9 Tips For Social Workers To Deal With Burnout


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Social workers experience burnout because of various factors related to the nature of their work. As they work in a challenging environment with tough workloads and limited resources, 50% of social workers suffer from burnout. Listening to the shocking events taking place in their clients’ lives leads to vicarious trauma that negatively affects a social worker’s mental health.

Overcoming burnout is necessary to perform your services as a social worker. Don’t let burnout decrease your productivity or exhaust your emotions. Here are some simple tips for social workers to cope with emotional stress and burnout successfully:

  • Maintain some boundaries

A simple method to avoid burnout and protect your well-being involves maintaining boundaries between not just your clients, but also your coworkers. Keep respectful boundaries at work and ensure your patients and colleagues respect them too. Ask your family and friends to respect your boundaries, i.e., not force you to divulge what goes on in your workplace. You should also avoid discussing work-related issues at home and keep these two aspects of your life separate.

  • Enhance your education

Advancing learning can help you access the knowledge and resources to work more efficiently and manage stress by utilizing your methodologies and time. As a social worker, you should leverage distance learning and pursue a higher degree in this discipline. You can now easily get your Masters in Social Work online and enhance your competency. These online degrees are flexible and affordable, and allow you to work in ways that are less emotionally and physically taxing.

  • Keep yourself physically active

A sedentary lifestyle does not help people suffering from stress, burnout, or depression. Social workers need to stay physically active. Exercise regularly to keep your mind and body in good shape. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve hitting the gym and lifting weights; you can stay active by going for a brisk walk or a quick sprint.

Exercise stimulates the release of feel-good hormones, and these hormones will help you control your burnout successfully.

  • Meditate to ground yourself

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by different emotions, it’s time you try to ground yourself. Meditate to shift your focus away from work-related concerns. Practice different forms of meditation, such as yoga, reiki, and tai chi, among others, to feel relaxed and grounded. Practice mindfulness to control your wayward emotions and make sense of your scattered thoughts.

You don’t have to set aside some time to meditate. Practice informal meditation whenever there’s a break in your shift so you may gather your thoughts and cope with stress.

  • Develop some anti-rituals

Leave work after arriving at your home and focus on your family instead of constantly thinking about your patients. However, it’s easier said than done; many social workers have problems leaving work at the workplace. If you can’t seem to shake off work-related thoughts even in the comforts of your home, then perform some anti-rituals such as:

  • Designate a song as work-has-ended music
  • Take a shower after reaching home to clear your mind
  • Identify certain landmarks or road signs as your boundary
  • Use a separate phone for work and switch it off when your shift ends

  • Adopt a healthy pastime

Overcome your burnout by finding some healthy distractions in your life. These distractions will come in the form of hobbies and pastimes. Indulging in creative activities will help relieve your stress, lower your emotional trauma, and protect mental well-being. Just like you may have prescribed healthy pastimes to your clients, embrace some of these suggestions for your health. 

  • Try hiking, gardening, or simply sitting in a park
  • Pursue photography, gardening, knitting, or sports as active hobbies
  • Read books, articles, or blogs on topics of personal interest outside of work
  • Spend quality time with loved ones, connect with friends, or join social groups

  • Stop being a sponge

Data shows that half of social workers think of resigning because of burnout. This burnout mainly comes from indirect trauma. In this condition, a social worker is traumatized by a client’s experiences. Listening to different clients and their heartbreaking stories involving abuse, neglect, and violence can impact the listener’s health. You can avoid this by not being a sponge.

Don’t soak up a client’s experiences when listening to them. Reduce your workload if you are suffering from flashbacks of your client’s stories. Take a break from work if you feel compassion fatigue or other problems.

  • Talk to your peers

Social workers should connect with their peers to discuss their mental health problems. If you are not comfortable seeking therapy because of some work-related restrictions, get counseling services from your colleagues. Identify someone you can speak with about work-related problems, such as an angry client or a patient who does not respect your boundaries.

It may not be easy to share your problems with family members because of the confidential nature of your job. However, you can always find solace in confiding with your employer, who, in turn, can arrange an appropriate outlet for you. Many social workers turn to platforms like Reddit, 4chan, and YouTube to discuss their mental health issues and overcome stress.

  • Make self-care a priority

Never disregard your well-being. You should prioritize self-care and never let your stress define who you are! Self-care will help you overcome your stress and combat mental health issues. Try the following:

  • Sleep for 7 to 8 hours every night
  • Eat nutritious meals to energize yourself
  • Socialize with your family and non-work friends
  • Exercise regularly and don’t adopt a sedentary lifestyle


If you’re a social worker dealing with burnout, follow the tips mentioned above to help you reduce stress, manage emotions, and improve your mental health. Set some boundaries at work, avoid secondary trauma, ground yourself with yoga, and focus on continuing your education. An advanced degree can help you become better at your work and be more productive.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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