How Those Helping Others Through Anxious Times Can Take Care of Themselves

Maurice Vann (Photo courtesy of Vann)

Maurice Vann (Ph.D. ’20, Social Welfare) spent much of his early career doing social work in high-stress environments: the corrections facilities, jails, and courts of the Washington-Baltimore area. He is now a professor at Lehman College. 

Social workers face their own stresses and sources of anxiety, which are often compounded by their work helping others. In this final contribution to our series, Vann offers his advice for how those taking care of others can lessen their own anxiety:

The current political climate and the coronavirus threat together produce an extraordinary level of anxiety for social workers. Social workers help people who lack housing, domestic violence victims, older adults in need of assistance, and youth in the foster care system — and that’s just small sample of social work. Everyone faces difficulties at some point, and social workers help navigate difficult times. In a life well-lived, you will either have contact with a great social worker or wish you had.

Because social workers assist vulnerable people, self-care is essential. Regrettably, the policies and practices of the Trump administration target vulnerable people, those most likely to be served by social workers. The Trump administration's proposed reductions in food stamp benefits, attacks on immigrant communities, and changes to Title IX (the U.S. Department of Education’s rules governing college and university campus sexual assault)  are particularly concerning for social workers. As a social worker, it is impossible to ignore how much more difficult our work is under this administration. Additionally, the coronavirus and its effects on older adults have been taxing for social workers who specialize in care coordination for those individuals.

With these mounting and unprecedented difficulties in mind, self-care must be multifaceted. To reduce anxiety, add activities and cultivate relationships that you find pleasurable while avoiding activities and people that cause undue strain and stress. To that end, if you are not exercising regularly, then start. If you are not volunteering and giving back to your community, then begin. Find ways to invest in your community, ways to make your city better. Volunteering and helping others will allow you to spend less time doomscrolling social media. Being a force for good in someone else’s life will have a positive effect on your life. Finally, if it is not a hilarious TikTok video that makes you laugh so loud that you disturb your neighbors, then avoid all social media until after the election. You don’t need the stress. If you’ve already made your decision concerning the election and your vote, then it’s time to tune out the punditry. In short, exercise, volunteering, and limiting social media in this stressful time will likely reduce your anxiety.

Submitted on: OCT 22, 2020

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