Stress, Burnout and Vicarious Trauma Is Caring Impacting Your Own Health?

March is Social Work month, a time to recognize the hard, important work that social workers do for their clients and for society. But we are not the only ones who do great work; you may be a teacher, parent, caretaker, first responder, or other professional who is also charged with helping others in a way that has profound meaning. This article is for all of us.

Stress, burnout and vicarious trauma are the price we pay for caring. Stress is how the body responds to demand for change. Stress can impact our mental health and physical health. Burnout results from prolonged exposure to stress and often leads to fatigue, disinterest and a feeling of helplessness. Vicarious trauma occurs when someone who was not immediately involved in a traumatic experience begins to absorb the traumatic experience into their own being as they provide support.

If we are not aware of these signs and not careful to protect ourselves, caregivers and helping professionals can easily succumb to these pitfalls.

Not sure if caring is impacting you? Sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, forgetfulness, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, body aches, intrusive or racing thoughts, lack of interest in things you previously found enjoyable, irritability, mood swings and isolation can be signs that you are experiencing stress, burnout and/or vicarious trauma. Self-care can help.

Self-care refers to actions you can take to enhance your own well-being. These actions are intentional and help to improve mental and physical health, spirituality, stress management, relationships, balance and your sense of empowerment.

Self-care activities to improve mental health and emotional needs can include journaling, meditation, affirmations, laughter, volunteering and positive touch, such as hugs and kisses. Spirituality can be improved through prayer or meditation, attending religious services or experiencing nature.

Setting boundaries and engaging in creative activities can improve stress management. Too often those involved in helping professions are sought to do what they are paid to do with friends and family. By setting boundaries, you can reduce stress and use personal time to do activities that are meaningful and enjoyable. By setting these boundaries you are also able to improve relationships by removing the situations or conversations that lead to wanting to avoid family and friends.

To my fellow social workers and other helping professionals, I ask, how are you taking care of yourself?

In honor of Social Work month I’d like to remind us all to do meaningful things because what you do is meaningful! If you are interested in learning more about self-care, please call us 410-231-0488.

At Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting, Inc, the majority of our therapists are social workers.

Social workers are trained to view people and their concerns from a holistic perspective. This means that social workers are helping clients to solve situational problems and improve the systems they are involved in currently and historically. These systems may be the client’s community, school, job or national policies. This leads to social workers practicing in a variety of fields and working to create change not only for clients but for society.

Here at Blue Sails Counseling the owner, Velea Kelley, graduated from a teaching school, The University of Michigan. She has incorporated that teaching philosophy in our work and in daily operations. We meet with her regularly for individual supervision, to learn about the latest evidence-based practices and gain multiple perspectives on any given situation.

With Velea’s support I will be completing a certificate in Biofeedback and Couples therapy. We are a part of a team, which breeds confidence and security in working with those who seek our help!

Tiffany Blair
Tiffany Blair, LGSW, has six years of clinical experience working with children and adults. She is a therapist at Blue Sails Counseling and Consulting, Inc in Lusby, MD. She has advanced training in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. When not working, she is busy planning, organizing, crafting, and learning Taekwondo with her son.