Saturday 1477 – 7th April 2012
Last week I told you about the loss of my sense of smell in my post Olfactory Deprivation
Little did I know then that this week I would be writing about stress at work and how it can make you ill but here I am doing just that.
Many of you will know that I’m a Social Worker and work with Older People. Some of you will know that I am also one of the safeguarding leads which means I work with cases where there is suspected abuse or neglect either by family, friends or agencies and their workers.
Of course this type of work takes its toll but it’s not just that which causes the stress – Oh No, it’s the paperwork; the mountains and mountains of paperwork. The government led processes that take 3 times as long as they used to and become ever more complicated with many, many different steps to try to remember with constant changes.
That and the feeding of computers which I can tell you are voracious! It is hard to keep up and the work just keeps coming and coming. Also because of cut-backs when staff have left or been moved to different departments they have not been replaced which naturally increases the pressure on everyone who’s left.
I’ve been feeling stressed for some time; unable to finish paperwork, thinking about work too much when I wasn’t there and feeling overwhelmed. On Monday morning I drove to work with a heavy heart; I felt like I literally had a weight on my chest .It takes me 40 minutes to drive to work and by the time I got there I was feeling pretty tearful and not at all well. As soon as I got into work I started crying and couldn’t seem to stop… My body was telling me that enough was enough.
I’m lucky in that I have excellent work colleagues and a wonderful manager. None of this is her fault she fights valiantly to improve things for us all at a considerable cost to herself and is the best manager I’ve ever worked for. She sent me home with strict instructions to visit my GP and take at least 2 weeks off which I have done.
I’m not the first to buckle and I don’t suppose I’ll be the last but many of my peers in the Social Work field are under considerable stress too so why have I been unable to cope ?
The doctor I saw on Monday was excellent having been off with stress herself she understood exactly how I was feeling and told me this was not my fault but was because my work was made so difficult.
She recommended a book by a Dr Tim Cantopher called Stress Related Illness which I’ve now got and which is shaping up to be very good indeed and most helpful. It highlights the type of person who is most likely to have difficulty coping with work related stress.
They are people who want to try to make things better for other people, who are prone to self-criticism, hard on themselves and fear failure. Unfortunately I certainly fit into all those categories.
I haven’t got to the bit in the book about what I can do to stop this happening again after I have recovered !! but I wanted to share this with you not for sympathy but for the following reasons.
Firstly If you are feeling out of control of your work or overwhelmed with stress act NOW – don’t wait until you get ill. Buy the book or see your GP, go for counselling or just work out why you are not managing your life and get support where you can.
The second reason is that Social Workers get a bad press and I wanted to redress the balance and tell you that the majority of us do great work and this caring about what happens to other people and trying to improve their lives often takes its toll on the individual.
Thirdly, when there is the next scandal with the death of a child or vulnerable adult (and there will be, as these things are unfortunately impossible to prevent at times) and you hear some jumped-up Government minister making a Social Worker the scapegoat and saying he will make sure this doesn’t happen again etc, etc , think about this post and remember that the Social Worker in question will probably be just like me, overwhelmed with work, hampered by ridiculous government led processes and feeling very undervalued. Remember too that whilst we used to spend 3/4 of our time out doing face-to-face work and 1/4 doing paperwork this figure is now reversed thanks to that same government and it’s policies and legislation. ( and I don’t just mean the present government but successive ones! )
By the way the photos of flowers throughout this post are of the bouquet of flowers my colleagues sent me. Wasn’t that nice of them 🙂 My photography has been keeping me sane and the production of my 2 blogs has helped take my mind off things while I recover.
Added 9th April My friend Eleanor, a Social Worker who has sensibly retired, sent me this photo in response to this post and I just HAD to add it in as it made me laugh.. ( the first picture isn’t accurate but the rest pretty much are!)
Just wanted to add a link to an excellent blog I follow called Sarvodaya as it just so happens I noticed today, when I was taking a break from writing this to catch up on some blogs, that he had also written about stress in his Bad Job Leads to Bad Health post
I thought it was time I threw in a poem too and what more appropriate one than this by Phillip Larkin about work!
Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?
Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison –
Just for paying a few bills!
That’s out of proportion.
Lots of folk live on their wits:
Losers, loblolly-men, louts-
They don’t end as paupers;
Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
They seem to like it.
Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets – and yet
No one actually _starves_.
Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout, Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on:
For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,
And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.
I don’t say, one bodies the other
One’s spiritual truth;
But I do say it’s hard to lose either,
When you have both.
I don’t like to leave this weeks post without something a bit more lighthearted so I’m including a few photos I took when I was in town today –
Was he the gateman do you think??
But it was all in a good cause 🙂
That’s it for this week “Recovering nicely thankyou very much Saturday Girl” signing off
You can see lots of photos on my other blog Helen’s Photomania here