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The Umbrella of Stress

The Umbrella of Stress

I was preparing to teach the stress management programme to a group of senior police officers and we had talked about stress and what they defined stress as in their roles as supervisors.  I was very surprised when one of the groups turned to me and said that if it was not a physical injury, then it is always put under the umbrella of stress, a great way to look at it because of the many associated symptoms.  You could group all those effects that stress creates or causes stress and put them under that umbrella to actually see how complex it can be. I did after that comment ask the participants in subsequent classes to put under that umbrella what they thought was a part of stress, or what caused stress.

Now in something like the emergency services the role of the individual itself causes stress, the action of their supervisors, superiors and the public compound any issues to make more stress.  There is a need not just in those jobs, but almost any job to not underestimate the powerful and debilitating effects that that six letter word can have and the many effects it can have on the body if not dealt with.  It can lead to burnout if not dealt with, and even in severe cases mental breakdown.  But it can be prevented, the person who can prevent it is the individual that is looking back at you in the mirror, they are where the de- stressing process starts and finished.  As a therapist you are merely that guide, helping them through it.

So when does stress start to bite, well at any stage, it is how we deal with it that determines how it reacts to us.  If we can deal with it, then all well and good, if not we literally start on a slippery slope down towards burnout.  My GP gave me a rather negative but interesting fact once, she said that for each day you are stressed, it takes two to recover!!

So what happens, and what takes us to the point of no return?  Well the human functioning curve is how stress affects us (page 33).  The final part as we have already discussed is burnout, this is described as a progressive condition characterised by a loss in idealism, energy and purpose.  A syndrome of physical and emotional exhaustion, involving the negative development of job attitudes and a loss of concern or feeling for those who you work with or are close to.

The final stage of burnout is dangerous. The person has no reserves left to deal with any added pressure and the slightest additional stress can send the person into a severe mental or physical breakdown.

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