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Mental Health

Five Tips for Overcoming Self-Doubt

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Your comfort zone

Some self-disclosure here—I’m a rather sensitive person and I often tend towards self-doubt, thinking something is my fault if it doesn’t go well and lots of critical voices in my head always.  With time, I’ve learned to see this as a strength since it means I’m constantly evaluating myself and pushing myself to become better.  However, often in the day to day, this self-doubt can be difficult.  And especially so in the field of social work, where decisions made often have far-reaching repercussions.

Over the years I’ve had to develop methods to help me not to linger in my own self-doubt and to feel more confident in my decision-making.  I’m guessing there are other social workers out there who have struggles with self-doubt as well, so wanted to share the methods I’ve used and continue to use today, to help feel confident and to shake off the nagging self-doubt voice.  These are applicable to non-social workers, as well so feel free to share with others you know who might find these ideas helpful.

1. Regular self-reflection.

This almost seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found it to be very helpful. For years, I don’t think I recognized or acknowledged my struggles with self-doubt and so maybe didn’t realize I needed the extra support.  It can be helpful to talk with your supervisor about your own self-doubt so that they can help you process what is reality versus what is going on in your mind. Once you become more accustomed to those kinds of questions, you can ask them of yourself.  This will help you to be able to figure out what is the truth in the situation compared to thoughts based on self-doubt. Are there tangible things to be learned that will help you improve your practice in the future? If so, learn from the experience and move on.

2. Continued professional development.

I love learning…and have found that when I know more about myself, about the profession, about current practices, current issues, etc., the more I feel like and am a competent social worker. It’s interesting, but I feel this area has actually gotten harder to take time for as my personal life has gotten busier and required more of me.  I didn’t realize how much I craved professional development until I did take two days a few months ago and went to a conference that for me was all about professional development.  I left feeling so recharged, confident, excited…and during a timeframe when if I had not gone I probably would have felt professionally drained and would have questioned myself lots and lots.  By taking the time for professional development, one grows. And when you know you are growing, self-doubt can take a back seat.

3. Be aware of your biases.

Letting my supervisors and/or trusted colleagues know my biases and asking them to push me on certain topics based on my own self-awareness has been extremely helpful. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness.  I know most of my biases…and have been sure to share the ones I know about with my supervisors. Often this has been within the context of case-specific work. When I know I’m struggling with a decision because of my own experiences and biases I share that.

I think it’s so important to know and acknowledge my lens and share it with others, not to convince them that my lens is right, but so that they can help by asking further questions and making sure my assessment is based on all of the facts of the situation.  Having others there to help me explore means a more collective decision-making process as well, and more minds and eyes on the situation generally lead to better, more well-thought-out decisions and less self-doubt.

4. Learn from perceived mistakes and trust your gut.

I’ve been in the same general profession, a social worker in child welfare for over a decade.  I’ve seen my successes and I’ve seen my failures.  There are, sadly, cases I worked on over 10 years ago that I ran across again because of failed adoptions or failed reunification…adoptions and reunifications that I was in some capacity a part of.  And hearing about these cases breaks my heart and makes me want to crawl under a rock because of my participation in something that did not turn out to be the positive ending that I thought it would.

But, once I’m ready to pop my head back out and again go back to #1 and reflect, usually there is some wisdom gained.  Sometimes it means I realize I had a gut reaction, and the next time someone else brings me a gut reaction about a case I will push them further—will point out the importance of the decision and will ask what else can we assess so that the gut reaction isn’t just a gut.   If you are a natural self-doubter and in social work, then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, trust your gut. And then dig…you may find something concrete to support your gut.  I’m 98% sure of it.

5. Practice self-compassion.

No one is perfect. Even those who don’t struggle with self-doubt are not perfect.  As a natural self-doubter, you are also a natural self-improvement person and that is actually a sign of a true leader.  You will take the time to recognize what you need improvement in and improve it.  And when you doubt yourself and it’s not warranted, with time you will learn to treat yourself with the same compassion that you treat others with.  I’m still working on this piece, but am realizing how important it is to treat myself as I would a friend–listen, acknowledge, support, and be kind.  By doing so, I can move on and be better next time, without unnecessary guilt to hold me back.

Do you struggle with self-doubt in regards to your decision-making and/or work life in general?  How do you help to overcome it? Do you (like me) see this as a potential strength?  I’d love to hear from you so we can learn from one another!

Rachel Castillo, MSW is a licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker and has been working in the area of child welfare for over 10 years. She is the founder of www.socialworkcommunity.com, a website/blog with the goal of creating a positive community for social workers to gather, connect, and inspire one another. Rachel is also a proud mama and is always on the lookout for ways to improve her own self-care as well as encouraging those around her to do the same.

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Health

Self Help Tips and Advice For Social Workers

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There is no denying the positive impact social workers have on hundreds of families and individuals throughout their career. They will tell you about the rewarding experiences they have helping others in need. Unfortunately, for every success, there is at least one case in which they could not help. Social workers see the best and the worst of society every day, and even the strongest among us can crack under the pressure. That is why self-care is so important. Being mindfully aware of your needs as well as the needs of those around you can keep you healthy and able to be there when you’re needed.

What is Self Care and How Can You Do It Every day?

Self-care is a practice that becomes a lifestyle. Understand and commit to the idea that it is not something you do once, it is something you do every day. The key is to be mindful and aware.

It is important to be mindful of where you are and what you are doing as you go about your day. Whether you are in a meeting or at the grocery store, notice how you are feeling in the moment. This can range from listening to your body and noticing your state of health to recognizing an emotional situation in your life.

Become aware of your breathing. When we are feeling stressed, emotional, or run down, we forget how to breathe. Our breath can become fast and shallow which deprives our bodies of the oxygen it needs. Pay attention to your breathing and focus on slowing it down. Allow the air to fill your abdomen, not just your lungs. You will find that mindful breathing exercises calms your thoughts, allows for greater clarity, and lessens your anxiety.

Now That You Are Aware, How Do You Improve?

It’s one thing to be mindful and aware of how you are feeling, but doing something about it is another matter. Improving your physical and emotional state requires some life changes as well.

Many social workers have the stress relieving habit of smoking or grabbing an unhealthy snack from the vending machine. It makes us feel like we’re taking a moment for ourselves. Instead of grabbing a cigarette or a bag of chips, try an e-cigarette starter kit or grab a granola bar. This gives you a moment away while making healthier choices through controlling the nicotine and sugar you intake. The idea is not to deprive yourself but to make small changes that will make you feel better over time.

Changing the way you approach daily tasks is another life change that will give you some added peace of mind. For decades we have been taught to multitask but all we’ve learned is how to start tasks but not finish them in a timely manner. By focusing on one task at a time you’ll allow yourself to finish a job before moving onto something else. This creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence at the job you are doing.

Maintaining Your New Found Awareness

Creating a support system is important when attempting to care for yourself. By relying on your friends and family you are willingly accepting love and nurturing that you simply cannot give to yourself. When meditating on an issue in your life doesn’t result in answers, one of the best things we can do is turn to our support system for help. It’s not necessary to face every challenge alone and often times, they can see from a perspective that you cannot. You may also find that the more willing you are to receive care from others, the easier it becomes for you to provide care for the people you’re working to help.

Self-care is difficult for those who spend their lives taking care of others. By allowing yourself the care you need you will find that it not only feeds your soul but it will improve your ability to care for the people around you.

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Mental Health

National Survey Reveals the Scope of Behavioral Health Across the Nation

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report provides the latest estimates on substance use and mental health in the nation, including the misuse of opioids across the nation. Opioids include heroin use and pain reliever misuse. In 2016, there were 11.8 million people aged 12 or older who misused opioids in the past year and the majority of that use is pain reliever misuse rather than heroin use—there were 11.5 million pain reliever misusers and 948,000 heroin users.

“Gathering, analyzing, and sharing data is one of the key roles the federal government can play in addressing two of the Department of Health and Human Services’ top clinical priorities: serious mental illness and the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. “This year’s survey underscores the challenges we face on both fronts and why the Trump Administration is committed to empowering those on the frontlines of the battle against substance abuse and mental illness.”

Nationally, nearly a quarter (21.1percent) of persons 12 years or older with an opioid use disorder received treatment for their illicit drug use at a specialty facility in the past year. Receipt of treatment for illicit drug use at a specialty facility was higher among people with a heroin use disorder (37.5 percent) than among those with a prescription pain reliever use disorder (17.5 percent).

The report also reveals that in 2016 while adolescents have stable levels of the initiation of marijuana, adults aged 18 to 25 have higher rates of initiation compared to 2002-2008, but the rates have been stable since 2008. In contrast, adults aged 26 and older have higher rates of marijuana initiation than prior years. In 2016, an estimated 21.0 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment and of these 21.0 million people, about 2.2 million people received substance use treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.

Rates of serious mental illness among age groups 26 and older have remained constant since 2008. However, the prevalence of serious mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts has increased among young adults over recent years. Among adults aged 18 or older who had serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year, the percentage receiving treatment for mental health services in 2016 (64.8 percent) was similar to the estimates in all previous years.

“Although progress has been made in some areas, especially among young people, there are many challenges we need to meet in addressing the behavioral health issues facing our nation,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “Fortunately there is effective action being taken by the Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with initiatives to reduce prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death, and dependence as well as many evidence-based early intervention programs to increase access to treatment and recovery for people with serious mental illness. We need to do everything possible to assure that those in need of treatment and recovery services can access them and we look forward to continuing work with federal and state partners on this goal.”

“Addiction does not have to be a death sentence – recovery is possible for most people when the right services and supports in place, including treatment, housing, employment, and peer recovery support,” said Richard Baum, Acting Director Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The truth is that there’s no one path to recovery because everyone is different. And frankly, it doesn’t matter how someone gets to recovery.  It just matters that they have every tool available to them, including peer recovery support and evidence-based treatment options like medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.”

NSDUH is a scientific annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older.  NSDUH is a primary source of information on the scope and nature of many substance use and mental health issues affecting the nation.

SAMHSA is issuing its 2016 NSDUH report on key substance use and mental health indicators as part of the 28th annual observance of National Recovery Month which began on September 1st. Recovery Month expands public awareness that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment for substance use and mental disorders is effective, and people can and do recover from these disorders.

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Mental Health

Anxiety in Children: How Can You Help?

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Mental health issues amongst children are becoming more and more common, and this is a trend that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you’re a parent or caregiver, it’s a good idea to become familiar with signs of mental ill-health, and think about how you might be able to help.

The first step is to recognize the symptoms. While small experiences of anxiety are a natural part of life, it’s important to recognize when it’s becoming more prevalent, and when it’s having a negative impact on a child. Symptoms might include an irrational and ongoing sense of worry, an inability to relax, general uneasiness and irritability, as well as difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating or sudden, unprovoked feelings of panic. Anxiety and depression are not always obvious in children and symptoms can vary significantly depending on the child. Because of this, it’s really important to involve professional medical help if you’re worried about someone in your care.

The second step is to work out if and how to talk about it. Simply letting them know you care can make a big difference. You might like to share a story about times you’ve experienced anxiety. This can be an avenue into a discussion around anxiety, and can provide an opportunity to ask if they have similar worries.

If you’re going to try to help a child with anxiety, there are a few key things to avoid as they can end up being accidentally unhelpful. Avoid phrases like ‘just relax’, or ‘calm down’ as they can escalate the feelings of anxiety and make the child feel like they are doing something wrong. Also consider and be aware of situations that might exacerbate your child’s anxiousness, for example being in loud, crowded places could evoke feelings of uneasiness or panic. It’s important that you can find the balance between understanding and supporting what your child might be going through and acting as a self-assigned counsellor – don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need to.

The next thing you can think about is how to empower your child to deal with particular triggers. For example, if your child is feeling anxious about a certain event – an exam, public speaking at school, or an upcoming sports game, you may be able to talk with them about whether you can help them to practice or prepare in a way that they might find helpful.

Perhaps practicing a speech in front of you could help them to pinpoint what it is about the experience that’s making them feel anxious. You can’t promise that they’ll ace their presentation or win their sports day, but you can help them practice what they’re concerned about and provide them with tools to manage the anxiety they may feel in these situations. You don’t want to create further anxiety-inducing situations though, so make sure your child is happy to try this out, and mix it up with fun activities too. Revisiting things that they are familiar with and good at can help to develop a sense of capability and foster self-esteem.

When dealing with anxiety, this three-step breathing exercise can be used as a tool to interrupt anxiety as it builds, and it is something you can practice together.

  • Step 1: When you feel tension and anxiety building, stop and close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath in through your nose for 6 seconds.
  • Step 2: Hold it for 2 seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds.
  • Step 3: Repeat this as many times as necessary, gently bringing your focus back to the breath.

If you’re worried about your child, or someone close to you, it’s important to get the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Anxiety and depression are illnesses that often benefit from a range of treatment options, and often professional support is key to management and recovery.

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