I have a 35 second nap penciled in for today at 3:02

18 06 2012

Social workers are always being told that we need to take time for ourselves. You know, to prevent burnout, so we can force another few years in the profession. (Sorry, it’s been a rough week.)  But it’s hard. We’re so busy during the workday. You’re running to home visits, school visits, child protection meetings, supervision, and whatever random things you get told to do throughout the day. There’s usually not even time for lunch. And I don’t know about you, but even when I can squeeze in a desperately needed break, I’m easily guilted out of it. I can’t sit here and bang out a game of Angry Birds to clear my head, listening to the productive typing of notes all around me!

Parents of toddlers often have trouble getting time for themselves as well. In her brilliant, flawless, laugh-til-you-cry-on-the-subway-or-pee-your-pants-if-that’s-your-thing book “Bossypants,” Tina Fey offered a plethora of tips. They include finishing your child’s dinner over the sink while she tugs on your pant leg and asks for it back, taking forty-five minute showers, and walking into the child’s room and forgetting why you went in there. As many of you know, my ultimate goal in life is to somehow be Tina Fey when I grow up. (I could grow up.) So this is how I’m starting. Adapted for social work, tips to take some time for yourself.

  1. Walk to home visits instead of taking the bus. No one has ever had a nice time on a public bus. Except, I suppose, that man that one of my teenage clients saw sniffing all the seats on the Bx42. He was enjoying himself. But for the rest of us normies, not so much. Take a stroll, if at all possible.
  2. Bathroom breaks. I recently mentioned, in another forum, that I have never once peed at work without at least briefly contemplating a toilet nap. Based on the response, I am not alone. This is the one break they can’t begrudge you. If anyone notices an excessive amount, threaten to expose your agency for running like a Nike sweatshop. The only downside is that people might think you’re pooping, and if you’re a young woman, news of your imagined pregnancy will travel quickly.
  3. Get “lost” on your way to home visits, provided time and neighborhood safety allow. “Oh, it’s on 174th? I walked all the way down to 170th! Silly me.” A little bonus exercise, and a few minutes to yourself. You need it.
  4. Exploit social workers inherent insecurities and obsession with the DSM-V. “Oh, I have school-visit-induced-stress-related-dysphoric-disorder. You haven’t heard of it? Everyone’s debating its inclusion. The only treatment is regular five minute yoga/meditation/Twitter and cheese doodle breaks.” Your coworkers and supervisors will go along with it, to avoid looking foolish.
  5. Make friends with the administrative staff. Getting on the good side of receptionists and secretaries is an age-old office tip. I say go one further. “Allow me to run to Office Max for you!” “I’d be happy to run out and get those stamps!” “Why don’t you put me down as an approved pick-up for your son’s day care?” You’ll get out for a minute, and you’ll never have to wait for your paystub, or get ratted out if you’re a few minutes late.
  6. Wait until a line forms to use the microwave. Oh, there are three people ahead of me making tea? (Of course there are. We’re so predictable.) Best to wait here and zone out for a minute, I don’t want to lose my spot.
  7. Make up a fake birthday. Wasn’t it your birthday last month? Oh well, it’s your half birthday, or everyone’s unbirthday, or you just finished paying off your student loans. (Hahaha, just kidding.) No social worker will question a few minutes off to eat cake.
  8. If all else fails, call in sick. They can’t prove anything.
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10 responses

18 06 2012
mjfrombuffalo

A former colleague used to tell workers in her trainings “There are times you need to take the local.” Taking the local instead of the express train – especially before you could get phone calls underground – was that time to destress, clear one’s head, do a crossword puzzle, what have you. But she would never have thought of picking the admin staff’s kids up from daycare!

22 06 2012
socialjerk

Taking the local, I quite like that. As for the daycare thing-I’m an innovator, what can I say?

18 06 2012
hipsnpits

Those coworkers that you hear typing notes… Probably youtubing and facebooking so angry bird on!

22 06 2012
socialjerk

Ha, true. Some just hide it well.

18 06 2012
Nicole

Great post. My mom is a case manager, and over the years I’ve heard her tell me about how on busy days with multiple CFT meetings (child-familly-team) she’s gone as far as keep an ice chest in her car trunk to keep mulitple bottles of cold water and her lunch cold as she barely has time to eat lunch. I think she wishes she could use public transport but out here on my side of the country the metro system still has a ways to go and the city is so spread out.

I also used to work for my state’s dept of health which oversees the behavioral health system and it’s amazing how the people that set policies that ultimately affect social workers have little to no experience about actually working in the field.

22 06 2012
socialjerk

That last sentence is exactly the problem with a lot of what we deal with. It’s hard to understand the reality of the work without recent experience. Your mom sounds pretty crafty 🙂

20 06 2012
ndiphilile

This really strikes a chord with me. I work for an agency that demands we document every minute of our time, overloads workers with cases, and then gets pissy when workers have to work overtime to fulfill the requirements of the cases they’ve been given. I’ve been there for only six weeks, and I already have more than a full-time caseload. There is no time for bathroom breaks or lunches. And then I had the nerve to get sick over the weekend and need to spend Monday on the couch watching Ellen. Lord have mercy.

22 06 2012
socialjerk

Ugh, that’s the worst. The agency I interned at my first year had a system like that, and it’s crazy. Good luck, I hope it gets better.

20 06 2012
Nectarine

1. Tina Fey=awesome, so keep up the good work on your future goal!
2. I sooo wish I could walk or take a bus to appointments – although I live in a city with decent transit, I work out in the ‘burbs and have to drive. At least on the bus I could whip out my e-reader for a few minutes!
3. #4 made me laugh so hard.

22 06 2012
socialjerk

She is the best, I wish I could be nearly so cool. And I’m very grateful for NYC’s public transit system, however much I complain about it!

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