Happy New Year, Happy New You!

It was a difficult year for many of us, that 2011. We witnessed the loss of benefits for many of our clients through changes in state policy, we have seen dedicated, long-serving colleagues lose their jobs to workforce reduction, we encourage hope in the future as we face our own personal and professional uncertainty. These circumstances, among other things, have caused long work days, increased client load and professional pressures unlike anything seen in recent years. The job has become both more rewarding and increasingly challenging. All that said, it is more important than ever to be mindful in our self-care so that we continue our mission from a healthy perspective and we can, well, continue our mission!

Where to start . . .

Breathe deeply and slowly. Just walking in the door can cause an onset of anxiety: You know the telephone message light is on indicating needs and wants of others; clients are lined up back-to-back; there’s a webinar you really need to view and you forgot your lunch on the kitchen counter. Stop, take a moment to slow down with intention, take a deep breath: It all, always, get’s done, and anxiety only stands in the way of mental functioning and reason.

Appreciate your colleagues’ gifts

Coworkers can sometimes seem to inhibit rather than encourage productive work flow; higher-ups seem to be unaware of the pressures of the job in the field. Resolve to look at your partners in the workforce through rose-colored glasses during 2012 (or at least in January!), embracing the idiosyncrasies and uniqueness of each. Benefit? Discovery of ways in which others really give to your organization, ways that they may serve as an additional resource to your work. Be kind to each other. Acknowledged: Sometimes here, too, a deep breath is required, but this exercise will both open up new doors to your understanding and enhance your daily experience on the job. I promise! See Christina Pesoli’s suggestions on ways to improve your coworkers view of you in her blog at http://austin.culturemap.com.


I know, I know, we should all have the extra time to read through the piles of literature, information sheets and personal notations. I suggest to you that setting aside ten minutes a day to begin weeding through the papers is not an impossible request. You’ll find rather quickly that much of the pile can be tossed as it has already become obsolete. Other items are in the pile for reasons you can no longer remember. Still more sheets of paper seem to have little to do with anything now relevant. Just like at home, simply starting the process of organizing your space wields such a good feeling, you’ll wonder why you don’t do it more often. Remember this in March when the pile begins to grow again. The blog www.Unclutter.com can get you started.

Treat yourself like a client

As I sit across the desk from an anxious couple with a multitude of issues to be sorted and addressed, my intention is to actively listen, cut through the emotion and seek the most urgent matters needing attention. How about the empty chair exercise? Why, really, has this coworker exchange left me angry? What are the things I must accomplish before day’s end (recording client notes) and what can wait (logging onto my email box yet again)? If I assure my clients that their well-being is my goal, does it make sense that I cannot direct the same within? As Glinda, the Good Witch, advises: Dorothy has the power within her all along. Read the Chicago Bridge Blog article “Self Care Made Simple EvenThough We Know It Isn’t” for additional information

Resolve to be a better student

Consider monthly, or more often if time allows, to learn something new. Perhaps you need to improve your PowerPoint skills, or you can benefit by seeking education through lectures, webinars or workshops. Commitment to create and meet goals will not only improve self-discipline but may serve to enhance your engagement in your work, particulary when burn out is such a factor in the field of social work. Pick a target and get on it! These suggestions merely scratch the surface in self-treatment as we look forward to a new year. On a personal note, we resolve to eat better, drink less and move more – perhaps these intentions have already fallen to the wayside and can use recharging (see Jenn Pedde’s graphic at for inspiration!). We spend approximately 2,080 hours a year at the workplace, and our vocation is both honorable and challenging in the best of times: Today’s world has most certainly made our work increasingly complicated, even disheartening from time to time. The more we embrace the entirety of the job from a fresh, healthy standpoint, the better we can continue in our mission to serve and the more rewarding our career in aging will be.  **Thanks to Seanbjack for sharing the picture used in this post Scott Talans was the Chicago Bridge Editor of this article.


Sharon Belloff is the JHELP ACCESS Suburban Project Coordinator for CJE SeniorLife in Chicago. Assisting those over the age of 60 find resources, linking folks to private and public benefits and providing a myriad services embodies much of Sharon’s work. An L.C.P.C., she graduated with honors from National-Louis University with a B.A. in Applied Behavioral Science and, later, a master’s degree in Human Services. Her work in aging began as an internship with Advocate Health Care, and she has never left the field. Since 9/11, Sharon has been a volunteer with the USO of Illinois and is a regular volunteer with the Highland Park Public Library, both working with its in-house Book Nook resale shop or assisting with summer reading programs for children. The daughter of two writers, she has always sought enjoyment through authoring and editing articles for newsletters, brochures and flyers.


  • Elyse Baylis

    Your article is very down-to-earth and inspiring. It makes me feel better to know that others share my feelings.

  • Sharon

    Thank you, Elyse! And good luck with your chosen resolutions —- let me know of your successes!

  • Alexis Karpik

    Thank you for the reminders!! I always wish I was more organized and taking a few minutes a day to get things in order is a great way to start off 2012. I also agree with you about pushing yourself to be a better student. i am currently in graduate school, but strive to push myself to continue to read and pursue other interests outside of my daily learning. Thanks again!

  • Kimberly Potter

    Sharon, what a fantastic article! So many of your suggestions are right in sync with how I started my new year and will attempt tocontinue throughout. I look forward to reading your future articles!!

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