“Self-care can be defined as any engagement with practices that promote well-being” (Myers et al., 2012). As a holistic concept, self-care can be seen like a mixture of factors, physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Self-care can mean diversity of activities differing from each person individually: sleep, healthy diet, exercise practice, maintaining social activities, developing emotional regulation skills, mindfulness, seeking therapy or practicing one’s faith (Wicks, 2008). Although we encourage self-care practices in working with clients, evidence suggest that we struggle to apply the same practices in our lives (Wise, Hersh, & Gibson, 2012).
Studies reveal that working with clients with disabilities and mental health condition can cause distress and burn out that self-care practices can ameliorate (D’Souza, Egan, & Rees, 2011; El-Ghoroury, Galper, Sawaqdeh, & Bufka, 2012; Volpe et al., 2014).
“Burnout” is a term used to describe stress resulting from work-related demands. As consequences of burnout are emotional exhaustion, feeling lack of accomplishment and depersonalization in one’s professional identity (Maslach & Goldberg, 1998; Smith & Moss, 2009). Although in this context, “distress” refers to mild symptoms, it can also be categorized as “burnout” causing in personal and professional functioning (Smith & Moss, 2009).
Researchers have found that working in helping professions like social care, psychology can become a risk for burnout and distress (Lee, Lim, Yang, & Lee, 2011), but can be also a risk for those in training or in early stage of their career (Pakenham & Stafford-Brown, 2012) due to various reasons.
For example, for someone in training or in the early stage of their career, a cause of distress can be lack of experience, possible competition with peers, anxiety (Badali & Habra, 2003; Pakenham & Stafford-Brown, 2012). Traits like ‘aspiring to perfection’ (Pica, 1998) or excessively investing in “caregiver” role identity, working with clients who have a particular personal significance for us can have a higher risk of burnout and distress (Wicks, 2008).
One study revealed that the over-involved attitude in the client’s care and high level of job-related stress, cause emotional exhaustion meanwhile low level of emotional exhaustion and high level of personal accomplishment for those who felt support from their colleagues and manager and had some control over their schedule. (Lee et al., 2011)
Other research findings are highlighting the importance of expectations as for trainee or early stages of career, lack of tolerance for uncertainty or “not knowing” (Pica, 1998), excessively optimistic attitude in regards their ability to effect change with clients (Skovholt & Rønnestad, 2003) together with long working hours are more likely to cause distress and burnout (Kumary & Baker, 2008; Schwartz-Mette, 2009).
Self-care practices like resilience factors and useful attitudes including holiday, time off, enjoyable activities, cultivation of social support networks, hobby’s but also useful attitudes like acceptance of own limitations, realism about competencies, self-awareness and the ability to see the positive side of the one’s profession. (Zwack & Schweitzer, 2013) prevent distress and burnout.
Distress and burnout in working with disabilities and mental health problems, according to some studies are linked with low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety and depression. (Butler & Constantine, 2005; Thoreson, Budd, & Krauskopf, 1986; Truell, 2001). They were reported episodes of clinical depression, suicidal thought and behavior as a consequence of it.
Mild impairments of memory, concentration or decision-making effectiveness have also been linked with high level of distress and burnout. (Enochs & Etzbach, 2004; Skosnik, Chatterton, Swisher, & Park, 2000). In the end, these symptoms can also cause professional impairment. (Barnett, Baker, Elman, & Schoener, 2007).
The gravity of consequences of distress and burnout, both personal and professional as a result of lack of self-care lead many studies focus on the topic and an ethical imperative. (Barnett, Baker, Elman, & Schoener, 2007; Carroll, Gilroy, & Murra, 1999; Norcross & Barnett, 2008)
The personal barrier is one of the reasons of lack of self -care, including some common characteristics for people interested in helping professions. Aspiring for perfection can lead to lack of self- care and refusal of its benefits (Irving et al., 2014).
ver identification with the role of caregiver can lead to focus on other above self (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2014). Also, a wrong perception of ourselves being immune to stress effect on our well -being because we are trained to help others and we know better how to cope with things that can lead to a denial of distress (Gold, Johnson, Leydon, Rohrbaugh, & Wilkins, 2015).
In my experience as a support carer, being over motivated to learn and to get familiar with clients and staff as well, I choose to do overtime. I was so dedicated that I forgot about my well-being and I was over stressing and exhausting myself as the environment is less pleasant or peaceful and more frustrating most of the time.
Slowly I have started to have high level of anxiety, to feel depressed and no energy or interest for others things that I have once enjoyed. As my need is to understand people/clients and provide support, I had struggles and I haven’t been able to ask for help neither in my personal or professional interests. I reflected about what is happening with me and it took me some time to find out the cause as I always thought about me as sensitive but also positive and able to cope with things.
I realized that besides the negative energy that brings a job like mine, it is also a lot of frustration about my high expectations and limited resources, the need of perfection, my empathy which makes me investing a lot and drains me of energy, the fact that working with people in need brings out more of my humanitarian side of personality instead of the social carer/psychologist one and the outcomes are not always satisfying. Finding the right balance when comes about giving/investing is also a lesson for me to learn for my well-being.
Understanding and accepting the fact that improvement for my clients means small steps and caring to much sometimes is as wrong as it is not caring at all.
Having a full-time job and being also a full-time student, both of them being the source for my doubtable skills and aptitudes, affected my self-confidence and increased my level of anxiety.
My motivation and need of achieving my goals, not being able to accept my limited resources, feeling fear of a possible failure, made me push my limits till the edge.
Although self-care was always a priority for myself, I ignored it in my way to pursue my dreams and giving the best for it. Though I provide help for vulnerable people, I am never able to admit the need and accept help for myself from others. The purpose of this paper made me aware of the patterns of my behavior, it proved to be wrong and I intend to change it for the benefit of my self-care.
- Workplace communication
Workplace communication is „a process of exchanging information and ideas, both verbal and non-verbal, within an organization”.
An effective workplace communication increases productivity, provides good outcomes achieving the goals of the organization. Nonverbal communication is also very important as it influences the message and the meaning of it. (Guo et all,2009)
Reflecting on my experience as a support carer, I realize that workplace communication is not an efficient one from different perspectives. Tweedie and Johnson (2018) argued that several things might affect the efficiency of communication in workplace, such as: language barrier, cultural, emotional, perception barriers. (Tweedie, Gregory; Johnson, Robert, 2018)
First of all English is not my native language and it can often happen that either I am not understood correctly, either I don’t understand them, in both cases further details are requested in order to deliver the message so we can communicate effectively. Sometimes colleagues might lose their patience or their interest and pretend they understood me even if they did not.
Second, there are cultural barriers that also affects the efficiency of communication between us. For example, if I need to support one of the service users having a meal and my leader says to prepare a specific food or dessert for them, I might not be very helpful as I am not familiar with the food preferences in the UK.
Other than that, the third aspect is that my professional background is totally different meanwhile all my colleagues have studies or loads of experience in social care. That brings another barrier between us, the emotional one. I become obedient as I feel inferior to them due to lack of practice. That, obviously affected my self-confidence.
Communication from superiors is also faulty, as I mentioned I have lack of practice and although this fact is well known, the information that I have received is too little, which makes me confused, frustrated, uncertain and excluded. Sudden Marsha (2007) concluded that the amount of content of information has high importance for efficient communication at the workplace as giving too much or giving too little can always be wrong. Too much information make to audit to lose their attention and interest while too little make things confusing and unclear. (Sudden, Marsha,2007)
The general communication between superior and employees is faulty as information is not delivered. As Picardi’s (2001) research revealed, a balance informal workplace communication is also important for proper functioning of the organization as employees must be informed in case of updates, timely. (Picardi, Richard P. 2001)
As everyone has almost the same background in social care but each one of them is used to do certain things in a different manner as they developed habits during time and practice. As Guo and all (2009) argued, different cultures or backgrounds of employees can enhance or bring obstacles in communication. (Guo et all,2009)
It can be amazing and funny thinking of how a simple thing/action can be seen different from so many perspectives. It needs a complex equation to actually calculate all the possibilities. It can happen that the same colleague will ask me to do a thing for a specific person one day and the next day will ask me to do it in a different way for the same person; the same thing does not apply to all for unknown reasons or different people doing the same thing in a different manner for the same client…..you got the idea.
For example, one of the clients has an alcohol addiction and if he has more than two drinks per day, he won’t be able to get his meds although has Schizophrenia. While some of the colleagues agreed to support him to go at shopping or a bar so the client can have an alcoholic beverage, others said we are not supposed to support him as is encouraging an attitude that affects his well-being. In the end is clients decision, not ours and with our support or without, he still has his drinks on a daily basis.
All we can do is advice him for his personal benefit, and sometimes if we cannot prevent him having those drinks, at least we can control it by supporting him and reminding him about the consequences of this action. I’ve heard so many versions of what we supposed to do, support him for shopping if he is sober, not supporting him with shopping if he is already drunk, support him having a drink at the bar or not, in what circumstances? Everyone’s opinion is different.
In similar situations, I get confused, I ask my manager and I share the information with all others.
Is also difficult to communicate with colleagues in terms of psychological perspective in regards client as they have loads of experience in social care but none of them studies of Psychology. Telling them about some theories related to the challenging behaviors or issues some clients might have, my colleagues will not show interest. The same happens if I have a specific or different opinion about a certain thing or situation.
Reflecting and understanding all this now, my only desire is to improve things for myself and for the benefit of the organization. Even so it is really amazing how we manage to understand, accomplish the organization goals and do a great job with the clients. Because although the steps are small and unsure, there are positive outcomes from each one of them. Or using my characteristic sarcasm, I might just misinterpreted.