If you are an essential service worker who interacts daily with the public, there is a good chance you have become an ear for your customers, listening to concerns and worries associated with this pandemic. Being immersed in other’s trauma, potentially multiple times a day, can be exhausting. And of course, you are facing your own anxieties, too. The added weight from customers, clients or co-workers can feel overwhelming; especially when it’s day after day.
Even if you don’t feel particularly burdened by your customer-facing conversations, it’s important to track how you are doing mentally. It is possible to be dealing with emotional exhaustion without fully recognizing it. According to Alberta Health Services (AHS), work stress can often lead to physical illness. “Constant stress can make you more likely to get sick more often. It can make chronic pain worse and can also lead to long-term health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, back problems, and depression.“ (Government of Alberta, 2019)
For recommendations to help manage your mental health in a customer-facing job, keep reading.
Own your feelings
Don’t ignore or bottle up your feelings. Allow yourself to feel.
Processing and addressing your stress and emotions, instead of allowing them to build up, can help you avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms that can be adopted to “drown out” the pressures you are experiencing. “Everyone has emotions-they are part of the human experience-and you have every right to feel them, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, race, political affiliation or religion.” (Mental Health America, n.d.)
Writing down how you feel about what you encountered through your day will provide you with an outlet for the difficult situations you encounter. Journaling will also enable you to increase your “emotional vocabulary” to allow you to express further how you feel. Mental Health America recommends “…building your emotional vocabulary by writing down as many “feeling” words as you can think of and think of a time that you felt that way.”
Find ways to relieve stress
Create a stress relief plan, personalized to you! Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
- Exercise A quick jog or walk around the block are great ways to get moving. Exercise is an extremely effective way of managing stress.
- Take on a hobby Try something new that you can look forward to. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy your hobby. It’s just for fun!
- Breathing exercises or meditation Calming your body and mind through a guided meditation or by listening to relaxing music can help relieve stress. You can also try these breathing and muscle relaxation exercises recommended by AHS.
Create emotional boundaries
You may feel a responsibility to “cheer up” customers who are struggling through the pandemic. The pressure can take its toll, and result in additional stress and add to the sense of lack of control. According to Alberta Health Services, “People who feel like they have no control at work are most likely to get stress-related illnesses.” (Government of Alberta, 2019) Psychology Today has provided mantras we can say to ourselves when we feel overwhelmed and weighed down by these added pressures:
- “I am not responsible for this person’s struggles and disappointments in life.”
- “I’m willing to help if I can, but everyone has to make their own way in this world. Sometimes they’ll be happy, and sometimes they won’t. It’s that way for me; it’s that way for everyone.” (Bernhard, 2018)
Talk it through
Participate in your workplace discussions
Talk with co-workers who may be experiencing the same challenges and stresses as you. If your workplace has wellness programs, get involved in making your workplace as supportive for its employees as possible.
Talk to a trusted friend/mentor
Open up about the daily ups and downs you’ve experienced with those who are close to you. Express how you are feeling!
Talk to a professional
Mental Health America says, “If you are taking steps to be more in touch with your feelings, but are having trouble dealing with them, mental health providers like counselors and therapists have been trained to help.” (n.d.) If you are considering reaching out for professional help, find mental health programs and services here.
If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
- Mental Health America. (n.d.). Own Your Feelings. [Webpage]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.mhanational.org/owning-your-feelings
- Bernhard J.D., Toni. (2018, August 28). It’s Time to Stop Taking Things Personally. Psychology Today. [Article]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-straw-gold/201808/its-time-stop-taking-things-personally
- Government of Alberta. (2019, April 7). Managing Job Stress. [Webpage]. Retrieved May, 2020, from: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=ta5662spec