Stress Management for Workers in Helping Professions
CareerCast.com lists several helping professions among its Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs. For example, in 2013 public service jobs like military member, firefighter and police officer were mentioned in the list. Other stressful jobs include social worker, nurse, physician and educator. Additionally, many graduates of human services degree programs often find themselves in stressful jobs, such as substance abuse counselor.
How do people who have dedicated their lives to helping others remember to take care of themselves in the process? For example, 72 percent of social workers say their jobs are stressful. Also, nursing administrators estimate stress and burnout for nurses cost the health care system $250 to $300 billion annually. To keep qualified employees in some of society's most important professions, organizations need to proactively help these workers manage stress.
Sources of Stress in Helping Professions
According to research, some of the top stressors in these professions include:
· Having too many responsibilities.Fifteen percent of workers said that they wore "too many hats."
· Feeling work has no value.For 14 percent of workers, spending too much time on routine administrative work made them feel as though they couldn't attend to the most important matters.
· Few chances to advance.Many workers felt they didn't receive recognition for their work in the form of more responsibility, higher compensation or a better title.
· Poor work-life balance.Long hours and job demands made many workers feel they didn't have enough personal time.
· Insufficient resources.Budgetary challenges, old equipment and a lack of support from co-workers and supervisors made many workers in helping professions feel stressed.
· Unclear expectations.Not knowing what was expected or how to measure success made these employees feel as though they never did anything right.
Some of these stressors are intrinsic to the job environment. Many public sector employees operate in environments with constrained budgets, which means not enough personnel to provide support and teamwork. Also, other work like health care and education require extensive documentation and paperwork, meaning employees do not have enough time to invest in the parts of the job they enjoy.
Effective Stress Management Techniques
Workers in helping professions use many techniques to manage stress. Some examples include:
· Exercise.Exercise is the stress-reduction technique most widely recognized as effective by people in helping professions. Exercising with a friend, varying the routine and scheduling time for exercise tend to increase satisfaction and perseverance. All forms of exercise, from aerobics to yoga to martial arts to organized sports, help workers address stress.
· Mindfulness.Techniques like meditation and some forms of psychotherapy help these workers become more aware of their surroundings and actions. Becoming more self-aware and learning to self-diagnose negative behaviors contribute to lower stress levels.
· Hobbies that require concentration.Many workers choose hobbies that keep their minds focused. Hobbies can range from reading to fixing up cars, as long as they allow the mind to be distracted.
· Spirituality.Workers in helping professions are largely motivated to make the world a better place for others. Many choose these lines of work as a result of religious or spiritual convictions. Taking time to nurture the spirit, whether through organized worship or other types of rituals, can significantly alleviate stress.
Do What Works
Many people choose unhealthy habits as a way to cope with stress in helping professions. Alcohol abuse, substance abuse, binge eating and tobacco use is examples of unhealthy attempts at managing stress.
Perhaps the most insidious way workers try to handle stress is refusing to prioritize themselves. As they try to wear multiple hats and to function with limited resources, workers may assume devoting even more time to their jobs will help them to conquer stress. What they don't realize is that with proactive stress management, employees may actually accomplish more in less time. More accomplishment at work plus more time to devote to personal matters can improve satisfaction and increase retention in any helping profession.