It is increasingly apparent that people working in health and social care are experiencing stress in a way, and in numbers, not previously seen in this sector, that is why considering self-care is so important.  That is not to say that health and social care jobs have not always had an element of stress attached to them, but rather that all the signs point to people working in care experiencing more anxiety, depression and stress than ever before.

Looking at some of the forums to which care staff and registered managers subscribe, it is disheartening to see so many reporting being stressed and anxious about their work and a good number thinking about leaving social care all together rather than considering aspects of self-care. The sad thing is all these people are talented carers with the sort of experience the sector needs at this time and managers, and business owners / providers, need to be doing all they can to retain them and to enable them to develop the resilience they need in order to undertake their work. 

One approach to staff retention is to promote and encourage self-care among the workforce.  Any manager worth their salt knows that a well-cared for social care workforce is what is needed in order to provide good quality care to service users – and frankly, if you are working for a manager who does not care about the wellbeing of their staff, you ought to look for a job elsewhere.  We will discuss the role of the manager in staff support and wellbeing in a later blog, for now, let’s concentrate on self-care strategies that workers can, with the support of their managers engage in.  Needless to say, the CQC staff should be supported with supervising and training,

… if you are working for a manager who does not care about the wellbeing of their staff, you ought to look for a job elsewhere…
  1. Eat properly at work, whether this is food from a canteen the work kitchen or home, you cannot give your best care if you are hungry and, if you are hungry, you are not looking after your own wellbeing.
  2. Drink plenty.  Dehydration means that you will feel poorly, your concentration and cognitive skills will dip, and you will associate this feeling of a lack of wellbeing with being at work. There are few, if any, infection control issues associated with having access to a drink in the care workplace, so don’t be concerned about keeping a bottle of water accessible.
  3. Take your breaks. Being at work is not a test of stamina and endurance, you have a right to breaks and anyway, good managers know that breaks help keep people productive and alert.
  4. Have days off. While everyone loves a colleague who steps in to cover the rota, never having days off can be bad for one’s health and wellbeing and in the end causes more stress and illness, so don’t do it.
  5. Be realistic. Care staff by their nature want to help people, but you should only take on what you can realistically manage.  While there is a time to volunteer for things and help out, don’t be the person that does it all of the time as this can lead to the expectation that you will always help out even when you are already fully busy.
  6. Socialize with colleagues. Some people say staff should not socialize outside of work, that it is not healthy to see the same people and that it creates stresses in the workplace; they are so wrong. Socializing with colleagues allows carers to see each other as humans away from the workplace, it allows people to listen to other points of view and to problem solve in a neutral setting. Socializing also helps people unwind and is good for your physical and mental wellbeing.
  7. Get feedback. Very often staff are shocked by the positive feedback they get in supervision and one-to-one meetings with line managers and team leaders.  Seeking feedback helps you understand what you are doing well and what you can improve, it should provide motivation as well as being a supportive undertaking which adds to your ability to self-care.  We always look for and respond to feedback:
  8. Think positively. Social care is a challenging profession to be in, so being challenged on a daily basis is to be expected, accept it.  Look for the things you do well when at work, reflect on the positive feedback and thank yous from service users and the positive feedback from colleagues and managers.  These are important and reflect something about how they see you.  Being positive goes a long way towards dealing with the difficulties and negative events which so many of us focus, unnecessarily, on and is a good form of self-care.

The key message about self-care is the need to take your own care and wellbeing seriously. Self-care does not just happen; you have to make it happen.  It is important at times of great stress and challenge in social care that we start to see self-care as a fundamental and essential part of our working lives, failing to do so leads to burnout and stress and quite honestly, no job is worth that.