If you’re feeling stuck—whether it’s in your personal or professional life—journaling can help close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
“Journaling helps us to clarify thoughts and feelings, reduce stress, solve problems and helps to resolve disagreements with others, says Janet Philbin, LCSW. “In my 21-year practice as a clinician, I have found journaling to help my clients improve coping skills, maintain emotional regulation, decrease worrisome and obsessive thoughts, improve sleep and journaling allows for integration of traumatic experiences.”
When you sit down to start journaling, the words might not always flow onto the page, and that’s completely normal! If you’re unsure what to write, Philbin recommends the following prompts:
Journal a list of five things you did today that brought you joy and write down why.
Journal a list of five things that upset you today and write down why.
Sit still for a moment and journal how your body is feeling at this moment in time, use as much description as possible.
What are you afraid to speak out loud but wish people knew about you?
What was one thing you felt proud of yourself for today?
If you were to say one thing to yourself that is loving what would that be and why do you need to hear that?
What is something you have always believed about yourself and why?
What is something you always felt you wanted to accomplish and what has held you back?
Imagine your perfect day and write down all of the details.
What TV or movie characters do you most identify with? Write as many details as possible.
Mary Potter Kenyon, certified grief counselor and Therapeutic Art coach, program coordinator at a spirituality center and author of Expressive Writing for Healing: Journal Your Way from Grief to Hope, suggests these journaling prompts to raise your self-awareness and heal emotionally.
Make a list of all the lies you tell yourself. Now go down the list, cross out the lie and write the truth.
Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?
Author Lewis Carroll marked never-to-be-forgotten days in his journal as “white-stone” days. What are some white-stone memories in your days?
Without thinking about it too much, make a list of ten milestone moments in your life from birth to now, moments, good or bad, that stood out. Now, take one of those moments and write more about it.
You don’t have to be a writer to express yourself through writing. When the writing is for ourselves, and not for publication, there are no rules. Try writing a free verse poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme, nor does it have to follow a certain format.
What have you learned about yourself in facing difficult situations? Maybe you are stronger, or weaker, than you ever imagined. Make a list of your strengths.
You are going to feel emotional pain during difficult experiences. That is a given. The question is; what are you going to do with that pain? Will you use it to propel you do make changes in your life, to become a better person, or to reach out to others? Write down some ways you can mine your pain.
Research has proven that practicing gratitude has health benefits. Make a list of three things you are thankful for. Some days, it might be as simple as a smile from a stranger.
If time or money were no object, make a bucket list of sorts, a list of all the things you’d like to do or experience in your life. Now, choose one, and make plans to do it,
Look back to your childhood. What were you naturally drawn to? Where did your natural interests and talents lie? Make a list of activities you loved as a child. Now, choose one and make plans to incorporate that same activity into your adult life.
Fill in the blank with these simple yet powerful prompts from Alexander Burgemeester, Neuropsychiatrist and Founder of “The Narcissistic Life:”
I couldn’t imagine living without…
I really wish others knew this about me…
One thing I wish I felt comfortable doing is…
What I loved most about today is…
The biggest surprise of my life in the past year has been…
The biggest lesson from my biggest mistake, so far, is…
Discover what burnout means to social workers, learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and get resources and expert advice for preventing burnout in yourself and others.
Social workers offer strong, compassionate help for individuals and families experiencing a variety of life’s challenges. From working in the foster care system to helping patients and families through hospice care, social workers engage with people experiencing upheaval and change in their lives. In caring for so many people in so many ways, however, social workers may find themselves experiencing the symptoms of burnout. This is true both for professionals with years of experience and for students in social work programs who are just beginning their careers.
Fortunately, there are real, concrete solutions for preventing social work burnout. It may not always be simple, but with genuine self-care and a helping hand, burnout can be prevented and treated. Learn how you can identify social worker burnout, find the tools and techniques needed to overcome it, and gain expert advice from experienced social workers.
Discussing Burnout with a Licensed Social Worker
Janet Philbin clinical social worker
Janet Philbin is a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist, and certified conscious parenting coach. Janet helps adults heal from the emotional pain and trauma of their past. She is the owner of Janet Philbin, ACSW, a private psychotherapy and hypnotherapy practice. For 21 years Janet has been successfully helping people recover from their emotional wounds and change their lives with the power of transformational healing and hypnotherapy.
Q. How do you think the pandemic has affected burnout for social workers?
A. Some of the signs of burnout can include being more critical or cynical in your work with clients or colleagues. You may also experience difficulty focusing or concentrating on work-related tasks, decreased sleep, poor energy, increased fatigue, or being easily irritated. These are all signs that you might be experiencing burnout.
Q. What advice would you give to social work students and those just starting in the field for handling secondary traumatic stress?
A. I think the pandemic has been a call to action for social workers. Social workers are helpers. Social workers usually go into the field because of a deep calling to be of service. We want to help those who are struggling, who are in pain, need support, counseling and concrete services. Social workers are frontline workers providing emotional support to medical staff, families, and clients. Social workers are supporting others during the pandemic to cope with the same struggles and traumas they, themselves, are coping with. It would be impossible for social workers not to experience burnout during this pandemic.
Even social workers in private practice have been impacted. We are now working remotely. Since social workers are working remotely, we do not have the day-to-day, in-person support of colleagues to just quickly get support for a difficult case or have a casual conversation. Social workers are isolated, and that isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, increased fears, health issues, and a decrease in self-care. Social workers have an increase in clients dealing with loss due to the pandemic. We are counseling the essential workers. Social workers are witnessing, firsthand, the emotional trauma and devastation their clients are experiencing. It is our job to support them and at the same time care for ourselves as providers.
Q. You said you’ve experienced burnout. How did you get through it?
A. When I was a nursing home social worker, early in my career, I definitely went through a period of burnout. I got to a point where I became very exhausted in my job. I no longer liked working where my clients lived and found I was having a hard time making meaning out of the work I was doing. I was tired of tracking down lost remote controls and dealing with family members about their mother’s missing underwear. You would think that is not even part of a social worker’s job, but it is, and it is because as social workers we are responsible for the biopsychosocial health of our clients. That means we watch out for and consider all that is going on in their lives that affects them.
It hit me one day how frustrated and unfulfilled I was with having to do parts of my job that I previously enjoyed. Instead of enjoying connecting with my residents and families to solve these “small” issues, which represented larger ones like loss, I was not happy.
What I did in this instance was to make a big change. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to change my caseload and take on the role of hospice social worker. Though it did not eliminate having to deal with these issues, the new role offered me a new meaningful way to help a new population of residents and families which I loved. It was a renewal.
I was also in counseling with my own therapist at the time and used my sessions to talk about my work stress and experience of burnout. I also made sure when I left the building, I would take big exhales as I walked to my car, making a conscious choice to leave work at work as I headed home for the day.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add about burnout, specifically in social work?
A. Now that I am in private practice, I have had times where I feel as if “I have too many people’s problems in my head.” We hold the truths of our clients’ pain. The work of a social worker is sacred, but it is also hard, demanding, and overwhelming at times. While it may seem noble to be self-sacrificing, it is actually counterproductive. To sacrifice means to make sacred. As social workers, it is our responsibility to make ourselves sacred. We need to do this through self-care. Self-care also means creating and holding boundaries between your work life and your home life. When we take care of ourselves first, we have more resources at our disposal to give to another.
While we all know the benefits of being honest about our feelings and allowing them space, contrarily, we are hardwired to hide, deny and control our emotions instead. Processing your emotions can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. With the advice from experts, you can learn to better process your emotions in 9 different ways.
Be Aware Of It, Pause, And Identify With Objectivity
The first step is to become aware that you’re experiencing a difficult emotion by noticing the physical aspects of it. This might sound straightforward, but many of us cope with difficult emotions by disconnecting ourselves from them through numbing, self-medicating, or ignoring them.
After you have that awareness, pause and identify the emotion. And, instead of turning away, turn towards it without judgment. Allow yourself to experience it with a sense of objectivity.
Instead of saying, “I feel angry,” for example, say, “I feel anger in my body.” This is a small shift, but it moves you from being in the mode of the one experiencing the emotion to the one observing it.
Address the Physical Manifestations of it, Then Process Them Through Breathing Exercises and Creativity
Having spent a lot of time on personal and emotional development, I would love to share the best ways I have found to feel and process my emotions. I have struggled a lot in the past with repressing my emotions, and the most effective way I have found to release them is to address the physical manifestations and tensions that they cause.
For example, I hold a huge amount of tension in my jaw to the extent that I have developed TMJ problems, but through treating and reducing the tension in my jaw, I have managed to get in touch with and actually experience my emotions rather than losing them into physical tension.
Then, to process these feelings, I use a combination of deep breathing techniques to regulate how I’m feeling and creativity through art and music-making to understand and express these emotions. While this process doesn’t necessarily make the experience of difficult emotions easier, it does mean I am experiencing a full spectrum of emotions and processing them in a much more healthy way.
I think the most important thing to understand when speaking about feelings and emotions is that they are two different things. When we can understand the difference, then we can find healthy ways to process the emotions and feelings we all experience daily.
Feelings are something you experience in your physical body. Feelings are sensations that arise within you in response to what is happening outside of you. Feeling your feelings is an awareness of something that is affecting you, either internally or externally. Some examples are the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, tears building up in your eyes, the tension in your head, or tightness in your shoulders. Emotions are your reactions to feelings.
You label the emotions as anger, joy, frustration, excitement, anticipation, fear, etc. You get into emotional trouble and become stuck, unable to process feelings because you develop stories about yourself and the world around you based on the emotional reactions, not the feelings which first began in the body.
Pause And Take A Breath-Do Not Label The Feeling. There Is Power In The Pause.
When you pause and take a breath, tune into your physical body and identify where in your body you are feeling your feelings. Acknowledge the experience of what is going on inside of you. You can say things to yourself like, “I have tightness in my chest right now or my throat hurts.” Once you acknowledge the feeling, start to breathe. Imagine breathing your breath into the part of your body which is experiencing the feeling.
Set A Timer For 60-90 Seconds
Research has shown that it only takes 60-90 seconds for uncomfortable/stressful feelings to pass through our bodies. Sit with your feet on the floor in a comfortable chair, place your hand on your heart and pay attention to the beat of your heart, and rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Imagine breathing warm air into the part of your body that is feeling stress. When the timer goes off, you will feel relief and easily be able to move on with your day.
Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewingJanet Philbin.
Janet is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Hypnotherapist and Certified Conscious Parenting Coach. Janet helps adults heal from the emotional pain and trauma of their past. She is the owner of Janet Philbin, ACSW a private psychotherapy and hypnotherapy practice.
She’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Show Up For Yourself: A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised on Long Island. I am the oldest of three girls. I remember the first five years of my life in Brooklyn. There was a freedom at that time, running up and down on the sidewalks, walking to a friend’s house, and just sitting on the stoops. When we moved to Long Island, we lived in a court which afforded us the same freedoms. We played outside every day and when it was time to come in for dinner, mom would open the front door and call our names out to the neighborhood that it was time to come home, and we came running. It just was the way it was back then.
My sisters and I had a very close relationship with our grandparents. When they came to visit, we would devote our entire day or weekend to spending it with them. The relationship with my grandparents was one of the strongest building blocks for the person I am today. What I learned through them as I grew up informed my values and belief systems. Two of my grandparents were holocaust survivors who lost almost everyone in the concentration camps they taught my sisters and I the value of nurturing relationships, unconditional love, and the importance of family. When we would visit them in Brooklyn, they devoted all their time to us. We also made frequent visits to my great aunt and uncles house, and though, as I child it would be “boring” it allowed us to develop close relationships with them and with my cousin whom I still maintain that closeness with today.
My parents divorced when I was five years old. My mother became a single mom. Living on Long Island with no job, not knowing how to drive she had to find a way to make life work for all four of us. What I learned about perseverance and survival I believe took root at that time of my life. My mother went back to school to learn a skill and took driving lessons. She did not let her life circumstances at that time dictate her life, instead she made decisions to direct her life. One of the things she always told my sisters and me was to have something for you, find a career or trade so you can always support yourself. She never cared what we would grow up to do, just that we could be independent and self-reliant. We did just that, as my sisters and I each earned professional degrees.