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There’s little doubt that some days working in social care can be a little intense! That might be dealing with a health setback of a patient, managing a mental health crisis, or coping with bereavements.

One of the best things about care work is that two days are rarely alike – but there are some shifts where you need to take a step back and consider your welfare.

Decompressing is crucial. It means you can manage your emotional health, express your feelings, and return to work without feeling overwhelmed.

Here we’ll provide some top tips to help care professionals to decompress after a challenging situation – and how to ensure you check in with your mental health when you feel like the burden on your shoulders is becoming too heavy.

Why Decompressing is Essential in Professional Social Care

First, let’s dispel a few myths. These are truths that experienced care workers will undoubtedly know but are always helpful to recap.

  • You can’t always help every person, every time. There can be situations outside of your skillset, which your expertise doesn’t cover, or where a person cannot be helped at that specific time. Don’t put yourself down if something didn’t go to plan or a patient wasn’t grateful for your best efforts.
  • We are all human. No matter the uniform you wear, or the qualifications you have, it is impossible never to feel touched or upset when a situation perhaps goes badly or a resident doesn’t respond well to a care plan. It is A-OK to feel sad, frustrated or disappointed.
  • Compartmentalising isn’t that simple. We’ve all heard of PTSD, and this condition is so prevalent because no person, in any role, can entirely shut off their work-life into one box. Your thoughts will always travel home with you, so you must give yourself the space to deal with them.
  • Not everybody will like you, and you can’t like everybody. So much of care work relies on excellent interpersonal skills and trust. There can be times where you don’t have a good rapport with a patient, and it isn’t a reflection on your character or how hard you tried.

It doesn’t matter what area of social care you work in; these facts will always have relevance.

Therefore, the team at OUTT.com feel it’s incredibly valuable to be conscious of the impact of challenging situations.

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Decompression Techniques to help Care Professionals

Let’s look at a few strategies to shake it off, clear your head, and be ready to go again tomorrow.

1. Deep Breathing.

It’s an age-old tactic, and it works. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to breathe into a count of ten, hold the breath, and then release it to the same, slow count.

Calm, measured breathing is a fantastic way to centre yourself and let go of tension and stress.

2. Talk it Out.

Whether to your manager, a colleague, a partner, or a friend, you must air your concerns or talk about a problem, so you’re not dragging it around behind you.

No matter the situation, a nagging worry will always feel lighter when you’ve shared it. If you’re struggling, there are also professional counselling lines that provide an invaluable service.

3. Exercise and Fresh Air.

Jogging, walking, or a hardcore gym session are excellent ways to take your mind off the situation. Quite often, it’s a simple psyche reset that will help you free your headspace and feel like a new person.

Endorphins are powerful, and they’re free – and way healthier than a glass of wine or a big bar of chocolate if you’re feeling stressed!

4. Get a Decent Night’s Sleep.

There’s little like a great night’s sleep to feel more settled. We often make things feel more disastrous than they are, and anxieties are massively enhanced by exhaustion.

If you’re feeling like work is getting on top of you, it’s time to schedule some self-care, and sleep is the most potent remedy of all.

5. Switch Off – Completely!

When something challenging has happened to throw the working day off balance, it’s tempting to keep thinking about it or discussing it endlessly with colleagues long after the shift has ended.

For people who are serious about decompressing, turning off all of your electronics is a great way to give your brain a pause and stop digesting media or messages until you’ve had time to process your thoughts.

6. Read a Great Book.

Reading a book – an actual, live, physical book, not an e-reader – is another fantastic way to decompress. It transports you to another world, forces your brain to stop churning out repetitive thoughts, and is a distraction like no other.

7. Create Boundaries.

It might be that you’ve had one terrible day, but love your work the rest of the time. However, if you feel that you’re constantly teetering on the edge of burn out, it’s time to make a change.

The best way to do that is to keep a journal and work out what’s tipping you towards that cliff. It could be that you can’t manage night shifts, that you need to cut back on hours, find work closer to home, or decide to work in a specific social care niche.

Whatever boundaries you need are vital to protecting your wellbeing, and you should do everything possible to protect them.

8. Take a Break.

You may be dealing with a problematic ongoing situation. Perhaps a restructure is causing staff anxiety, or you have a particularly challenging patient with whom you’re finding it hard to engage.

Other causes of longer-term stress include lack of job security, concerns about redundancies, financial pressures, or the inability to put down roots and feel settled.

The first piece of advice we’d give in this scenario is to take some time off work. At least one full day, and ideally two or three back to back. Time off isn’t a bad thing and can do wonders if you need the opportunity to reassess your options, calm your nerves and cleanse your mind of all the day-to-day problems.

Secondly, we’d strongly suggest visiting OUTT.com to consider a different working pattern – with a wide choice of shifts, minimum hourly pay rates, full PAYE benefits, and the backing of a passionate time of skilled social care recruitment experts!

Whichever strategies you choose, it’s essential to recognise that decompressing will make a profound difference to how you deal with a challenging situation next time one comes along.

Being fresh, energetic and ready to engage is reliant on having great resilience – so finding a way to decompress is just as vital to your patients as it is to your own health.