The emotional impact of the work we do

Do you ever stop to consider this? Regardless of the type of work you do, freelance, employed, voluntary or even undefined; there is an emotional impact.

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This has become so obvious to me during Covid-19; so many people are juggling so many things. Work, family, changing circumstances, new rules of engagement; it’s a steep learning curve for us all. I’ve been facilitating short structured sessions, which provide the space for people to open up and share, the emotional impact of their work; through sharing experiences and telling stories. It’s a fascinating insight into life as a human.

Some people have been working in the health and care profession, some working in offices, some working at home…all navigating very similar thoughts and feelings, with many stories to share.

Overwhelmingly, the people that share are speaking of guilt, so much guilt. Guilt because they were shielding and couldn’t get out and do the work that was usually their bread and butter. Guilt that they couldn’t properly home school their children or in fact, do their job to the best of their ability, because of the impacts on each other.

Guilt because they felt that there were so many other people in more testing situations and “what right did I have to feel bad about my situation, when actually, it’s not that bad”.

Guilt was just one of the themes, helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety, worry and fear all came up too. But, there were many positives when they considered the holistic view. The work life balance was a hot topic; in fact, this was a surprising aspect for many people who previously had been against the idea of home-working. Not having to travel to the office; or between different appointments led to better energy, a lightness for life and indeed more happiness.

I think we all seek to compare our lives to others; to normalise our thoughts and feelings – it’s our nature – to fit in. Listening to all these stories that I have had the privilege to be part of has reminded me that our experiences always trigger emotions on some level; most of the time we take that for granted or it goes unnoticed. It’s only when we get to the point of having a full bucket of emotions do we see it spill over.

It’s a fine balance between allowing the acknowledgement of emotions to come through and feeling safe to release them and I should note that these sessions are highly structured and contained for everyone’s emotional safety and wellbeing.

Hearing these stories has reminded me that it’s ok to be human. It’s ok to experience an emotional impact in the work we do; whatever that work is. Feeling is part of being, and if I wasn’t able to feel the ‘pain’ of the people I work with, how could I empathise and do my best work? It’s a question I’ll be reflecting on further.

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