration, positivity. Persevere ahead with patience and empathy for self and others.

3) The Code of Ethics (Australian Association of Social Workers)

A mandatory source of reference that provides insightful principles, responsibilities, values and guidance for social work profession. You should find and become familiar with the guiding code of ethics for your location.

4) Values and Authentic Self

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

‘What if I come across a situation in which I have to manage a caseload where my values are different than the clients I serve ?’ asked by a student to their field education supervisor.

The supervisor responded by saying never feel obligated to work against your own values. ‘One time, I was approached by a client whose values were completely different to mine with respect to the caseload. I politely directed to a different social worker within the same organisation whose values were congruent with the client.’

This is a valuable insight. It was prudent for the student to inquire and confirm before proceeding to engage with the client instead of realising it midway. The significance on having clarity of personal values can enable or inhibit being one’s authentic self while in service to clients.

5) Journaling

This is my third year of loving to journal on a consistent basis, and this practise is teaching me to pay more attention. Close attention to what’s happening within me and outside me. Sometimes it is scary. Other times, enlightening. At the same time, it is consoling. A mixed process indeed.

I deem this exercise to be not only my source of self-care but also helps me to access, name and take the time to feel my emotions and interpretations, during different life events. Going through this process, offers patience and empathy, for myself, which I can then offer to the clients who might it need the most.

Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash

6) Social Work Theories

Everything we do to serve, our clients, are underpinned by theories. We carry and transmit the essence of it, consciously or unknowingly, while we interact, advocate, direct, manage, make decisions, engage or disengage, with our clients, co-workers or managers.

Hence, utilising a post-colonial lens to read, explore, learn, think, reflect and write, social work theories, is a practise that needs to be actively encouraged within the sector, organisations, services, outreaches as well as educational institutions to provide social work services that are inclusive in nature.

This awareness is crucial because clients from diverse backgrounds will have unique perspectives as a result of emerging from cultures that have different ideologies and therefore values different from Western ideologies.

Hence, it is important for a social worker to reflect well in order identify our personal inclinations and to never impose them on clients whose perspectives could be different to us. And often, when I engage and decide to choose a theory, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Is the theory inclusive of the client’s stage of problems/ circumstance?
  2. Am I including/excluding client’s input?
  3. Considerations /possibilities of the theory that can enable or inhibit client’s aspirations/goals/circumstances.
  4. The strengths of the theory
  5. The limitations of the theory

7) Experiences

This is one profession where transferrable skills can be optimised to serve purposes of the job constructively. For instance, I learned a core insight regarding writing from journalism class as well as internship experience during my undergraduate educational phase. Regarding the 5 W’s and 1 H…What, Where, When, Why, Who and How. Social Work involves a lot of writing. Whether, it is writing case notes, assessment reports, project plans, research reports or support plans, writing is crucial. 

This awareness magnifies the significance of having a diversity of skills, educational experiences, perspectives and transferable skills in which to maximise possibilities and opportunities.

Here to create a legacy

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

“You have no idea what your legacy will be because your legacy is every life you touch”- Maya Angelou

And, I could not agree more. At times when we are bogged down by uncontrollable factors resulting in unfavourable crisis, we need a different point of view and perspective that emanates hope especially now during this global pandemic. As individuals, it is necessary to consciously choose our thoughts, words and energy about the situation within our spheres of influence.

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’ -Victor E Frankl

Even at times like these, let us choose responses that reflects growth and freedom while promoting goodness to create our legacy individually and collectively.

Please share with us your perspectives, toolkit, and how the nature of your job has changed during this global pandemic in the comments below. It is essential to know the changes, challenges and barriers within our respective sectors in order to help us borrow, adopt and apply what works and avoid what doesn’t work.

Loyola Medicine Psychologists Offer Tips and Resources for Coping During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly and drastically changed day-to-day life in the U.S., causing fear and anxiety. Loyola Medicine clinical psychologists Elizabeth Simmons, PsyD, and Laura Wool, PsyD, provide tips for coping and staying positive during this time, as well as resources for securing additional help and care, in two, new Loyola Medicine videos: “Practical tips for staying positive during COVID-19” and “Coping during COVID-19.”

Simmons and Wool say it’s important to allow yourself to feel anxiety and fear during this stressful and unprecedented time. While “nobody likes to feel anxious or scared,” says Wool, it’s important to “work on inviting those feelings in,” while also realizing that those feelings can coexist with other, more positive feelings.

“You can feel anxious and have fun with your kids,” says Simmons. “You can feel uncertain about what’s coming next and find comfort in playing with your dog or going out for a walk with your dog. You don’t need to get rid of that anxiety in order to also feel joy, happiness and calm.”

Tips for staying positive

To help maintain an emotional balance, Simmons and Wool recommend:

  • Choosing activities that make you feel good. These can include “calling a friend, taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book, engaging in a craft,” says Wool.
  • Checking the facts. “At a time like this, when we really don’t know what’s coming next,” says Simmons, “it’s important to check the facts,” or “decatastrophizing,” keeping a check on our thoughts and focusing on the information that we have access to “and what it’s telling us.”
  • Focusing on what you do have control over. “When people are feeling a loss of control, focusing on what you do have control over can be very helpful,” says Wool. For example, “following the strong recommendation right now to socially distance yourself can feel very empowering.”
  • Maintaining a regular sleep/wake cycle and daily routine. “We take for granted that we have these built-in routines in our lifestyle in terms of getting up in the morning and getting dressed,” says Simmons. It’s important to continue to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day.
  • Taking walks and getting outside. “Make sure that you’re not too sedentary,” say Wool. Get up, take walks and “try to get outside for 10 minutes every day.”
  • Practicing simple breathing exercises to stay calm. “Simple breathing exercises where you count your breaths, and pause between each inhale and exhale, can help slow things down and help calm anxiety.”
  • Watching what you eat. Make sure that you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and that you are not eating too many processed foods, says Wool.
  • Maintaining social connections by phone and video. “We know that body language facilities a lot of the connection we experience socially,” says Simmons. “The more you can see people’s faces, the more you can see people smiling, the more that will combat the loneliness factor” of this pandemic.
  • Taking a moment to be mindful. “Mindfulness helps you stay in the present moment,” says Wool. She said there are apps, such as Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm that can help with mindfulness.

When coping is difficult or impossible

Simmons and Wool explain that for some individuals, the stress of COVID-19 may result in prolonged or acute feelings of depression and/or anxiety, which may require additional resources and/or immediate professional help.

“When you notice that for a significant period of time, let’s say at least two weeks, that you are starting to just feel down or depressed all day every day, or you’re noticing that the anxiety is at a level that is really starting to impair your sleep and your appetite—you’re sleeping less or sleeping more, or eating less or eating more,” says Wool. Or, “you are starting to feel hopeless, having thoughts of suicide, or noticing an increase in substance use, “that would be a time to either reach out to a local hotline or to reach out to your primary care provider for a referral.”

If you have a plan or intent to harm yourself, or others, please call 911, says Wool and Simmons.

Additional resources

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline
  • Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741

To make an in-person or telehealth appointment with a psychologist, or for more information, contact Loyola Medicine at 1-888-584-7888 or visit www.loyolamedicine.org/psychology.

To learn more about Loyola Medicine, visit loyolamedicine.org.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in Chicago’s western suburbs that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC)Gottlieb Memorial HospitalMacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from more than 1,800 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. & Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois’s largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital.

Having delivered compassionate care for more than 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its academic affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 180 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research facility at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center.

MacNeal Hospital is a 374-licensed-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, including acute rehabilitation, an inpatient skilled nursing facility and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919. For more information, visit loyolamedicine.org.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 106 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $19.3 billion and assets of $27 billion, the organization returns $1.2 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 129,000 colleagues, including about 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians.

Exit mobile version