Lydia Corbett pens an open letter to her fellow social workers reminding them about the importance of self-care

Lydia Corbett (Photo: Facebook/Lydia Corbett)
Lydia Corbett (Photo: Facebook/Lydia Corbett)

After seeing how her psychologist daughter was affected by working non-stop for 14 weeks, the retired social worker decided to pen an open letter reminding those who help others that they should take time out for self-care.

Lydia Corbett (66) of Cape Town believes those working on the frontline and in the medical field are at risk of burning out and having mental breakdowns.

This is because they have to work all the time as their colleagues fall ill while also dealing with the pressures of their own home lives. 

“In this time of COVID-19 and the lockdown, I see that there are a lot more people with mental stress. There are people without work, there are people not going to school… A lot of things are wrong at home and you can’t take that baggage to work because at work you must help people,” she tells YOU.

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During the lockdown Lydia has been taking care of her garden and writing diary entries to stay sane and was compelled to share one of the entries to help social workers, her daughter and others in the medical field.

“I decided to write that letter in order to warn them [essential workers] to look after themselves. If they don’t do it there’s a loss in continuity. If they aren't there, there’s nobody to do their work and there are communities that need their help,” she says.

“I just want them to acknowledge that self-care is a priority.”

Here’s Lydia’s letter below:

“Dear Social Workers

When we were students, most of us quickly realised that our jobs will be completely different from all other jobs. We grasped that our input and dedication will have a direct influence on our clients’ lives. This job is not a ‘nice to have’, but a desperate need that millions of people are dependent on.

In practice, the requirements from social workers are often incredibly demanding, but because we choose our career, we are determined to make a difference, no matter the cost.

However, continuously dealing with work pressures and clients’ intense problems, might come at a price. Burning your candle at both ends to create light for others, can easily end up in burn-out.

At the beginning of 2020, the world was still operating at full speed when the coronavirus hit us like a kick in the stomach. The impossible became reality. The government locked borders, schools, churches, businesses, and organisations. Suddenly, no one was allowed to see their family and friends or go outside.

In multi-problem families, the lid was placed on a pressure cooker with everyone sprawling inside, whilst we’ve had to look on, powerless. Our spirit is hammered with worry and concern over our people – mothers, children, fathers, the elderly. The constant thought of everything that could go wrong and the consequences feels like all our hard work had become undone.

The needs of the communities we serve become part of the emotional rocks that we carry with us every day.

But, who looks after all of us? The helpers, the supporters, the planners, the care-takers, the fighters for justice?

We are programmed to give and give and do and do. We’ve actually forgotten how to receive, ask for help and look after ourselves without feeling guilty.

Now is the time to cushion your inner being with love against the pain of the world.

Take care of yourself by:

Eating healthy food with enough fruit and vegetables.

Sleeping enough.

Getting sunlight on your face.

Doing one thing that you like every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.

Before you go to sleep at night, be quiet and reflect on your day.

Fold your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug.

Realise your value: What you do is life-changing to your neighbours.

Be aware of your faults and restrictions.

Protect yourself by setting up safe boundaries. By practising self-care, you are strengthening your inner world, to keep you resilient and ready to serve the outside world.

The future is unpredictable, and the demands placed on our careers are increasingly difficult. But this is all the more reason to be kind to yourself. You cannot help anyone else if you don’t value and love yourself first.

Diarise time for yourself every single day to maintain your self-worth so you can continue to make a difference. You and you alone are responsible for enduring, sustainable service because, without you, there will be a missing link in the cable of help.”

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