Studying this ASWB exam outline topic--stress management techniques--simultaneously prepares you for exam questions and potentially gives you ways to stay calm, cool, and collected in the often stressful run-up to the test itself.

Managing Stress

Some general stress management techniques, which are probably familiar to you:

  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Calm your nervous system and reduce stress levels. Examples:

    • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your belly, then exhale slowly through your mouth, contracting your abdomen.

    • 4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, exhale for a count of 8, and repeat.

    • Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4, forming a "box" pattern.

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and then relax each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head. This technique helps release physical tension and promotes relaxation.

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Engage in mindfulness meditation to focus your attention on the present moment without judgment. This practice can help reduce anxiety and stress by increasing self-awareness and promoting a sense of calm. (Good, free app for this that we've been using/recommending lately: Healthy Minds.)

  • Exercise: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, such as walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural stress relievers, and helps improve your overall mood and well-being.

  • Nutrition and Sleep: Eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and prioritize getting enough sleep each night. Taking care of your physical health helps buffer the effects of stress on your body and mind.

  • Visit Nature: Time in nature has been shown to reduce stress. Just taking time to look up from under a tree--called "tree bathing"--can help with settling your mind and relaxing.
  • Expressive Writing: Journaling about thoughts and emotions can be a therapeutic way to process stress and gain clarity on your feelings. 

  • Seek Social Support: Reach out to friends, family members, or colleagues for emotional support and encouragement. Talking to someone you trust about your stressors can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide perspective.

  • Set Realistic Goals: Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable goals and prioritize your time and energy accordingly. Setting realistic expectations for yourself can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and increase your sense of accomplishment.

  • Practice Assertive Communication: Learn to assertively communicate your needs and boundaries with others. Saying no when necessary and advocating for yourself can help prevent feelings of resentment and burnout.

  • Engage in Relaxing Activities: Participate in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as listening to music, reading a book, spending time in nature, or indulging in a hobby.

For Social Workers

Being a social worker can be overwhelming. Stress management is crucial. Some approaches worth knowing-slash-trying:

  • Self-care: Prioritize your well-being by practicing self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities you enjoy outside of work.

  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with clients and between your work and personal life. Learn to say no when necessary and avoid overcommitting yourself.

  • Seek support: Build a strong support system of colleagues, supervisors, friends, and family members who understand the demands of your job and can provide emotional support.

  • Supervision and debriefing: Regular supervision sessions with a supervisor or peer can provide a safe space to discuss challenging cases and receive guidance. Debriefing after difficult situations can help process emotions and prevent burnout.

  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practice mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

  • Time management: Prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and break large projects into smaller, manageable tasks. Effective time management can help reduce feelings of overwhelm.

  • Engage in hobbies and interests: Make time for activities and hobbies that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of work. Engaging in creative pursuits or spending time in nature can help alleviate stress and rejuvenate your spirit.

  • Seek professional help: If you're struggling to cope with stress, don't hesitate to seek support from a therapist who specializes in working with social workers or individuals in helping professions.

On the Exam

Utilizing (rather than memorizing) these techniques is likely more useful in your exam preparation. How might the topic look on the licensing exam? Maybe something like this:

  • What is benefit of setting realistic goals as a stress management strategy?
  • What distinguishes adaptive coping strategies from maladaptive coping strategies in the context of stress management?
  • Which stress management technique involves systematically desensitizing oneself to anxiety-provoking situations by gradually exposing oneself to them in a controlled manner?

Another way to reduce stress, not yet mentioned: checking off items on your to-do list. Is getting and taking full-length, realistic practice tests on your to-do list?

Check that box now.

March 21, 2024
Categories : 
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