It can be called "secondary trauma," "emotional toll" or "caregiver stress" - but whatever you want to call it, it certainly exists and needs to be addressed. I liked this definition of secondary trauma: "the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person" or the "cumulative transformative effect of working with survivors of traumatic life events." Have you experienced this in your job?
A few weeks ago, my office had a training for our staff that focused on the very real needs of caregivers like attorneys and social workers that are working with families in crisis. How do we manage our stress? How can we alleviate the emotional toll our job takes on us? Is it even fair to consider our own stress in comparison to our clients'? How can we experience trauma at work and then go home to our partners and children? Does all the suffering we see at work infiltrate our personal lives? We had a great discussion that day that ranged from stress relieving tips to how we separate our work lives from our personal lives. In the end, the goal is to help ourselves so that we can help others.
I was moved to see how my colleagues are genuinely invested in the work that we do, and how some of us have really struggled to come to terms with harsh realities we see everyday. We feel other people's pain, and sometimes it's a challenge to deal with our own feelings of guilt, anxiety, distress, injustice and hopelessness. It's hard to balance the desire to help with the feeling like we can never do enough. That's where this extremely well written, systematic and organized book comes in. It verbalized thoughts I didn't even know I was having, and gave me perspective to keep from burning out.
It turns out that the only way to take care of others is to take care of yourself first (this applies for being a parent, too). I'm sure other readers in similar high-stress jobs can understand... how can we efficiently help others if we are not able to manage our own stress? Our clients will benefit from our own stability. I think it's important to recognize this secondary trauma and deal with it properly - so we can continue to do our jobs, but also so we can continue to live our lives.