Each of us at some stage in our lives will experience challenges in our work which could include ethical and faith dilemas, traumatic situations and work pressure or our personal lives, for example, financial concerns, relationship problems, ill health, personal bereavement.

Caring for dying and deceased people and providing comfort, advice and information for  bereaved relatives and friends can be difficult as  sadness, distress and strong emotions are often displayed. It is important that we recognise, relieve and manage stress that may arise when we care for dying patients and bereaved relatives, especially when we are exposed to emotionally charged situations.

The culture in our workplace can help build resilience to work related pressures. Whilst appropriate education and training help us feel confident about the care and support we provide we also need to receive support in the from peers, managers and our employer. It may not always be obvious that someone is struggling so it is important to tell a colleague or manager when you find a situation tough, so we can get the support we need.

Personal Bereavement

Grief impacts on the emotional, physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing of the person who is bereaved; at any time 1 in 10 employees is likely to be affected by grief. Returning to the workplace following a personal bereavement is often seen as a step towards resuming normal life however it can be a difficult thing to do if we are in a role where we care for dying people and bereaved relatives. It is hard to leave grief at the door when we go to work, it can affect concentration, energy levels and relationships with our work colleagues. Support from our manager and colleagues can make a difficult situation less painful. Managers are in a good position to provide support as they know what is available in the organisation (such as employee assistance, counselling services) and how to access services. When supporting a bereaved colleague key points to consider are: acknowledge the death, make time to listen and offer practical help.

Recognising Stress

Stress manifests itself in a number of ways and it is important to recognise that we are stressed. Things to look for include:

  • Feeling under the weather
  • Low self worth
  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety
  • Worry

Managing Stress

Many strategies can be put in place to reduce stress levels and help maintain good mental health. For example:

• Talking about your feelings to someone you trust
• Exercising for around 30 minutes a day
• Eating well – a healthy well balanced diet
• Drinking sensibly and avoiding addictive substances
• Keeping in touch with friends
• Taking occasional breaks to relax
• Doing something you are good at to boost your self esteem
• Accepting who you are
• Giving something back to your community
• Talking to your GP who can refer you to counselling, psychological services, self harm and suicide prevention services as necessary.