As practitioners in the field of mental health, it is important for us to constantly ask the question, “How am I doing”? If we begin to neglect ourselves, our ability to care for others can rapidly become compromised.
This section looks at stress across two different life realms: the personal and the occupational.

The Four Dimensions of Stress

Any understanding of self-care is incomplete without a concomitant understanding of stress; what it is, what it does, and how it is caused. It is important to note that stress in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, in manageable doses, it can serve as a motivating factor in our lives. It can push us to do more or to make changes with the things in our lives that are not working for us. It forces us to reflect on what is going on, to take stock. However, if left unchecked, it can also have negative impacts. While some of these impacts are quite minor, others can be far-reaching.
Stress can be viewed along four different dimensions : the cognitive, the affective, the behavioral, and the physical and can impact individuals in one or all of these areas. While human beings have a remarkable ability to self-regulate, in large enough doses stress can dramatically compromise functioning. This can result in compromised intra-personal and/or interpersonal health.

Personal Stress and its Causes

At the personal level, there is no way to provide a comprehensive list of the different stressors that people experience. Some examples however, might suffice. Personal issues like divorce, the death of a loved one, parenting stress, and national catastrophes can all have an impact on an individual’s level of stress. Other stressors might include increased family responsibilities or personal commitments outside of work. What is stressful for one person, however, may have little or no effect on another. This fact calls attention to the importance of self-awareness. By finding the time to monitor our own stress, we can better deal with things as they arise.

Professional Stress and its Causes

As already noted, mental health practitioners work in highly stressful environments. If allowed to escalate, stress can lead to many negative job-related outcomes. How we choose to negotiate these environments has a lot to do with whether or not our stress is alleviated. As is the case with personal stress, the causes of occupational stress are also many. Some identified factors are listed here and linked for additional information.
While some people choose to deal with issues as they come up, others choose to avoid them. To some extent, our personal coping styles dictate these choices. Click here if you would like to learn a little bit more about coping styles.
This section has presented information on stress and some of its possible causes. Click here if you would like to complete a very brief individual stress assessment. You will note that many of the previously mentioned stress concerns are included in the stress assessment. Are there other stressors in your life that are not reflected in the stress assessment? How have you been coping with them?