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Hunt The Good Stuff: Protect Yourself from Burnout with this Simple Habit.

Anyone who’s ever met social workers, mental health practitioners and/or other community services workers will know just how much heart and soul goes into the profession.

You’ve likely witnessed (or even experienced) first-hand the fact that without the right tools and practices to manage your own wellbeing, social care workers are particularly vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue.

The good news is that positive psychology offers simple (and vitally, effective!) ways to ensure your amazing work in helping others doesn’t come at the expense of your own wellbeing.

But first… What is positive psychology?

Instead of just focusing on mental ill-health and mental disorders, positive psychology places a more balanced emphasis on the positive aspects of human nature: each person’s unique strengths, talents and offering to their world.

The term was originally coined in 1954 by Abraham Maslow – you might know him as devising the hierarchy of human needs.

Positive psychology shares a lot of the same theoretical underpinnings as strengths-based approaches commonly used in social care.

One of the biggest lessons we can draw from positive psychology to protect ourselves from burnout is to ‘hunt the good stuff’.

Hunt the Good Stuff (and you’ll notice more good stuff!)

So much of our mental health is influenced by how we’re framing our thoughts – or to put it another way, what language we’re using to narrate the story of our day.

What sort of language do you use when thinking about how your day is going?

If you tend to keep track of all the things that don’t go to plan, it’s likely you’ll start to think along the lines of “I can’t do this”, “I can’t catch a break”, “nothing’s working”, “the system is broken” or any number of other negative messages.

If that’s you, don’t worry. That’s a sign your brain is working normally – here’s why.

Why so serious?

The human brain is wired to scan for threats.

This was helpful in hunter-gatherer times when the negatives in our day might’ve been predators posing mortal danger… but that function isn’t so helpful now that the negatives aren’t as threatening – but are getting us down and causing burnout.

Psychologists have termed this function of the human brain a ‘negativity bias’. But the good news is that our default negativity bias is possible to mitigate, and even overcome!

Neuroplasticity is your friend

Neuroplasticity refers to the human brain’s ability to grow and change.

Hooray! We’re not stuck with our default settings of scanning for threats and overlooking the good.

Thought patterns are just like the physical muscles in our bodies – the more we use them, the stronger they’ll become.

So the more we focus on what’s not going well, the more likely we’ll keep focusing on these perceived negatives, so we’ll start to see them everywhere.

Thankfully, the converse is also true:

The more we focus on what’s going WELL in our job, the more readily we’ll be able to notice and appreciate other positives as our brain gets into the habit of scanning for GOOD things – not just perceived ‘threats’.

So next time you catch yourself listing all the things that didn’t go to plan in your day, why not have a go at listing the positives to yourself instead?

If you’re not in the habit yet, it might be hard to think of them ­– but don’t give up! The more you do it, the easier it will become.

As you seek to alter these thought habits, notice whether doing so changes the thoughts that follow… are they any different? Do you feel any different?

It might take a while to notice any change, but stick with it – and let us know how you go in the comments!

Do you have any other practices to reinforce positive psychology in your profession? Share your experiences with other readers in the comments, and stay tuned for more positive psychology tips in our next post to protect yourself from burnout.

Be. Recruitment is a leading recruitment agency in the social care sector. If you’re thinking about the next step in your social care career, or are looking for quality candidates to fill your organisation’s vacancies, get in touch with our expert consultants for a chat today.

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