Responding to any sort of behaviour that is cause for concern or attending to any obvious behavioural distress requires staff to be calm and focused. Something that is not always easy. It can require considerable effort and emotional energy. On our Challenging behaviour training courses and our Physical intervention training sessions, we take the time to explore how staff may be feeling themselves during what can sometimes be a stressful time.  Something we always advocate is that staff must not forget to look after themselves.

Stress managementDealing successfully with a challenging situation involves simultaneously attending to the situation, and more specifically the person, in effect being there for them. Whilst at the same time it is critical to remain detached from what can be an enormously stressful encounter and keep enough mental space between and the stressors to ensure that you don’t take things personally. If you are working in a service where challenges are frequent you need to recognise that chronic stress levels can build and these can be to your detriment if not managed carefully.

In the moment your immediate response may involve presenting a calm exterior so as not to feed into any cycle of escalation. You will be attempting to slow things down and simplify events so it is easier for all parties involved to de-escalate. This may involve taking a deep breath, keeping your voice low and no matter how frustrated or upset you get your aim will be to model a measured response. When the individual you are caring for or supporting sees you are in control they are more likely to calm down and make the right choice regarding their behaviour

All this emotional labour comes at a price. Therefore it is important to de-stress after a working day, to discharge any stress that has built up and recharge your emotional batteries. By looking after yourself, you will help to make sure you‘re fit and healthy and in a better state of mind to help those you serve. Staff sometimes feel guilty about doing this, as they feel that they are somehow putting their own needs before those they serve. Nothing could be further from the truth. In doing so they should recognise that it will help them to provide more quality time and better support next time.

McGee* (2001) offers practical guidance to overcome this stress guilt in the form of an acronym: GUILT. He says:

  • Give yourself
  • Uninterrupted
  • Indulgent
  • Leisure and pleasure
  • Time at least twice a week.

Staff working in social care provide a service whose value is almost beyond words or money. They genuinely provide life changing support. But they must remember they are only human. Superman or Wonder Woman does not really exist. Much as we would like to believe they do! We must, therefore, be realistic with the care and support we need for ourselves as a result of the work we do. Not everything is going to go the way we anticipate every time. Whether it‘s an activity, a challenging situation or an intervention aimed at calming things down. What you need to do is look after ourselves and ensure we carry out the appropriate stress maintenance as we go along.

For more information on managing stress within the context of responding to situations that arise within the work setting check out our training courses. SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to enable support workers, carers and foster families to best respond to any ‘Challenging Behaviour’ that may occur. All programmes are finalised after full training needs analysis and delivered by experienced frontline practitioners. Click to see our ‘Preventing & Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Course which includes ‘Positive Behaviour Management’ techniques designed to minimise the need for any kind of restrictive intervention. You can also take a look at our person centred Behaviour Planning Service.

Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: or T: 01904 492442

Reference: 59 Minutes to a Calmer Life by P McGee (Go MAD Books, 2001)