This post is in response to the daily word prompt. I’m in awe of people who end their work day with clear minds, sans the paperwork, the after hour email checking/responding, or the overall emotional work place baggage. There are aspects of my job that I do enjoy, but pressing work demands along with personal and professional expectations make it difficult to leave work at work.
I chose a career in social work because of a deep passion to help others. When I first started out, it was very difficult to not think about the problems faced by my clients. I was often in awe of either how resilient many were despite their experiences or how tragic some of their lives were. Sometimes, I would even dream about them. I hated it when that happened, but I couldn’t control it at the time.
Then, there was the paperwork, which was a beast. The seemingly ceaseless progress notes and assessments that had to be entered. Our psychiatrist lamented on more than one occassion that if it wasn’t documented, then it didn’t happen. Talk about pressure. Although I enjoyed working as a clinician and I worked with a great bunch of characters (that often joked that we should video our daily work lives), the work demands were stressful. There are a combination of reasons for burnout and the work environment along with my perfectionism was a great recipe.
I haven’t worked in direct practice in a few years (part of my self-care strategy), but my work demands are even higher. I continue to struggle with leaving work at work, but I have instituted some strategies that seem to help, which I’ll share at the end of this post. I think it simply boils down to boundaries. I’ve sacrificed advanced positions because I don’t want to see burn out again by working incessantly in the evenings and on the weekends and I am by no means a slacker. I do have a family and I choose to have a life. I do struggle with why can’t I have it all, but I haven’t figured all of that out yet…different blog post. The fact that work advancement in this country means sacrificing a personal life and family is a whole other issue…again, a different blog post.
What I’ve done in recent years to begin the separation from the work day is to call my mom in Chicago on my daily, hour commute home. We talk about her day, she provides news updates, we catch up on family matters, we argue (not kidding), and I even sometimes tell her my work problems (at a very high level – she doesn’t understand what I do plus she’s a worrier). In the process, I’ve gotten to know my mom as a person really well, which I’m proud of. I know her so well that I realized my call window happens to be the same time that she takes her afternoon nap, so I recently started calling her earlier, around lunch time. By the way, she’d never admit to taking naps because she likes to complain that she doesn’t sleep at night. I still make calls on my way home, but to different people such as my family and friends…anybody else to help me not think about work. This has become a pretty solid part of my routine.
There are times that I do bring work home, but I have much better booundaries. If I bring work home, I give myself a timeframe to do the work and that’s it. It’s all a learning process. I’m just thankful that I no longer have dreams about clients.