SWHPN Shares: Being a Hospice Social Worker in a Time of Crisis

A few months ago, a Child Life Specialist who I work closely with and I discussed talking about feelings. She assumed I'm good at this because I talk about feelings all day long—most days at work, and often with colleagues and friends who come to me to talk through difficult emotions. I laughed and said, "Yes, I spend all day talking to people about their emotions; that's easy. Talking about my emotions is something else altogether." If I were to gather a room full of social workers together, I'd be willing to bet the same would be true for many of us.

But now that a worldwide crisis has hit, we're forced to face at least some of our emotions on a daily basis in order to manage our own mental health and coping. For me, as someone with a mental illness (major depressive disorder), I have to be conscious not only of my treatment (medication and therapy adherence on a routine schedule) but also how I am tapping into my own coping mechanisms. As we ask in our field, how are they working for me? In addition to the struggles with depression I typically deal with, which can be amplified by isolation and hopelessness if I let them, I also struggle with a feeling that many people are confronting now, especially those with disorders: anxiety.

One tool we can use to help us manage anxiety is mindfulness, as it can help us to focus on the present moment and stop perseverating on the past and the future. There are a number of free tools out there right now that can be helpful with this: Mindful.org has a page of free resources, including articles and meditations. MindwellU has a 30-day mindfulness challenge that can encourage you to slow down a few times a day.

Another tool that can be helpful is to put the experience we are all having in a cognitive frame that makes sense for you. In the first episode of her podcast, Unlocking Us, Brene Brown speaks about something she labels "FFTs" for "_______ First Times", and she shares that the ability to normalize experiences that are foreign to us, like going through a pandemic, helps us realize that our responses, like anxiety and fear, are typical. This helps us put the experience into perspective and reality-check our expectations. In this way, Brown gives us a tool with which to respond to the FFTs we keep experiencing during this crisis, so that we can stop reacting to the experience and start living again.

Since we talk about going back to the social work basics in times of crisis, it doesn't hurt to mention the self-care basics when dealing with feelings of anxiety, stress, and worry:

  • It's important to get a good night's sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids, and try to minimize substance use. Of course, much of that is easier said than done. Sleep may not be something that many people typically struggle with, but if you find yourself a bit restless right now, you're not alone. The Sleep Foundation has some tips on sleep hygiene in these unusual times that may be helpful to insomnia novices.
  • There are a number of fitness apps offering free access to workout videos right now, and for all you streamers out there, services like Amazon Prime and YouTube have a number of free workout videos of all kinds available for all fitness levels. The beauty of working out in the house is that no one else can see you or hear you when you yell at the instructor!
  • There are also a number of cooking and meal planning apps that can help you with healthy meal creation and shopping, many of which also have reduced or free offerings right now as well.
  • And don't discount the power of just getting outside, if you can. Take a walk or sit outside and read or listen to some music for a bit a few days a week.

Two final things that are helpful for many people are connection and music. To that end, I am asking everyone who reads this post to help create a small connections with other readers through helping us crowdsource a SWHPN Coronavirus Self-Care Playlist! We have created a secret collaborative list on Spotify and anyone with the link should be able to listen and maybe add a song or 2 that makes you feel good.

Above all else, remember, we are all doing the best we can. Give yourself permission for that to be good enough.

 

 

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Comments on "SWHPN Shares: Being a Hospice Social Worker in a Time of Crisis"

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Kasey Sinha - Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Allie, thank you for sharing your experience, and for the helpful reminders of ways we can care for ourselves during this time. This list of resources is great, and I love the Self-Care Playlist. Thanks for putting it together!

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