The Stress of Caring

by Underdue Support on September 18, 2015

There is a lot of discussion right now about stress reduction. Today we see an increased work load of mental health professionals, increased occurrences of abuse or violence faced by social workers and other therapists, and the terrible struggles facing our returning veterans. All of these things have increased our awareness of the stressful elements of our society and the impact those elements have on both our clients and the professionals whose job it is to help.

As a social worker I am aware of the impact of work related stress on me, my family and my ability to do my job effectively. In my exploration of this topic, I found the blog of a young British social worker who wrote a blog called “Fighting Monsters.” She has since closed the blog, for personal reasons she did not disclose. But I was very struck by the quote she references while explaining the name of her blog.

“Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” Nietzsche.

For her that was about the monster “mental disorder and illness.” For me it applies to all of the various ways we want to help and give care. If we don’t pay attention, we will fall into the very trap we are trying to help our clients climb out of. Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common warnings of the beginning fall. As professionals who work to support clients facing any number of difficult challenges, we need to be sure we have the appropriate tools to manage stress. But knowing stress is a problem and doing something about it are frequently two different things. It’s a bit of the forest from the trees problem. When we are standing in the middle of the stress we really think we are handling it quite well. If we can step back a few steps, we frequently find that we are doing a pretty poor job of it.

The most amazing part of this discussion, is that everything we use when we talk with clients are things that are available to us as professionals – and vice versa. Everything we talk about in these articles on stress are important for clients and therapists alike. There are four important elements in any stress management approach – TALK, WRITE, THINK, MOVE. The next four posts will take them on.

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