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Shift Your Self-Care Plans Into Action


Self-care is essential in youth work to avoid burnout and manage secondary trauma. So, How are YOU doing? Whether self-care is already part of your daily routine or you just need a place to start, here are some action steps to take better care.

As a youth worker, you are an expert in caring for others. You brilliantly focus on their needs and successes to create positive change. What if you did that for you?

Today, you have more to juggle than ever. Sometimes you aren’t quite sure where to start. Or maybe you don't have the resources to sustain self-care. We all have so many things to prioritize with limited resources that we are sometimes left exhausted. On top of that, many of us are navigating oppressive systems and working on systems change.

When you are not regularly practicing self-care it increases health issues, burnout, and turnover and makes secondary trauma more challenging to manage.

How can you shift your mindset to make it happen? Each of us is unique so any self-care action plan needs to fit your unique needs.

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    Personalize your self-care plan

    You can easily create and implement a self-care plan that fills you up, sustains your wellness, and ensures you're at your best for young people. Here are a few ideas from the University of Buffalo School of Social Work.

    • Include the basics. Focus on nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
    • Make your personal space pleasant. Is your work space calming? Add some pictures and sayings that make you smile.
    • Make sure you have a trusted person to check in with - and do check in with them! Because we don't want to bother others, we often don't share our struggles. But when you do, it gives you a release and gives other people permission to do the same.
    • Do things that make you smile. When you smile, your brain releases endorphins. So, even if you're not feeling particularly happy, the physical act of smiling can at least get the ball rolling! Sing your favorite song out loud. Find a joke that makes you laugh.
    • Take advantage of opportunities for professional development. The right training, presentation, or article can build competencies and bring refreshing new perspectives. And learning gives a good boost of confidence that makes your work more effective and rewarding.
    • Connect with youth work professionals locally and beyond. Youth work is notoriously under-valued in our society. That can feel a little isolating. But there are many passionate people just like you who share a vision of an educated, effective, respected, and appropriately compensated workforce. Connect and support each other.

    Put your self-care plan into action today

    Be creative, think outside the box. What ideas can you implement yourself? Are there options your team could incorporate? Does your organization provide support for self-care practices?

    • Start – Start small with intentionality and add to your calendar.
    • Add - Gradually add more practices to your routine.
    • Customize - Figure out what works and what doesn’t.
    • Adjust – If something doesn’t fit, adjust your plan.
    • Enjoy! – You are on your way to better health and wellness to be the best youth worker you can be!
    • Share – Who can you encourage on your team, in your organization and community partners?

    Keep it fresh and fun!

    You are awesome! Your self-care practices can be as unique and awesome as you are! There are so many easy, healthy options for you to choose from. Find what works best for you. Change it up from time to time to keep it fresh and fun. Enjoy and share your commitment to self-care with others in your youth work community! We could all use a little extra encouragement. Here’s a valuable training to learn more about How You and Your Organization Can Manage Burnout and Secondary Trauma.

    About the author

    Joanne Rice is the member satisfaction specialist of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Joanne a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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