HOW SOCIAL WORKERS HANDLE STRESS AT WORK

Introduction

In a time when the unemployment rate continues to climb and so many people are desperate for work, quitting any job seems not only foolish but ungrateful. However, the state of the economy has also put workplace stress at an all-time high, with many people doing more work for less pay. Which can in turn brings Workplace stress.

Work-related stress can be called an occupational hazard for social workers. Meeting the needs of clients while dealing with bureaucratic red tape can be daunting, especially on a daily basis.

 

Work-related stress is common in today’s workforce, including individuals Practicing social work, given their profession’s client-cantered nature, Stress to social workers is a concern, particularly amongst those providing direct services, considering their experiences of insufficient time to complete day-to-day work tasks, heavy workloads, poor compensation, challenging and/or difficult clients, few resources, long work hours, and unclear job expectations, it is not surprising that social workers experience work-related stress. Under these less-than-optimal work conditions, social workers are often “pushed to the limit” when trying to complete their job requirements.

 

There are a number of ways to handle stress related problems.

·         Identifying your stressors

Stress management begins with identifying the sources of your stress and recognising the role you play in creating or maintaining your stress level. Perhaps you’re always running late because you’re not managing your time well, or you procrastinate when it comes to unpleasant tasks. Maybe you find it hard to say “no” and end up feeling overworked and underappreciated. Once you accept responsibility for your own stress-inducing behaviour, you can begin to feel more in control.

Of course, some stressors are beyond your control, including many of the demands that are inherent to the practice of social work. There are no quick fixes for clients with complicated emotional issues and for inequalities in social justice, health care and education. This is even more reason to reduce the stress you can control. Recognise your limits and learn when to say no. Instead of putting off tasks you don’t like, get them out of the way as soon as possible and move on to something more satisfying or enjoyable.

 

 It may not be possible to avoid people and situations that cause stress. Instead, develop effective strategies for different kinds of clients, such as using empathy to help calm down a confrontational client. Most importantly, keep clients' issues from seeping into your personal life by maintaining a healthy separation between your work and the rest of your life.

 

·         Stress management techniques

Ignoring workplace stress can lead to a host of problems, including burnout, impaired performance, poor mental health and health issues. Healthy coping strategies can help alleviate stress and establish a feeling of competency and mastery at work.

Evaluate the ways you currently cope with stress and decide if they’re healthy or unhealthy. Overeating, drinking too much, lashing out at friends and family or zoning out in front of the computer or television may temporarily relieve stress but will bring you more problems in the long run. A positive attitude is one of the strongest weapons against stress, but unhealthy habits rarely lead to positive thinking. By adopting one or more of these healthy coping strategies you’ll feel nurtured, more relaxed and ready to take on the challenges that previously stressed you out.

 

 

 

Stress among social workers.

There’s little debate over social work’s status as a stressful profession. Social workers practise in an increasingly difficult environment characterised by rising demands, diminishing resources and negative scrutiny from the media. Workloads have increased, working conditions have deteriorated and stress levels have escalated as a result.

Emotional eating is defined as the tendency to eat unnecessary food as a response to negative emotions or psychological stress. Known health risks of such ‘binge’ eating include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and an increased risk of heart disease, type II diabetes mellitus and gall bladder disease.

 

Tobacco use

Either as an effort to alleviate stress, or perhaps as a long-time habit, a small percentage of social workers reported smoking cigarettes. In terms of practice area, smokers are most common in mental health. Social workers in mental smoke one to five cigarettes per day, social work professionals smoke six to 10 cigarettes a day.

Smoking cigarettes is a way of reducing stress of work related issues in social work, but it has a very negative health impact on social work professionals, as smoking can lead to lung and heart related diseases. It is used as a coping mechanism.

 

Conclusion

Stress is a normal part of life and can be a good thing when it gives us energy to help us overcome obstacles. When it becomes a constant state of mind, however, it can rob us of the ability to think clearly and enjoy life. Developing coping strategies to manage the stress of social work will help you preserve your health, relationships and quality of life. It will also help you meet the needs of your clients to the best of your ability. Stress is associated with both short and long-term health problems. On the one hand, it can contribute immediately to ill health by promoting damaging behaviours such as excess alcohol consumption and drug misuse. On the other, chronic stress is known to produce metabolic changes relating to cholesterol levels, obesity and an increased risk of coronary heart disease, as well as having other knock-on effects such as depression and poor immune function. It’s therefore important to acknowledge the health risks of social work, a profession that has long been associated with stress, depression and burnout.

 

References

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Fahy, A. (2007). The unbearable fatigue of compassion: Notes from a substance abuse counselor who dreams of working at Starbuck’s.  

Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 199-205.Jaffe–Gill, E., Smith, M.,Larson, H., & Segal J. (2007). Understanding stress: Signs, symptoms, causes, and effects.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (nd). Stress...at work (Report No. 99-101).  

Naturale, A. (2007). Secondary traumatic stress in social workers responding to disasters: Reports from the field.Clinical Social Work Journal, 35(3), 173-181.

Ting, L., Saunders, S. Jacobson, J., & Power, J. (2006). Dealing with the aftermath: A qualitative analysis of mental health social workers reactions after a client suicide.