A social worker is not like a typical 9 to 5 job, but instead, they have a far different responsibility from the common professions we observe. For starters, a social worker does not have a fixed job pattern, nor their every day at work is the same as yesterday, so they need to be prepared for new challenges each day.
When it comes to ambiguity and something different each day at work, having stress is a given thing and which is why there is a lot of social work stress for people who are associated with this profession. Various studies prove that social workers depression' rate is much higher as compared to other professions because of a terminology called compassion fatigue.
As per the statistics to determine the most stressful professional, human health and social work activities rank higher than any other profession with a stress score of 83%. This alarmingly high-stress rate is due to many reasons. The nature of the job itself is very demanding, and if the social worker does not get enough care or time for themselves, the situation is bound to worsen over time.
Social Work Stressors
Social workers are subjected to various cruelties of life in the form of first-hand observers of the victims subjected to numerous forms of abuse or unfortunate conditions. While helping the victims and affected, social workers are bound to get emotionally and physically exhausted, and this is known as compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue results as too much negativity or sadness absorbed from the environment, thus increasing the social worker burnout rate.
Various studies have been carried out to study the effect of stress on social workers, highlighting social work and burnout. Social worker burnout statistics provide an indicated social work burnout rate of 39% and a lifetime burnout rate of 75% for people involved in social work.
What Are the Results of Social Work Stress?
Like any other profession with a stressful environment, a social worker is also subjected to work-related stress. Still, the problem arises when social work and stress cannot be separated. A distinctive feature about social work is that you cannot eliminate the stress from this profession but somehow reduce it to controlled levels.
If left unattended, many social workers go into long-term depression and experience various short and long-term signs and symptoms.
In the initial ways, social work promotes damaging behaviors such as an abnormal amount of alcohol consumption, a misuse of drugs to overcome a hard time at the job, and sleeping pills to run away from reality. Long-term stress includes modifications in the lifestyle that become hard to deal with, such as a change in appetite, variation in metabolic rate, insomnia, obesity, developing heart diseases, having mental issues, and poor immune function.
Social workers are closely linked to people who have experienced a hard time in life, so they are susceptible to secondary trauma. For example, a social worker may experience viable symptoms of secondary trauma, especially when they work with cases like:
- Abuse, violence, physical or sexual assault
- Death or lifetime injury
- Assisting people with the loss of a loved one
- Experiencing the death of a client
Therefore to prevent the diseases of social work stress from spreading too much, it is important to consider the stress-causing factors and deal with them beforehand and try to make things easier for a social worker.
How to Reduce Stress for Social Workers?
To reduce work stress for a social worker is a pretty tough task as they need constant support to get back to work each day and deal with the issues presented by their job. However, the good news is there are some ways to manage social work stress.
Identify and Resolve
For starters, a social worker must be able to identify a stressful situation for them. While a bad moment seems to overshadow the entire day, finding the particular trigger is the key to dealing with that issue easily.
After identifying triggers at your job, you can easily find ways to manage that particular situation, or if it's too hard to go through it again, then ask for support or help from your colleague to be with you when a similar situation is presented in the future.
Having time for social workers is one of the most important things. Even an hour each day dedicated to yourself can do wonders for your mental health. Try focusing on the positives each day and practice the things you love. Go for a walk in the park, meet your friends or have an hour of workout at the gym; either way, do what you love and observe the difference.
Leave the Issues at Work
No matter how unfair this sounds, carrying others' stress is not your job. Especially for a social worker, try to observe things as a third person rather than soaking up all the emotions. Be sympathetic but avoid bringing problems and stressful thoughts to your home.
One of the most important things for a social worker is not to ignore their health. You cannot help others if you are not healthy enough. Try taking care of your diet and health, and don't compromise on your sleep too.
Preventing Social Work Burnout
Although there are various responses to stressful encounters at social work, preventing social work burnout is the major concern if a social worker has to keep up with their health and remain active in the profession. Social work stress is a common leading factor to burnout, and luckily, there are multiple ways to prevent social work burnout.
- Allocating the sources available to help social workers achieve tasks without much trouble. This includes having enough staff suitable shift timings and ensuring health over the job, and the provision of hybrid working options to the social workers.
- Supervise employees to make sure social workers are not tired and drained to the point of burnout and ensuring staff support.
- Eliminating any other extra sources of stress such as workload or improper seating. Use of hybrid workforce and ergonomic chairs, so they remain relaxed during the desk hours.
Having stress management training sessions and stress relief exercises or providing standing desks to the workers can stretch and relax at their place.
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