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Managing Stress as a Social Worker

It’s no secret that the levels of stress within the social work profession is high. Excessive workloads with a high degree of personal accountability, and little control over the flow of work or the availability of resources and support puts a whole load of pressure on the social worker, not helped by the fact that the caseloads or clients may be hostile or unhelpful themselves. In fact, a 2015 BASW study found that among 2000 social workers surveyed, 80% said that stress was affecting their ability to do their job properly, with the top three causes being unending caseloads, poor supervision and bullying by colleagues or managers. The study also found that 1 in every 10 social workers have considered leaving their job because of the excessive stress they face. At Portman Recruitment, we’re extremely proud of the support that we provide our workers with, and we’ve found that the tips we provide them with are very beneficial to their well-being and mental health. We thought it’d be good to share these tips in the hopes of helping those who may be having a tough time at the moment, and please know that if you ever need any extra support, we’re only ever a phone call away.



  • Look out for symptoms including sleeplessness, memory problems, tearfulness, headaches, anxiety and reduced job performance.
  • Notice the stress triggers – those little tasks or interactions that cause you anxiety or the pressure to build and consider the effect it’s having on the rest of your day. Learn how to separate the stress triggers from your other tasks, making a note of when you started to feel stressed and what caused it. Knowing that, you’ll then be able to better prepare for these triggers.
  • Other symptoms of stress include upset, panic and anger. Pay attention to your negative emotions and try to challenge them as they occur. Listening to music, thinking happy thoughts and breathing deeply can all help.


  • Whether it’s your manager, another social worker, a family member or friend, having a support system you can rely on is always handy. Identify someone that you trust and who you know will listen and support you in any way that they can.
  • Use that support system for unwinding too – ensure that you regularly socialise and have time for fun activities and events to look forward to.


With caseloads, paperwork and court visits, there’s a lot that you’ll have to deal with, and therefore time management techniques will help to ease some of this pressure and allow you to plan your days more effectively.  Techniques include:

  • Making a list of all the tasks you know you need to complete the day, week and/or month before, prioritising the most important ones.
  • Making a note of the help, information or documents that you need from other people to complete these tasks.
  • When unexpected tasks come up, swap them out for work that is non-priority and could wait until a later date.
  • Try and spend at least 10 minutes a day doing something that energises you – for example – going for a walk, listening to music or reading that new bestselling book.


The hardest part of dealing with stress at work is knowing how to separate it from your personal life. Taking stress home can affect your free time and relationships, so switching off is very important.

  • Make time for the things that can help you grow as a person: develop a new hobby; plan a trip to another country; learn about a topic that has always fascinated you.
  • Ensure that you spend time with friends and family.
  • Most importantly though, have time to relax and be with yourself. Whether you watch a new box set, meditate, go to the gym or simply get some more sleep, you need to have some time set aside for these kinds of activities.


  • Though the working day can be full of surprises, try to establish a routine whereby you get exercise and eat at roughly the same time every day.
  • Waking up in the morning and going for a walk, or scheduling in some gym time can really boost your mood, as can eating tasty nutritious meals.

In fact, studies have shown that exercise increases endorphins in the brain, and reduces levels of the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

We know that life as a social worker is never easy, and that there will be days when you’re just fed up and may want to quit. But as they say, nothing in life worth having is ever easy, and your job will benefit the lives of the people that you help, through your hard work, determination and motivation to continue. There is always support available, and we’re always there to provide it.

If you’ve been thinking of joining us as a social worker, or are looking for some guidance in your role, please don’t hesitate to call us today on 0161 828 4160.

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