From so many colleagues and my own inner monologue I have heard variations of the following issue.
When I leave my job, I can’t turn off the caring. When I see others in my community that need help, do I respond? Won’t I burn out if I am a social worker 24/7?
This feeling is as old as the profession itself. Jane Addams describes the overwhelming feeling one has when your eyes are opened to suffering.
“For the following weeks I went about London almost furtively, afraid to look down narrow streets and alleys lest they disclose again this hideous human need and suffering.” ~ Jane Addams (20 Years at Hull House)
Can you relate? At a certain point I adopted the motto that not every good thing is my good thing to do. Otherwise, the work I put onto myself would be infinite. However, I don’t want my care for the community to be contained only in my job. I find that what drew me to Social Work, the belief that we can bring to life a community where everyone has access to well- being, doesn’t stop when I leave work. But compassion fatigue is a real thing. So is not taking care of yourself properly. It’s a tough tightrope to walk.
At the end of the day, I believe each one of us has to find our personal balance on this question. For me, I discovered that caring for others in my free time can actual rejuvenate me- not lead to feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of need. But, there are times I have felt like Jane Addams, afraid to look up and see the suffering in my own community. Because then I know I would feel called to act.
Honestly, I have to answer this question again and again every day. It is not a balance I have mastered. How do you manage this balance? Is this an area you struggle with. Comment or write me – would be honored to hear your thoughts.