How is Your Job Affecting Your Health? How to Dodge the Risk of Secondary Stress Reactions?

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After a recent workshop I provided, I was reminded of the importance of recognizing the toll our jobs may take on own personal and physical well-being. In our best efforts to help others, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. Self-Care is no longer considered a privilege, it is, bottom line, a necessity.

The vast majority of our jobs involve dealing with PEOPLE…. And let’s face it; this in itself can be a challenge. We all have good days, bad days, so-so” days and, in dealing with difficult people, sometimes we are one of them! Maintaining the busy schedule most of us live leads to irritability and being easily bothered. Utilizing our resiliency tools and implementing emotion regulation skills is essential in effectively communicating and problem solving with people and situations.

There are the more obvious sources of stress and negativity in our lives that are more easily identified; however, the less obvious influences are the secondary stress we can unconsciously absorb as a result of our jobs. Research has proven that our mind and physical functioning can be compromised by constantly dealing with other people’s traumatic experiences and events. It is difficult to separate other peoples’ stresses and worries from our own lives; creating self-awareness and boundaries will make a significant difference.

In my Workshop “What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?, Tips and Tools to Dodge the Hazards” discusses issues on a deeper level. “Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the first-hand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” (The National Child Stress Network). We cannot provide trauma work without some of it impacting our own psyche. Many workers experience low energy, nightmares, headaches, anxiety, fears, social withdrawal as a direct result of re-experiencing the traumas of others in our own minds.

Education regarding self-awareness is the first step towards dodging the hazards that come along in careers that help others. Learning how to effectively and consciously recognize the impact of secondary trauma is the next step. Developing concrete strategies in the workplace (case management and de-briefing as a couple of examples) can make a significant difference in all of our overall wellbeing.

Ensuring our own health and welfare allows all of us to continue to provide the valuable and appreciated work provided. Helping others is an incredibly rewarding and imperative service and taking care of YOU allows the opportunity to continue making remarkable differences in the lives of others.

Sherry Campbell M.A. RSW OACCPP ®