These are hands down stressful times for everyone. After all, we are essential workers. As essential workers, we social workers can really relate to this stress. During the past few months, the way we practise as social workers has changed drastically.
From in the trenches face-to-face meetings, providing live critical treatment to children and families, the way we do our work has taken a huge tectonic shift. Today, during the pandemic, my care largely comprised of teaching basic internet, teletherapy, and telepsychiatry to my clients, as well as educating them on how to stay connected to treatment at all costs.
Many of my families do not have assets. In many cases, these are families which are resource deprived. Thankfully, the Department of Education (DOE) has helped many of our families by providing iPads for the children to continue with therapy and their remote education. Despite all this, still, many families still struggle to connect with providers. My new role in connecting with families virtually and ensuring that all their services are still connected has been an ongoing challenge.
In this field we have emergency protocols in the event there is an acute risk of harm. Nothing has truly begun to prepare us for a worldwide pandemic. This sudden change shocked many of our families.
In addition to ensuring all my families’ are safe I also treat, under my care, another thirteen families with several unknown variables.
As a social worker I know my goal has been the same and which continues to be advocating for these families and support them in any way possible. My agency has been very supportive of my role during these hard times. In this sense, I have been able to assess families and provide them with resources such as gift cards for them to buy food.
Most of my work is done in the micro level, out in the field, and doing home visits or ‘face-to-face’ meetings with the families, visiting schools or therapist to ensure that the families are meeting their goals. That part has drastically changed due to the pandemic, now I have to continue to ensure that my families are still receiving such services but through a video conference or call. At the beginning the adjustments were very difficult for families and more so because we didn’t have that face to face contact where I could personally guide them through this process.
Since most of our work is done at the micro level (e.g., face to face interventions) out in the field, working remotely is something totally having to balance everything out has been as been difficult and stressful.
Self-care is even more essential now than than ever before. As a social worker, all too often, we put our client’s well-being ahead of our own. During unpredictable times, my stress level has been even higher.
I am an MSW student, intern and hard worker. There is no question I had to adjust to the new changes emerging in my field. From re arranging my schedule so I could fulfil all of my roles, to just taking a walk in the afternoon around my neighbourhood. The way I do things has shifted and been altered right down to the way I take 10 minutes to meditate. Yet, taking the time to do just that and breathe has been a tremendous help and a way I’ve been able to adjust my process to this new situation.
The changes from this pandemic were totally unexpected to the human services and allied fields. Ultimately, we are resilient. Working together, I am fully convinced this crisis will only embolden our mission and strengthen our skills further in the social work profession.
Most therapists agree that staying positive helps promote good mental health.
Well, this is getting harder and harder for some folks given COVID-19, financial strife, and domestic issues resulting from periodic state lockdowns from the pandemic.
Staying upbeat is increasingly unattainable with additional personal problems, new or worsening psychiatric symptoms, and possible environmental issues.
One great and simple tool for re-framing a negative thought process into a more positive idea is taking inventory.
Imagine your history as a store like CVS or a supermarket. Now, instead of hair products and candy, think of your feelings and emotions. These packages are sitting on ‘mental shelving’, which needs to be monitored, restocked, and cleaned up a bit periodically.
As the owner of your “store,” you are the expert on conceptualizing your products’ best storage. These are your thoughts and feelings logged away. Your job is to keep a running inventory of all of them.
How is this done? I recommend pausing from your busy life from time to time and visualize your “store.” How is the store running? Are products getting sold? Do you need to ‘order’ more of them? is there too much of one ‘thought/feeling’ on the shelf? In the end, this is genuinely your metaphor.
If it is helpful, think of products as days worth of emotions or thoughts. Are you finding you have too many negative feelings sitting on your mental shelving? In this case, it may be time to make a concerted effort to find more positive linings in your day or engage in productive, constructive activities.
Seeing the world through more favorable terms and keeping a more upbeat and optimistic approach to life sounds easy but, how is this done? Taking inventory begins with scaling, but it has more value and application. Taking stock also identifies a deeper appreciation of your accomplishments, milestones, growth, maturation, obstacles overcome, and all the incredible feats you accomplished during your life.
The metaphorical inventory you are taking stock of is an exercise in building and mental construction. Taking a list of positives not only serves to re-frame negative thought processes at the moment but can also paint an entirely new narrative of negative experiences throughout a lifetime.
You are establishing a new narrative through the identification of positives aspects of your life. The journey to constructing a ‘new’ history begins by measuring your stock and its worth. Once you see how much your inventory is truly worth, the story emerging becomes brighter, and the path lit in more favorable terms.
I do not recommend combating extreme states or extreme depression with the metaphorical Self-CBT ‘inventory’ exercise. In these cases, you may want to consider a level of care that can address your increased risk of self-harm to yourself or others.
However, for less extreme states, this skill is extremely easy to self-implement or learn with a trained therapist’s help.
Therapists help aid your recall and insight into weekly events before the emotional landscape becomes too rugged to manage on your own.
Periodic review of your mental and emotional inventory trains your mind and increases its capacity to see the bigger picture.
Taking yourself out of the moment and evaluating your behaviors, feelings, and experiences that shaped them both over time, you can better handle how you are doing on a moment-by-moment basis. Go ahead and apply this approach to different intersections of your life. Think of this as a self-assessment tool to get in touch with your mental and emotional barometer.
For example, apply these techniques to managing medical conditions and generally how you feel and what you think of your overall health. I recommend engaging in inventory reviews to stay on top of your life’s labile aspects and problematic areas that seem to shift unexpectedly. Staying present-focused, even future-oriented, is only furthered by periodic inventory reviews. After all, it is always time to think of your life circumstances better, in more practical terms.
Understanding how you attach an emotion to thought will hinge on taking an accurate mental and emotional inventory over more considerable periods—identifying patterns of behaviors and taking stock of your capacity to regulate over the long-haul and maintain healthy behaviors in the long term.
In doing so, you can appreciate how consistent healthy behaviors are essential in reaching your goals over time.
A trained psychotherapist might help teach you this skill initially, and with practice, you will find you can do it on your own. Clinicians are helpful to evaluate the frequency and intensity of symptoms. They interpret your reporting and chart how intense or severe disturbances in your life are and how often and can help get an accurate barometer.
Planning for the future means knowing what went wrong and why,? Ensuring you don’t follow the same patterns again, leading you to go awry, will be critical. To make things even more complicated, sometimes disorders, psychiatric or medical, leave us ruinously unprepared with less insight needed to make this skill work.
Specific symptoms rooted in psychosis, for example, can limit or restrict insight, judgment, and other faculties needed to carry out enough decision-making skills to make the right choice.
Other symptoms can interfere with your ability to recall, and understand past experiences and how it impacts your life.
In these cases, I again recommend working closely with a trained therapist who can build and cultivate enough awareness to make this skill work and for you to be successful in implementing it on your own.
Ultimately, better self-regulation will allow you to not only report to your therapist more accurately concerning your thoughts and feelings but generally get your sense of how you are doing overtime. Working together and bringing in friends will always improve your therapy gains and speed up your recovery rate.