John-Langba discussed stress and stressors; cognitive approaches to stress management; identifying self-defeating internal dialogue; environmental sources of stress for helping professionals; how to cope with stress in the work environment and understanding burnout.
‘As helping professionals we often complicate our lives by believing that we must know it all and be perfect. If we feel depressed or agitated about work, it is important that we examine our basic assumptions and beliefs to determine how they are influencing our work and how we are feeling,’ he said. ‘If we have the capacity to escalate the stress we experience, then we also have the means to lessen it.’
To cope with stress resulting from inappropriate policies at the work place, John-Langa advised healthcare staff to focus on making changes within the scope of their position or job rather than on institutional change. ‘If a particular policy does not seem to be in the best interests of patients/clients or you as an employee, you can begin by questioning the assumptions on which the policy is based and formulate new ideas (which could influence new policy development) that are evidence-based,’ he said.
John-Langba noted that professionals in many careers experience burnout, but those in the helping professions (health care, social workers, psychologists, etc.) are especially vulnerable because of their involvement with people in need.
‘The goal is to replace ineffective coping strategies with constructive ways to control stress. Find a counselor before you need one. Don’t allow shame and embarrassment to stop you from seeking professional help at various times in your life. Eat right, sleep right, and get reasonable exercise Don’t forget about the value of recreation and play,’ said John-Langba. ‘When you are experiencing a personal crisis, recognise that you cannot expect to always function at a high level. Know your limits, both personally and professionally. Taking good care of yourself as a helping professional is not only healthy for you but will help you better serve your patients/clients.’