Occupational Stress

firefighters yoga class

Sheepdog Yoga provides relief from occupational stress and compassion fatigue while promoting health and wellness.

Occupational Stress and the Role of Yoga

Good health is not just the absence of illness but also includes physical, mental and social well-being (WHO, 1986). Work-related stress is the response a person may have to the demands, expectations, challenges or pressures placed by an organization, supervisor, customer or co-workers. If these demands exceed the resources, training, support, or skills of the worker, then pressure becomes excessive. If not managed properly, this often leads to stress and/or burnout.

Compassion fatigue occurs when helping others compromises one’s own health and well-being. Service demands can be overwhelming and a lack of resources or support can deplete a professional’s capacity and readiness to deliver. In vicarious or secondary trauma, the client or patient can transmit trauma to the helping professional due to the level of compassion and empathy required for an effective response.

Stress can damage a person’s work performance, health and relationships. Long-term stress can lead to exhaustion and burnout. Research shows that resiliency can help a person recover and ‘bounce back’ from challenges, stressful incidents and traumatic events. Resiliency is associated with several personal attributes, including: positive relationships, sense of humour, positive self-image, confidence, insight, healthy boundaries, optimistic mindset, positive activities and hobbies, competency, perseverance and spirituality. Yoga practice fosters all of these valuable personal attributes.

Yoga also provides an immediate form of stress relief by helping the mind and body release tension, and by alleviating symptoms including aches and pains, headaches, digestive problems, tightness of chest, stiffness in shoulders, difficulty breathing and fatigue. Yoga helps develop a better awareness of stress in the body and mind, and contributes to improved personal responses to stress. Yoga can help counteract stress responses by decreasing the body’s arousal by triggers, and by improving control of internal stimulation.

As a long-term form of relief, yoga provides individuals with opportunities to develop many of the attributes that help develop resiliency.

1. Positive relationships: Through yoga people with similar interests get together for common goals, such as health and wellness, fitness, and providing one another with support.

2. Sense of humour: A good yoga teacher sees the humour in the human body, helps to share the laughter of not taking ourselves too seriously, and allows laughter to support physical release.

3. Positive self-image: Yoga can help people see themselves in a different light, as they explore, practice and challenge themselves during a yoga class. Through regular yoga practice, people often feel better about themselves, more fully accept themselves and improve their posture and presentation.

4. Confidence: Yoga allows each person to explore his or her thoughts, feelings and body in a safe environment by using breath and movement. This exploration provides opportunities to feel stronger, healthier and more confident.

5. Insight: Yoga fosters insight. Breathing, moving, focusing and learning are all key ingredients in a yoga class. The process of releasing one’s thoughts and feelings while challenging oneself develops insight into self as a natural by-product of the overall experience.

6. Positive hobbies and activities: Yoga is a positive activity because it provides opportunities to become healthier in mind, body and spirit. The mind may feel stronger, more clear and focused, while the body gains strength and flexibility. The spirit feels brighter as one gains confidence and insight, and one’s sense of purpose and well-being grows.

7. Competency: Through regular yoga practice, people realize they are stronger and more able to achieve then they previously thought. Yoga fosters new skills in relation to one’s body but also one’s mental and emotional life. Patience, gratitude, kindness, focus and perseverance are all developed through yoga. These capacities are just as valuable off the mat, and can improve any activity or relationship at work or home.

8. Perseverance: Yoga teaches that progress comes with patience and practice, that certain poses can only be achieved with perseverance, and that meditating is not always easy but worth the investment of time. Yoga also teaches that progress can be achieved in incremental steps, as in practicing better breathing and mindfulness, and learning poses safely by starting with alignment.

9. Spirituality: The practice of yoga encourages a person to have faith: in oneself, in family and friends, and in humanity. Faith gives hope, and hope provides optimism and encourages happiness and positive outcomes.

In summary, yoga provides direct relief from work-related stress while fostering resiliency, preventing symptoms, and helping to restore and heal.