Preventing work-induced stress and trauma
- Feeling stressed or anxious because of work is not ‘just part of the job’
- Some jobs are more stressful than others but there are ways of managing stress before it becomes work-induced trauma
- If you recognise any of the signs of work-induced trauma, there things you can do to take action and connect with support.
What can I do if I'm experiencing work-induced stress or trauma?
Asking for support can not only help protect your own emotional wellbeing, it can also mean you are happier and more effective at work.
One of the biggest causes of work-induced trauma is how much time is spent with traumatised people. How work is divided among staff within an organisation is very important.
For more information on how organisations can better support staff, see 'What managers and organisations can do', below.
There are many ways to take a break. What you do is not important as long as it gives you a chance to relax and recharge. These tips were developed by the Headington Institute.
- Take time to escape (physically or mentally, films, books, holidays)
- Have rest time (down time with no specific goal or time limit)
- Make the most of opportunities to enjoy yourself (develop positive emotions, do things that make you laugh or smile, take part in creative activities, play with children)
When you’re doing challenging work or supporting people who need a lot from you, it’s easy to take on too much. Remember you’re only human, try to keep things in perspective.
- Be aware of the expectations you place on yourself – do they need to be more realistic?
- Accept that you are likely to be affected to a degree by doing demanding work
- Focus on things that are within your control
- Actively problem-solve difficult issues (for more information on how to do this, search online for 'problem solving', and 'structured' or 'active problem solving')
- Take regular breaks (including each day at work, as well as longer breaks for holidays)
- Try to understand yourself and your responses to stressful situation
Being confident in your skills and working in a cooperative, supportive workplace are keys to doing your job well. Having the rights skills for the job also helps manage stress. There are plenty of ways to improve your skills that don’t require formal training.
- Read about or do training in vicarious trauma
- Ask for support from workmates
- Request regular professional supervision
- Seek variety at work, try different tasks
- Develop professional networks and relationships
- Take this information to your manager or supervisor
It’s important to keep a balance in your life and focus on the value of the work that you do. Keeping things in perspective can help make you more resilient and satisfied in both your work and personal life. These simple actions can have a big impact on the way you feel.
- Keep a healthy balance of work and life, as well as balancing the types of tasks you do at work
- Remember the importance and value of the work you do
- Be mindful and appreciate the little things (for example a warm day, good coffee, a hug)
- Mark important events, celebrate and grieve with rituals or traditions
- Stay connected with loved ones
- Find small ways to refresh and ground yourself throughout the work day
- Focus on doing your best (instead of only specific goals that ‘must’ be completed)
- Recognise and challenge any cynical beliefs that come up
- Seek out strengths and successes (in yourself, as well as others and the work you do)
- Consider activities to encourage personal growth (for example creative activities, journaling, mindfulness)
- Find what renews you spiritually and connects you to greater meaning (nature, religious belief, community and family) and do these things regularly
- Try a gratitude journal – at the end of each day write down three things you are grateful for, or three things that went well that day and why they matter
Managing the risk of work-induced stress and trauma is an important part of workplace health and safety within an organisation. There are practical and important things that managers can do to support the wellbeing of their staff.
Two of the most important factors that can prevent work-induced stress and trauma are:
- How work is allocated
- The support workers receive
Management support strategies reduce the chance that workers will become burnt out. These strategies can include:
- Regular clinical supervision and debriefing
- Rostering or alternated appointment systems, which are designed to minimise constant exposure to stressful environments
- Work allocation changes, such as providing for non-client or non-clinical duties in between clients
- Professional development opportunities such as workshops on trauma, domestic and family violence practice and work-related stress issues
- Providing professional development pathways or study time – this can help reduce the effects of work-induced trauma, and can also help workers to feel that their work and skills are valued
- Enhanced collaborative practice and inter-agency case management, so that workers do not feel they are the only one working with, or responsible for, a client’s or family’s safety
- Encouragement of self-care, down-time, lunch breaks and other re-fuelling practices
If you are a manager and want more information about what you can do to recognise and respond to work-induced trauma within your staff, visit The Headington Institute online training for further resources and tools. Australian training organisations are listed below.
1800RESPECT debriefing service
The 1800RESPECT telephone and online counselling service is available for workers and professionals at all times. You can discuss the personal impact of working with traumatised people with trained counsellors. Whether you want to debrief after a particular incident or talk about the long-term effects of trauma on your work or personal life, you can contact us on 1800 737 732 or through online chat. Both services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.