Protecting Yourself from Occupational Stress
Any profession that involves relying on your interpersonal skills to build trust with another individual, and works towards developing and delivering a supportive service to those in distress will require a great output of compassion, empathy and understanding. People working in a caring profession, or within education, social work or public services are under a considerable amount of stress on a daily basis. Keeping a regular check on mental health and wellbeing therefore, is of the highest importance if individuals want to avoid the effects of occupational stress and burn-out.
Warning SignsWhen a professional counsellor starts questioning his/her ability to provide the level of supportive service that their clients require it is time to take positive action to improve the situation. Once an individual feels they have lost control over the job that they do, stress, along with any number of other wellbeing restrictions, is already starting to dominate the counsellor’s ability, efficiency and understanding.
Other warning signs to look out for include:
- Mood swings.
- Persistent irritability.
- Feeling that everything is too much.
- Poor organisational ability.
- Making excuses to avoid having to do things.
- Lacking interest in the work that was once enjoyable.
There is a difference between dissatisfaction with a job, and feeling unable to do the work to the standards you were once capable of. If this occurs there is a good possibility that stress is the root cause of this feeling of anxiety. Having to deal with other people’s problems every day, may also leave the counsellor, psychotherapist or therapeutic professional feeling like they must continue to provide support above all else, yet they may be physically and mentally unable to do so.
How to CopeIf you suspect you are stressed and under pressure you are most probably already exhibiting signs of burn-out. Learning how to handle commitments, workload, responsibilities, and all the other tasks that are a regular priority, will enable a counselling professional to alleviate some of the pressure with ease. Keeping a check on potential stressors and early warning signs will also help the counsellor identify, and solve problems as they arise.
Writing down concerns will also help free up the counsellor's mind and is a useful self-awareness tool. Taking regular relaxation breaks will also allow thoughts to clarify and will provide an opportunity to switch off from other people’s problems.
Seeking HelpA counsellor who is feeling under pressure is not able to perform the job he/she is qualified to do properly. In order to address the situation, and to stop total burn-out before it occurs, a counsellor must seek support from a practice manager, experienced colleague or other supervisor. Being able to discuss personal concerns and worries, in the strictest confidence, is as important to the counsellor as it is to the counselling client.
A supervisor or manager may also be able to offer the level of support and understanding that a counsellor needs, and can also suggest helpful resources or ideas that should be considered to alleviate occupational stress.