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Social Work Zen: 5 Tips for Social Workers During COVID-19

Steve Clarke writes about positive thinking in the face of adversity, and gives his thoughts on tips that can help us get through.

These are challenging times for those of us on the front line of an international pandemic. Although the Buddha was born over 2500 years ago, his principles of suffering very much apply today.

Here are 5 things he’d probably tell you:

1. Remember you can’t control everything

Things have changed a lot in the last month, and there’s not a massive amount you can do about it. Your work circumstances, the reactions of your clients, the risks you are facing. Like it or not, much of the current crisis is in the hands of the general public and their compliance with quarantine. I know, this sounds like a scary thought. But it’s out of your hands. Just do your bit.

2. Accept things as they are, not how you’d want them to be

You can’t get the PPE you need. Your kids are running round the ‘office’. You’re on the verge of divorce. No it’s not ideal, and we’re all wishing it was still December and the run-up to the Christmas holidays. But it isn’t. Here we are, doing the best we can, and we’re going to make a damn good stab at making things better.

3. The past is gone and we can’t change it

Some of us are a bit peeved about how we neglected the NHS recently, how we didn’t stockpile equipment, and how we didn’t take that evening course on virtual working. You’re right, but now is the time for us all to look forward, together, not backwards. Let’s leave the blaming for afterwards when this is all sorted out.

4. Other people aren’t how we’d want them to be

Look, from the bottom of society to the top, we’re all cracking a bit under the strain. Nobody likes living in a cage with their family, and their flaws are going to be shining through right now. Your boss is stressed and struggling to cope. Like you, she’s not going to be making the best decisions. Multiply that by 66 million imperfect souls and we have the UK today. Some of them are your clients. Breathe deeply. Let it out. Do it now.

5. Accept who you are in every moment

You’re human, you make mistakes, and that’s why you’re more beautiful than a machine. You work with people and there’s no rule-book about how to do that. You’re working in unprecedented times and one day you’ll be telling your grandchildren about this. Go easy on yourself. You have strengths and weaknesses, and you know what they are. Play on your strengths.

Above all, Buddha reminded us that nothing is permanent. This crisis will pass, and when it does we’re bloody well going to appreciate how wonderful it is to share a few after-work drinks with friends, go out for a meal and get a haircut.

And whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Maybe this crisis is what we need to ruffle things up a bit and realize what’s important in our lives. Maybe this is the beginning of a new improved chapter in life and social work.

Take it as an opportunity for self-awareness and overcoming difficulties. After this, your normal life will be a breeze.

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