2.1 Creating your emotional resilience toolkit
This is a good point at which to set up your ‘toolkit’ of practical techniques to develop and support your emotional resilience. The simplest way is to create a folder on your own computer or tablet and name it ‘emotional resilience toolkit’. As you continue through this course save notes and other documents into your toolkit. You could also create a Word document within the folder, in which you can build up a list of ‘bookmarks’ by copying and pasting links to websites or documents that you find helpful. Alternatively, you are free to create your toolkit in any format that enables you to access the resources wherever you are. For example, you may wish to save bookmarks on one device and then sync with your mobile phone.
However you set up your toolkit, remember that it is intended as a practical resource which you can use in your social work practice. For this to become a genuine resource it is important to be proactive in deciding what to keep and to add other ideas generated by your reading or practice. In Activity 3 you explore the meaning of emotional resilience and its implications for your practice. The activity includes a reading which is based on research with social work students, but its findings are equally applicable to qualified and experienced social workers.
Activity 3 Building emotional resilience
In this activity you will read Enhancing wellbeing in social work students: building resilience in the next generation by Grant and Kinman (2012).
Read the first half (pp. 605–12) in which the authors summarise their research and outline the key competencies and factors which produce resilience.
As you read, you may find it helpful to look at your notes for Activity 1. Or, if you felt that you needed more support than you were offered, think about what was missing as you read the Grant and Kinman article.
Now read the second half of the Grant and Kinman (2012) article (p. 612 onwards) which suggests practical strategies that have the potential to promote resilience and wellbeing. As you read this, notice which strategies sound helpful for you.
In the text box provided, make some notes about three techniques that you intend to practise in future. Be realistic about these, and select what is personally meaningful and achievable. You may wish to include a technique that you use already, but try to add at least one new one. Save these into your toolkit.
It is likely that by this stage in your career you are already using many skills to support your emotional resilience, even if you haven’t previously thought about this. As new challenges arise during your continuing progression, you will find it useful to carry on developing your toolkit.
The techniques that you have selected may reflect and build on coping strategies that you already use. For example, you may already be familiar with the concept of peer coaching, but gained new ideas from the techniques described. On the other hand, you may have picked out strategies that offer a new way of dealing with difficulties. You may not have considered ‘mindfulness’ before now, but liked some of the suggestions for focusing on the present rather than excessively dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about what might happen in the future.
If you identified an interest in time management, you may also have thought about this in relation to work-life balance. As an experienced practitioner it is likely that you are already proficient at managing the boundaries between work and home life. You will know that it can be difficult to leave the job behind at the end of the day, and social workers can struggle to maintain a healthy separation between work and home. Commitment to the job is essential for satisfaction, but over-involvement can be detrimental for non-work life, and can even lead to difficulties in maintaining professional boundaries with service users. Over time, this is likely to have a negative effect on your sense of job satisfaction as well as your personal life and wellbeing.
You may also have reflected that resilience can vary across a social worker’s professional career. Even though you are likely to become more resilient over time, changes in both organisational and personal circumstances may reduce your resilience. However experienced you are, it will always be important to seek support at such times.
Audios: Developing resilience
Audios 1-3 provide some suggestions from Janet Howard, Sophie Terrell and June Sadd about how newly qualified social workers might develop their own emotional resilience.
Audio 1: Janet Howard
Transcript: Audio 1: Janet Howard
Audio 2: Sophie Terrill
Transcript: Audio 2: Sophie Terrill
Audio 3: June Sadd
Transcript: Audio 3: June Sadd
You may wish to search online and discover more about one or two of the strategies identified by Grant and Kinman (2012; 2015). For example, journals such as Community Care often publish tips about time management and personal organisation techniques; mindfulness; taking care of your health; or peer support and coaching.