Times of great stress. Call me naive but I had never considered this to be a part of my first year of practice. Yet here I am, writing about both my own experience of stress and a few ways I have managed it!

What do times of great stress look like? Often it’s the feeling that, like at university, you have too much work to do. It can also be the pressure you put on yourself to do certain things, staffing pressures that change your role slightly (COVID-19, I’m looking at you!) and mistakes that you may make, amongst many other things, of course.

Sometimes these times of stress are understandable and sometimes they are an exaggeration of emotion to a situation. Often, figuring out which type of stress I am experiencing gets me back on the green path.

If stress is understandable, I find myself thinking that I can be open about it to my team and that I’ll be supported to work through these difficult times.

However, where stress is an exaggeration of emotion I might see it as a sign that I’ve mismanaged something to end up in that situation. For that reason I find myself believing that this stress will not be as openly accepted by the team.

When I first started I sometimes thought to myself “just get on with it” and “you got yourself into this mess…” but this doesn’t always help. If no one knows how you’re feeling, they cannot be there to support. Exaggeration in the emotion of stress is a mental battle taking place within myself, with a tendency for me to look at things critically rather than on balance.

In either scenario, I find that supervision is great in providing perspective on the situation. It helps me to focus my inner critic in a helpful way, rather than being a ‘Negative Nelly’ all the time!

If I’ve mentally exaggerated the stress, then I come out of supervision with a completely different mind-set because my supervisor has helped me to recognise that. On the other hand, if the stress is understandable I emerge from supervision with an action plan to mitigate it. Either way supervision is fantastic, if done right, for helping to reduce stress by being an open and non-judgemental space for reflection.

Personally I’ve found engaging with other OTs, newly qualified or otherwise, has been useful too. It has helped me realise that we all go through similar things. Those of you following our Thriving Not Surviving project have helped me with this realisation process as well so thank you for your contributions.

Donning the green trousers (or shirt in my case) carries with it times of stress and that’s OK. Making sure that these times do not last and are used as development opportunities is what’s important, the support of other OTs and good quality supervision has helped me do just that.

Written by Ryan McClure

This project is funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust. If you’d like to learn more about the project you can do so via this link and the team behind it here

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