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Emotionally draining jobs, how do you handle it?





missdixy
Alright, so I recently got a job working for a non-profit and in my day to day job I deal a lot with people (and their family members) who are facing diseases (like cancer) that they could potentially die from. I've always known I wanted to go into the social services and work with people, so I'm not surprised about how emotionally-difficult and draining my job is, but I'm wondering what advice anyone has for how to deal with it?
watersoul
I worked with homeless, sick/disabled, unemployed/poor/seriously in debt and recently bereaved people, as well as folk suffering addiction issues and released prisoners for the best part of 17 years.
I totally understand, it can be absolutely draining emotionally sometimes.

There were days when I'd come home and just want an hour or two without having to speak to anyone, even my girlfriend, sometimes even hoping she'd come home late from work so I didn't have to pretend to be all "Hiya, how was your day", and then when I'd chilled out a bit, I wanted to offload some of the days stories into someone else's ears. This can help a lot, but it can be tiresome for the listener if they hear it all the time so I'd say be careful with your audience.

It's really difficult to offer advice for this, each of us are different in many ways, and how we cope with different emotions can vary wildly for each of us. I found it difficult at the start of my career because it was all new, raw, intense, and I wanted to help the whole world because I really felt the sadness or anger and desperation of my early clients.
After time though, it got much easier as any profession does through repetition of cases. The initial shock and/or sadness for a client with some horrible life situation dilutes greatly after working with 100+ people in similar circumstances.
It's not that I stopped caring, it's more that I focussed on the job in hand, fixing what I was able to fix within my remit (although I did cross a few lines over the years offering 'real' advice, or pulling strings, and/or using my own personal resources/time when I shouldn't have, on occasion), and referring people in the right direction where I couldn't help any further.

Remember though, you can't help everyone in life, and you can't save the world so you have to detach yourself sometimes and cheer yourself with the knowledge that because the person saw you that day, they had a better service/help than if they had seen than some other people who work where you do - if you know you did your best, don't ever feel any personal guilt when 'the system' lets the service user/client down. You are always you, not the organisation you represent.

Also remember that there is a percentage of people who you simply can't help, and they'll never even help themselves because they've almost forgotten how to, after many years of being supported by various agencies. You might not experience it so much with clients suffering cancer etc, but it's likely you'll come across a few family members who, knowing you are in the social care/support business, will on perhaps rare ocassions lie to your face, shamelessly milking your kindness to assist with problems not associated with your job role. Basically, a little bit of cynicism can be healthy sometimes, and it can help you avoid being angry at a later date when you realise someone has conned you, because it will happen at some point if social service is your career.

I have to say though, it was the feeling of inspiration some people gave me which was the best bit of my career. When you work with someone who has desperately horrible stuff going on but they remain positive and happy to be alive, it puts everything into perspective and helps you look at the BS shallow problems in your life as minor inconveniences - it certainly gave me reason to celebrate my own life, and it still does, as I remember some of the battles many folk have faced under terribly more challenging conditions than I have to.
That inspiration from some clients made my work an amazing thing at times, as well as the happiness I got when I personally made a real difference to someone elses life. Not my job/position, but me personally, from my words and the way I said them sometimes, to the practical help through my ideas or 'creativity' when working in a restrictively regulated framework.

I'm in the property restoration game now, general building work which involves no emotions at all. I absolutely love it and come home physically tired, but after a shower I feel energised and excited to do stuff and see people. For example, today involved wiring an electric ring main into a small flat/apartment, then making a start on plasterboarding the walls. The most troubling thought I've got at the moment about work is how I'm going to build a wooden frame inside/around some odd recesses in the living room tomorrow...I like that.

I do think it's a wonderful thing you're getting into though, 'people work'. The world absolutely needs that certain percentage of folk who care about their fellow human beings, and I firmly believe that if someone just chases it 'as any old job' they shouldn't be doing it.
It's the passion for helping others which is important, but if that passion, or empathy, takes too much from you then it's time to walk away - for your benefit, and the benefit of the service users who rely on you.
Only you know if it's right for you, I realised it was time for me to walk away from it earlier this year, but I've enjoyed many amazing experiences which have shaped me through the people I've worked with, and I truly hope you will have the same after however long you walk this new path.

Good luck with it, and I hope you gain as much as you give, but again, remember you can't be sad for everyone, and you can't save the world - but if you can look yourself in the mirror after work and say "I did my absolute best" that certainly deserves a little smile or a cheeky wink to yourself Smile

...then, totally move on from it, enjoy your evening to the full, and only think about work when you wake up the next day. You're fortunate to have a life with less challenges than the clients you work with, don't spoil your advantageous position by worrying about them when you're not on duty - and don't feel guilty about enjoying your own life, ever.
Gitesh
I work for india against corruption., the revolutionary movement which is looked as second freedom struggle of india., In last three months we are devoting 16 hours a day to this movement, I am main coordinator of this movement in pune city. I attend hundreds of calls everyday, besides my job involves media coordination, planning of events,etc. Its physically a wel l as mentally draining job, lost few kgs weight. Now I learned to how to work intelligently . Now I have started recruiting volunteers for every job., and divide the work between them. Main thing is I have started in believing in others and started giving others reaponsibility.
Insanity
First off, I'd just like to say that what you're doing is great, and that it's people like you who do the difficult jobs so that the rest of us don't have to.

As for tips, I'd say try to do things in your spare time so that you don't have time to mope over the things that happened over the course of the day. You might find that over time you'll become more desensitized to everything that happens, and you'll just get used to it. It's sad to say, but that's what usually happens with people who work at these kinds of jobs. One day these things will be occuring too often for you to dwell on them.

Like I said, do something fun that gets you excited, and take vacations often. Don't dwell too much on what you did during the day, and just enjoy yourself. And remind yourself that you're doing good in the world, and you make differences in peoples' lives.
menino
I think you should not let it get to you, and keep knowing that deep inside, you are doing a good thing for them.
I can only imagine it being quite depressing to watch people with pain for quite a bit of time, but I think you just have to make a conscious effort, deal with it, and help them as part of your job, or as best as you can.

If you can't deal with it, I guess the other option is to quit and find another type of job.
Still, I think what your doing is great and brave.
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