Every profession has a collection of unique occupational hazards. Even though psychologists are usually responsible for other people’s mental well-being, they can’t escape occupational stress vulnerabilities. For many, psychology is a rewarding career that provides opportunities to help people from all walks of life every day. Unfortunately, providing counseling and treatment therapies to others requires a psychologist’s personal and professional life stability.
Even a psychologist can be vulnerable to occupational stress, which can lead to poor performance. It is hard to imagine that professionals who deal with people’s dilemmas daily can face one of their own. Notably, in many cases, these professionals tend to ignore the common signs of stressors, resulting in adverse consequences to their physical and mental well-being. Relationship conflicts, job frustration, loss of professional credibility, etc., are some common outcomes of ignoring stressors, which may ultimately affect their patients’ well-being. Hence, psychologists need to identify the alarming signs of occupational stress like every other person.
Perhaps, in the majority of cases, the common stimulators of occupational stress include:
1. The stress of playing the professional role
When one helps people overcome their emotional and mental struggles, the challenge of a quick shift in a role can become exhausting. Working constantly with people in distress can sometimes leave psychologists unable to isolate the work context, especially those working in the field of forensic psychology. Not just seasoned forensic psychologists but also those currently pursuing an online forensic psychology degree can indulge in frustration and anxiety. One of the common reasons behind this is that forensic psychologists need to take sides in most criminal cases.
Though many psychologists say that their practice is a way of serving the community, it is their primary mode of earning. Undoubtedly, practicing psychology alone is a daunting task. Personal and professional issues such as decreased revenue, billing issues, paperwork, malpractice insurance, etc., easily push them towards an insane amount of occupational stress.
2. Burnout and Vicarious Trauma
Often, burnout issues mostly go unnoticed until it’s too late. Psychologists go through mental exhaustion as they have to deal with other people’s long-term cycle of trauma. Vicarious trauma and burnout for psychologists go hand in hand because psychologists are susceptible to getting affected by people’s traumatic stories as an empath. Burnout can make this susceptibility even worse, leading to clouded judgment, stress, frustration, and inability to practice efficiently.
How Can Psychologists Look After Their Professional Health and Well-Being?
The American Psychological Association strongly encourages and prompts the well-being and professional health of psychologists. A psychologist must keep a close eye on the slightest signs of collegial or personal stress, especially if it’s professional distress. The APA offers self-care resources and practices to push psychologists towards making their physical and mental well-being a priority. A few of the following tips have proven as highly efficient for psychologists in dealing with occupational hazards and vulnerabilities.
· Keeping a Work-Life Balance
Many efficient psychologists are pushed towards occupational burnout because their work-life balance is a mess. Since psychologists work to resolve people’s emotional problems, it can take extra effort to isolate work context. Experts suggest that numerous self-care strategies involving physical and emotional care can reduce stress related to work-life conflicts. One such self-care strategy is to remain vigilant about the prevailing symptoms and make conscious efforts to counteract these stressors. Other self-care activities can include varying professional activities, self-assessment, and building relationships with colleagues.
· Setting Healthy Boundaries
It is incredibly crucial to know when to take a break and step back. A psychologist’s job is demanding and requires a high level of devotion. There may be days when you’ll be overwhelmed by your packed schedule and have difficulty giving your best. These are the times when you should take a breath, relax, readjust your workload, or even take a day or two off. Embracing flexibility along with discipline is also a beneficial self-care practice.
· Being part of a Supportive Environment
A supportive and interactive environment is one of the best ways for psychologists to tackle work-related stress. Experts suggest that psychologists who work in an isolated environment should be a part of a social support network to help keep them adaptive and healthy. Tapping into consultation or peer support groups is a great way to avoid isolation and disconnection. Not only people but a supportive environment can include interests and activities outside of work as well.
· Your Health Comes First
A psychologist’s well-being is paramount. You need to be in top-notch condition if you want to be an anchor for emotionally compromised people. A person can experience a work-related or personal crisis at any point in his or her life, but if you don’t want it to affect your work, then the best course of action is to nip the evil in the bud.
Looking after physical and mental well-being must be at the top of every person’s priority list. If you’re someone who’s experiencing unusual negativity, then it’s best to take preventive measures and commit yourself to a healthy self-care plan today. It should include activities that promote both mental and physical health. It is essential to realize and accept symptoms of occupational stress and vulnerabilities when you experience them. A professionally healthy psychologist can do best to deal with the vulnerabilities of his or her patients.