How to Manage Stress That Comes With Change
RAFT Team, June 30, 2020
Change isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s often scary. It can even feel at times like change is impossible. So how do you manage stress that comes with change?
Changes, even minor changes, can reduce stress levels and make a situation work out differently — and better. Covid-19 forced change on all of us and fundamentally shifted the way Advocates work. In our most recent podcast, Indrani, Jeremie, and Alyce talk about what they’ve learned from the past few months of change and how these changes affect them as individuals and as an organization. RAFT's weekly Advocate support calls during the pandemic shaped many of these lessons learned and we learned what helps to manage stress.
Advocates Face Mounting Challenges
Our weekly support calls have given us valuable insight into how to best support Advocates during this time. Many Advocates told us that their organizations were worried that talking about Covid-19 would increase stress. Our calls became the only place many of them could be vulnerable enough to talk about what they were feeling. The most amazing lesson? When we’re brave enough to be vulnerable, we find we aren’t a burden. Rather, we're a gift because others can have similar conversations with us about what they’re feeling. Three themes stand out from the past two months:
Advocates are all experiencing feelings of shame.
As you work from home, you’re not able to support survivors like you’re used to. Pile on that the guilt that comes from realizing the stark contrast of having a safe home. It’s one thing to talk to survivors from the office, but to do it from your “safe haven” brings on a wave of guilt.
Advocates don’t have the immediate support of co-workers.
Those of you who work in courthouses and DV / SV organizations know that your coworkers are another form of oxygen. When you finish a challenging situation, you know you can immediately turn to a co-worker to debrief. Working at home doesn’t allow that. And the last thing you want to do is call a co-worker and increase their burden.
Taking calls from clients in your home is far more difficult than any Advocate anticipated.
You experience difficult conversations with your clients, especially now that so many are homebound. How do you shake off that intensity while on the phone and then shift gears to your home situation? It takes incredible effort to separate the two. In fact, it’s exhausting.
In this new world, boundaries have dissolved and new ones have reformed. Self-care is vital.
Our RAFT curriculum addresses boundaries, but in this unfamiliar world, we all needed to shift to maintain our resilience. Research shows that if we’re dealing with unmanageable levels of stress, we can’t build resilience. The only way to build resilience is to reduce stress to manageable levels so we can learn new tools and experience them and build that resilience to whatever is going on.
Covid-19 increased our awareness that we all need to find more ways to reduce stress. And spoiler alert: Self-care can make that happen. Consider these three simple yet impactful acts to help manage stress:
Reduce the number of different things you’re doing and become more focused on them.
Covid-19 has stretched us all in ways we never could have imagined. Take a few minutes to inventory all the things you’re doing. What’s the most important thing you’re doing for the people you’re having the most impact on? Give that thing the most energy. If possible, pause on everything else. Give yourself permission to lighten your own load so you can do what’s left to the best of your ability.
Make a designated “talk to clients” space.
Set aside a place for your client conversations. This way, when you enter that space, your brain switches into Advocacy mode. It can be a room, or a chair, or a particular table. Having this mindset and intention allows all other areas of your home to remain a “safe space” that is for carefree, work-free life.
Develop a trusted network.
Before you started working from home, your co-workers may have been this trusted network. They’re people who understand what you do and can support you as effectively as you can support them. But they aren’t there when you finish a tough conversation with a client.
If you can, schedule a time each week to debrief with a friend or group. Not only does this reduce your isolation, but it also increases your resilience!
Let’s acknowledge that right now, we’re all trying and doing our best. And let’s reframe our thinking about change — good things can come of it if we’re willing to embrace that change and be a little scared for a bit.