Self-Care Is Easy To Fit In A Busy Schedule

Zumba Class

Every day when you wake up, you have to face the world again. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can seem never-ending from getting your kids ready for school, getting off to work, meeting deadlines or staying late, picking up your children from school, PTA’s, and extra curricular activities. Not to mention playing Superman or Superwoman at work in an effort to guide your client as they battle day-to-day difficulties.

When you finally get home tired with aching muscles, dinner still needs to be made, kids still need help with their homework, or maybe you have noisy roommates who have friends over, perfect timing Jack and Jill. Your days are like a busy highway, and you need some time where your highway has less congestion even if it is just for a few hours.

Self-care seems impossible at times with so many work and family responsibilities in our every day lives. It seems more and more people are balancing family, career, school and/or another part-time job which leaves very limited to no time to take care of themselves. Without self-care, the outcome will only result in burnout and total exhaustion. This can be avoided, but why is it so hard to fit self-care into our schedule?

According to a Huffington Post article, “Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and longer term health and well-being.”  It’s important to understand that self-care is not always taking a vacation to a tropical island or taking a week cruise. Self-care can be simple everyday activities which can help you maintain a healthy work life balance, and here are few self-care ideas you may have never thought about:

Sleep

During the night-time our bodies need sleep, and while we are sleeping our bodies recover from being tired.  When we are tired, our body does not function as well as it should, and our mood appears different from our normal usual self. Lack of sleep can cause us to feel overworked, moody, sluggish, angry, stressed and forgetful. I recommend going to bed early three nights a week for at least 8 hours of sleep, and you will begin to feel better. Of course, there is the second option called power napping.

Exercise

I am quite sure many of you did not think of exercise as a form of self-care rather mostly to enhance appearance. However, many people go for walks, jogs, meditation and the big one known as the gym in order to help alleviate stress. You are not obligated to exercise every day, but at least three days minimum a week, although five days sounds better.  Don’t forget, you can always take a Zumba, dance or soul cycle class or two. Exercise can be your outlet to release stress.

Art

Another great way to spend quality self-care is to paint a room in your house or apartment or attend a wine and painting events. Remember, there is always the museum where the prices are right, also known as free entry.

Dinner and drinks

Book your reservation or simply grab dinner with a group of friends, or significant other at home. Play trivia night, do taco Tuesday’s at home, have a wine night with the girls, sports night with the boys or even have a mixed crowd for an evening of cooking and wine. Dinner and drinks are so easy to arrange, and it is a great way to spend time with friends or a companion with laughter and socializing.

Book a flight or cruise

OK, now you are to take a flight to the destination you have been dreaming about all year, take a cruise on the Atlantic or do both if you can afford it.  Take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and your city, and enjoy the warm weather and sandy beaches of Jamaica, the history of Cuba, skiing in Switzerland, and the delicious foods Italy has to offer.  You can go anywhere in the world that your heart desires, or maybe take a drive.

But, start giving yourself some care.

Quality Supervision Key to Retention of Social Workers

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The Irish Association of Social Worker’s National Social Work (IASW) Conference on Friday June 17th will be focusing on Promoting Best Practice in Social Work Supervision. The IASW, the professional body for social workers in Ireland, believes this is a timely response to the recent questions around social work practice, risk management and staff burnout in child protection social work in particular. However, no area of social work be it mental health, disabilities or safeguarding vulnerable adults, is insulated from these issues.

download (1)Dónal O’Malley, Chairperson of the IASW said “Good quality supervision is key, not just in helping social workers manage busy caseloads and the risks contained within, but good supervision affords social workers the time and space to critically reflect on their work.

This is essential for maintaining high standards in service delivery and also in retaining staff and preventing burnout. Research has shown that staff experience of supervision is inextricably linked to decisions about whether to stay in an organisation.

Unfortunately for many social workers, supervision can be overly managerial and prescriptive, driven by statutory requirements and risk management concerns with little room for reflection, learning and professional development.”

Associate Professor Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland, New Zealand has been secured as a keynote speaker and will focus on what we can learn from international research and practice. Recent research (2015) showed that ineffective supervision increases the risk of emotional exhaustion and of becoming hardened towards service users (Dr Paula McFadden, Queen’s University, Belfast & a keynote speaker at the Conference).

The IASW will also be launching a working document on Promoting Quality Social Work Supervision at the Conference, in response to the requests and needs of members for core standards in this area. Good social work supervision underpinned by reflective practice is key to high quality service provision and in particular, to ensuring that social workers have the skills to understand and analyse complex cases, engage in critical thinking and provide safe and effective interventions.  High quality professional supervision is essential to equip a workforce ready and able to meet the many complex challenges of social work practice.

The IASW National Social Work Conference 2016 Promoting Best Practice in Social Work Supervision takes place in the Hogan Suite, Croke Park, Dublin from 9.30am on 17th June 2016. Download the full conference programme at https://www.iasw.ie/event.aspx?contentid=5090. Contact Dónal O’Malley at 086-8372511 or on chairperson@iasw.ie for further information.

New Year’s Resolution: Achieve Work Life Balance to Prevent Stress

Jeremy Roberts on Work Life Balance
Jeremy Roberts on Work Life Balance

The Mental Health Foundation says when it comes to work-life balance they are “concerned that a sizable group of people are neglecting the factors in their lives that make them resilient to mental health problems”. In a survey conducted by the foundation, 40% of employees reported that they were neglecting other aspects of their life because of work. The survey also found that the more time you spend at work, the more time you spend thinking or worrying about it at home.

In another survey from HSE, it would seem that social workers, teachers, and those in public administration were the most stressed out due to work. Respondents said that ‘work pressure’, ‘lack of support at work’, and ‘bullying at work’ were the biggest causes of stress in their lives.

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that a positive work-life balance is achieved and maintained.

What Can Employers Do?

It is most definitely in the interest of the employer that their employees achieve a positive work-life balance. Employees who don’t achieve this often end up taking longer periods off due to sickness. Performance can also be affected, with the employee becoming tired, losing focus, and underachieving, despite being star players early on.

The first issue to be tackled is the attitude of the senior management. Earlier this year German Employment Ministry bosses were banned from emailing or calling their staff members outside of working hours to try and help avoid burnout. This is known as ‘minimum intervention’ and is something that needs to come right from the very top of the company. Occasionally we will all have to put a few extra hours in at work but this shouldn’t be a continual expectation. Employers can find themselves in hot water for promoting this kind of culture (whether said or unsaid) and so it is best to set out a work-life balance policy as early as possible.

The primary obligation of the employer is to ensure that an employee’s job is manageable within their contracted hours. Employers should also train their managers to spot the warning signs of a poor work-life balance in employees. These include a loss of focus, a change in personality/behaviour, an increase in absenteeism, and other general stress symptoms (crying, sensitivity, irritability etc.). The gathering of feedback from employees on a regular basis is also very important. This will only work where companies have set out a culture that allows for open and honest discussion.

Another option for employers is to offer their staff members certain benefits, such as child and health care schemes, which will help them to juggle their responsibilities and stay in full health.

What Can Employees Do?

As an employee, your first responsibility is to ensure that you are managing your time effectively. Basic organisation and time management skills can very often mean the difference between getting off on time and having to put in extra hours. There is a saying which tells us to ‘work smart, not hard’. However, if you are still struggling you must speak up about the difficulties you are having with your workload or the amount of pressure you are under. Your employer won’t be able to remedy the problem if they are unaware of it. If you find yourself consistently working long hours then keep a record of it. Note the day, task, and duration so that you have a log that you can show to your manager in any subsequent discussions.

Try and set boundaries with your employer when it comes to working outside of work hours. What are their expectations for answering emails or picking up phone calls? Do not be afraid to challenge these expectations so as to achieve a solution you are both happy with that pre-empts any blowups later down the line.

Also, try and set boundaries with yourself. Make a conscious effort to enjoy your leisure time. Work may feel quite consuming at times but very often a trip to the gym or a meal out with the family can do wonders for boosting your mood. Discipline yourself to go out for a walk at lunchtime. You may feel as though you don’t have time but you will probably find that the quality and speed of your work improves after you have stretched your legs for 20 minutes. You should also watch what you eat as certain foods can really affect our energy levels. Avoid energy drinks and caffeine tablets as they are a (very) short term solution that will only mask the problem.

There can also be activities outside of work that cause you to be busier than necessary. Take stock of all your commitments and activities and ensure that they are either enjoyable or productive. Sometimes we can get bogged down with things out of habit, even if they cease to be useful to us. A lot of us are also quite bad at saying no and so easily over commit ourselves.

If someone asks you to do something reply by asking them for a few minutes to think about it as opposed to jumping straight in with a yes. And remember, what works for one person does not always work for another. Each of us have different lives and balance can look different depending on our individual circumstances. Find out what works for you and stick to it.

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