Having the drive and commitment needed to improve your qualifications and enhance your social work career can lead to some exciting opportunities for everyone in today’s world, particularly in the US. There are many vital social care niches and abundant job openings to explore in this sector, and it can be a great career for working parents.
However, obtaining the qualifications needed for leadership and developmental roles in social work can require significant time and effort, which can conflict with your existing family commitments and job responsibilities. How can students strike the ideal balance to help nourish energy, concentration and scheduling? Here we have gathered some great insights on creating a work-life balance.
Individuals wanting to learn how to deliver excellent social care can take an online MSW program in NY, or wherever they may be based, from Florida State University. This guides students from across the country in a comprehensive and supportive manner. Support is provided throughout the program, from the admissions process to each module in the curriculum. Another advantage of this online degree program is that you can fit your social work studies around your other commitments and work at your own pace.
Tips for staying on track when studying online
Keep your eyes on the prize
Pursuing this line of work is a big commitment, but the rewards far out way the busy schedules and energy that this job requires. Not only is this a diverse and varied career option, but it is also a field with vacancies throughout the country, and beyond. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that by 2030, national growth in jobs for social workers will reach 9%. Few areas of employment are noting such a rapid expansion, and the call for social workers will only grow as people live longer, and medicine evolves to offer better quality care to all members of the community.
The metropolitan area of New York City is now employing the second-largest number of social workers in the US, making it an attractive place to pursue this career and be at the forefront of advocacy and social justice. With many vulnerable people living in poverty in extremely urbanized areas of the US, social workers can work to make sure they have access to a medical team, to good amenities and be someone that the vulnerable members of the population can rely on for support and knowledge.
Social work is also considered one of the most personally rewarding career paths you can follow. If you are entering the field with a degree in an unrelated subject, you can earn a master’s degree in social work and make a tangible difference in the lives of those you support. For example, you might choose to work in protecting child welfare or meeting the care needs of the elderly. The world will always need plenty of social workers, and doing a Master of Social Work, or MSW, puts you well on the way to making a positive impact and becoming indispensable, with great transferrable skills.
Use your time wisely
Once you decide this is the right career path for you, you might struggle to balance your studies with commitments in your personal life, such as keeping fit, maintaining relationships and caring for family members. If you’re a parent who is looking to move into social work, you’ll need to know how to streamline routines with family so you can study for your degree.
This may mean practicing batch cooking and buying more pre-cut or pre-cooked produce at the grocery store. By cooking in big bulks, you can save time each evening, and always have something home-cooked in the freezer full of nutrients. It might also entail delegating household chores or asking family members to help with errands.
Making the best use of your time becomes easier when you opt to earn a Master’s of Social Work online. E-learning opportunities are great time savers as they allow you to avoid the hassle of traveling to lectures and study groups. This is particularly helpful because you don’t need to waste time commuting to a university campus; you can simply tune in from wherever you are in the country.
Set aside your own optimal learning times
You know best when you are most likely to be awake, alert and ready to learn, and you should schedule regular time to focus solely on your personal and professional development to maximize your productivity. Think of it as going to college regularly at your ideal time of day without having to leave your home.
This optimal learning time should take place when there is a good chance you won’t be disturbed or distracted. Having constant interruptions or a significant amount of noise outside your door can make it hard to concentrate. This leads to feelings of frustration and stress, which can drain your energy.
You may find yourself losing motivation if you can’t get enough peace and quiet to study in a busy family home. You may also find that the time you schedule to work on your degree is compromised by the demands of your family, friends or boss.
One way around this is to be very clear to everyone about what you need to succeed in your studies. Appeal to them to support you and suggest ways they can help you. For example, can grandparents take on some childcare so you’re able to study for an afternoon without interruption? Can your partner handle more household chores while you get through this important career step?
A supportive partner or close friend could be your greatest ally in other ways, too. For example, when you start to lose motivation or get tired, a few words of encouragement or an offer to help with a chore could make all the difference. Sometimes, all you need is someone who is willing to lend an ear while you vent.
Don’t let your health suffer
Your health could be at risk if you feel overwhelmed. This can be a slippery slope, as feeling tired or unwell may cause you to fall even further behind with deadlines and chores. Protecting your health can start with making sure you do not sacrifice sleep to spend more time studying or socializing. A social worker is an essential member of any medical team, and preventing burnout is crucial in providing the best patient care. Likewise, when studying to become a social worker, you need to ensure you take time out for yourself; if you feel poorly see a doctor; if you have a migraine, go to sleep so you don’t strain your eyes any further.
The same applies to staying up late at night to get things done; it can really take its toll and make you less productive and focused during the day. Then, you may start to feel like you are underperforming on all fronts. Sleep deprivation should not be your only concern, however. You also need to make enough time for the basics of good physical and mental health, such as fresh air, exercise and a well-balanced diet.
An important part of monitoring your health is watching out for the first signs of anxiety and stress. These are not always as obvious as you might imagine. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs your anxiety levels are building include feeling tense, restless or nervous, but you may also start avoiding situations that you believe could trigger you. This means that family gatherings, mall excursions or weekly bowling dates may no longer be a much-anticipated part of your week. You may also start to experience gut issues, trouble sleeping or poor concentration.
When you start to identify the early symptoms of stress and anxiety, take a break. Find something that gets you out of your own head for a while and helps you feel relaxed. Talk it out with a partner or friend if possible or seek professional help.
Eat for energy and cognitive support
Your eating habits influence whether you have enough energy, focus and drive to keep your work-life balance steady while studying online. When you are busy, it becomes far too easy to grab quick meals and snacks to simply fuel your body as you go. Having junk food within easy reach of your study area can be tempting, and you may find yourself eating a lot of unhealthy foods without even realizing it.
Unhealthy eating habits can impact your blood sugar levels, impeding your ability to concentrate and stay on track. Overeating can also make you feel sluggish and sleepy, interfere with sleep, and add to the gut issues that stress can bring.
Instead, you should focus on a healthy diet and consume nutritious foods that will keep you full. This includes nuts and seeds, which are packed with the essential fatty acids that are vital for brain health. Berries are a wonderful source of antioxidants and rich in vitamins and minerals, but they also provide fruit sugars that can replace your less healthy treats.
Even dark chocolate could be on your list of healthy foods to eat while studying. It is a surprisingly excellent source of antioxidants, and the natural stimulant it provides can increase how well blood flows to your brain. Moderation is important, however.
Take time to exercise and stretch
It is also important to pay attention to your fitness and activity levels as you juggle studies with other responsibilities.
First, there is the risk of hunching over your devices for hours on end as you stay on top of your assignments and connect with friends and family digitally. Your device could become your lifeline and a source of entertainment during breaks. Similarly, invest in a scrolling-ball mouse so you are less likely to suffer from arthritis in your fingers. Your hands are your tools and it’s imperative you protect them.
However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports: “Women workers are at disproportionately high risk for musculoskeletal injuries on the job, suffering 63 percent of all work-related repetitive motion injuries.” That organization also acknowledges that balancing work and family commitments may play a part in this.
It’s vital to set up your study area in a manner that enables you to sit comfortably, with your spine well supported. Ensure your arms and wrists are properly positioned to avoid strain, as this can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Be sure to take regular breaks to stretch out and move around. Aim to spend at least five minutes away from your screen every hour. This can also help you avoid eye strain. In addition, you should make sure your screen is of a good standard and properly positioned.
You should make time for regular exercise. In addition to helping you physically, it is an excellent way to boost your body’s production of endorphins. These are known as the “feel-good” hormones, and part of their role is to ease pain, reduce stress and lift mood.
Make time for more self-care
To maintain a good work-life balance when studying, you may need to enjoy some spontaneous moments of relaxing and clearing your head on your own.
A simple change of scenery may be enough to help you feel refreshed, focused and ready for action. This could involve heading to your favorite local coffee shop and reading a magazine. Strolling around a park can also be uplifting.
An occasional trip to a salon, some retail therapy or dinner out with your partner can also give you the time out you need to return to your studies with renewed enthusiasm and energy.
Lists, plans and boundaries
Good planning is essential, but don’t forget to regularly revisit and revise your plans. You also need to learn to say no to anything that might prevent you from sticking to your plans. Whether you use a computer, a whiteboard or a traditional journal, your lists, timetables and flow charts can help you stay on track.
The process of writing things down and slotting everything together can be therapeutic and a great way to clear your mind of clutter and stress. This can also serve as an important resource to refer to if you start to lose your way.
When planning, it is helpful to break larger tasks down into more manageable segments. Map what you need to do on a particular day or week rather than across longer periods of time to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the priorities and activities you are juggling.
Your plans and lists should include milestones to support your motivation. For example, if you complete a major project on schedule, you can leave time afterward for a spa session as a reward.
Although the occasional spontaneous break can be invigorating, you may have to be wary of impromptu plans and invitations in order to stay focused and disciplined. Your friends and family may not fully appreciate how much you are currently doing and how important it is. Therefore, it’s worth practicing a polite and firm way to explain why you can’t help, go out or host an event at your home.
Be kind to yourself
One of the most important ways to manage your studies, job and home life is to accept that there is no such thing as the perfect work-life balance. Even the best-laid plans can go wrong, and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if everything doesn’t go exactly how you envisioned.
It’s all about having realistic goals and expectations and trying to build some fluidity into your schedule. If you don’t achieve all the goals you set this week or you find that something gets overlooked in your busy life, do not dwell on it. Take a breath, remind yourself how worthwhile this is, spend some time with your family, and then get back on track with renewed determination.