Aspects of self-care
Self-care is a personal matter. Everyone’s approach will be different. It relates to what you do at work and outside of work to look after your holistic wellbeing so that you can meet your personal and professional commitments (find out more). Below are the different aspects to self-care and example strategies that other people have found useful:
- Workplace or professional
NOTE: The activities and suggestions below are a guide only and it is important to choose activities that are meaningful to yourself and your own goals.
After discovering the different aspects of self-care, complete the self-care plan activity below.
Workplace or professional self-care
This involves activities that help you to work consistently at the professional level expected of you. For example:
- engage in regular supervision or consulting with a more experienced colleague
- set up a peer-support group
- be strict with boundaries between clients/students and staff
- read professional journals
- attend professional development programs.
Activities that help you to stay fit and healthy, and with enough energy to get through your work and personal commitments.
- Develop a regular sleep routine.
- Aim for a healthy diet.
- Take lunch breaks.
- Go for a walk at lunchtime.
- Take your dog for a walk after work.
- Use your sick leave.
- Get some exercise before/after work regularly.
Activities that help you to feel clear-headed and able to intellectually engage with the professional challenges that are found in your work and personal life.
- Keep a reflective journal.
- Seek and engage in external supervision or regularly consult with a more experienced colleague.
- Engage with a non-work hobby.
- Turn off your email and work phone outside of work hours.
- Make time for relaxation.
- Make time to engage with positive friends and family.
Allowing yourself to safely experience your full range of emotions.
- Develop friendships that are supportive.
- Write three good things that you did each day.
- Play a sport and have a drink together after training.
- Go to the movies or do something else you enjoy.
- Keep meeting with your mothers group or other social group.
- Talk to you friend about how you are coping with work and life demands.
This involves having a sense of perspective beyond the day-to-day of life.
- Engage in reflective practices like meditation.
- Go on bush walks.
- Go to church/mosque/temple.
- Do yoga.
- Reflect with a close friend for support.
- Download the 1 Giant Mind app and learn mindfulness.
This is about maintaining healthy, supportive relationships, and ensuring you have diversity in your relationships so that you are not only connected to work people.
- Prioritise close relationships in your life e.g. with partners, family and children.
- Attend the special events of your family and friends.
- Arrive to work and leave on time every day.
Create your own self-care plan
For each category above, select at least one strategy or activity that you can undertake. You might notice areas of overlap between these categories. It is important to develop a self-care plan that is holistic and individual to you.
- Download the self-care plan template or create your own.
- Fill your self-care plan with activities that you enjoy and that support your wellbeing. Here are some suggestions.
- Keep this in a place where you can see it every day. Keeping it visible will help you to think about and commit to the strategies in your plan. You can also share it with your supervisor, colleagues friends and family so they can support you in your actions.
- Stick to your plan and practice the activities regularly. Just like an athlete doesn’t become fit by merely ‘thinking’ about fitness, as a worker you can’t expect to perform effectively without putting into practice a holistic plan for your wellbeing.
- Re-assess how you are going at the end of one month and then three months. Plans can take over a month to become habits, so check-in and be realistic about your own self-care plan. After a while, come back and complete the self-care assessment again to find out how you are going with your new habits.
A word of caution:
Once you have created a self-care plan it is important to ask yourself, “what might get in the way?” What can you do to remove these barriers? If you can’t remove them you might want to adjust your strategies. Think honestly about whether any of your strategies are negative and how you can adjust your plan to avoid or minimise their impact.
It can be challenging if your workplace is not supportive of self-care activities, but you can still do things outside of work to help yourself. It is import that your plan resonates for you and that you put it in to action starting now.
Useful professional resources
- Use the results from your self-care assessment to write your own self-care plan.
- Discuss your self-care plan with your supervisor/mentor and close friends and family.
- Review your plan after some time to check if the activities continue to suit your needs.
During my last semester in graduate school, I developed an intervention I am proud to share with you all. It’s a self-care plan that I implement with my clients, as well as in my personal life. My colleagues loved it and many of my clients have embraced it. This intervention is tangible, as it can be taken home by the client to put on their wall or refrigerator – a practice I encourage as a form of buy-in to their treatment.
This intervention leads the client in identifying their needs for their mental, physical, and spiritual self. It then helps the client to identify important people in their support systems and goals they wish to accomplish (in therapy, in general, etc).
This proved to be an excellent tool with other clients who may not see a counselor over a the summer break (my final year internship was at a University).
I have three versions (see: Downloads). Two are downloadable for utilization on an iPad drawing app (I use Brushes for iPad) and a third version is in .PDF for you to print out. I did not watermark these images, so please do not resell them.
This is how I utilize this intervention with my clients:
Check out more of my Self-Care Plan and downloadable content for your own self care and for clients, after the break!
For Social Workers
As the creator of this intervention (surely, there must be others similar to this), it was important for me to integrate concepts that I have been preaching to my clients. In essence, I bought into developing a self-care plan out of a necessity for preventing burnout and promoting my own well-being. The same self-care plan you saw in the video (and below) is hanging on my wall. Why? It is because I often try to practice what I preach to my clients.
Especially when I’m not feeling well (i.e. irritable), I run an inventory on my own self-care plan and usually, a lack of sleep is the culprit! But that’s just one example. I encourage social work instructors, supervisors, and colleagues to take this (or a similar intervention) to promote this concept of self-care among helping professionals.
My Self-Care Plan! (click for larger version)
See below to download in PDF, JPG, and PNG!
Here are three templates for your use:
- PDF: Digital for your Social Work Toolbox
- TIFF: The best download quality for you to print (should the PDF give you any grief)
- PNG: Image file you can save to your iPad’s Camera Roll
- JPG: A lower-quality image file you can also download
Copyright Stuff (i.e. Please don’t rip me off and I’d appreciate being credited for this original work)
Self-Care Plan by Social Work Tech | Ignacio Pacheco is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at socialworktech.com.
And to those in, starting, or ending school, congratulations on your journey so far! We made it!
Ignacio Pacheco is a clinical social worker and technology enthusiast from Monterey, CA. The opinions and ideas expressed on Social Work Tech are solely those of Ignacio Pacheco and do not reflect the opinions of Ignacio Pacheco’s employer(s) and/or affiliates.