Social Services: Counseling in times of stress

Source: NYSUT Social Services

This column examines ways in which NYSUT's Social Services Department helps union members with decisions about counseling, elder care and other social issues — including tapping into networks of services in communities around New York state.

From time to time, major changes in our lives tax our ability to cope. Injuries or newly diagnosed medical conditions, providing caregiving to a loved one, divorce, a child leaving home for college, a change in job responsibilities or living on a relatively reduced income in retirement are a few examples of transitional problems which precipitate stress. These types of problems are quite normal, if not predictable, for most at certain points in our lives.

Although common, these issues may cascade, especially if several problems converge in a short period of time, leading to feelings of chaos, unmanageability and even hopelessness. If the effects of these transitional problems are not monitored, our inherent strengths and resiliency may be compromised.

Even a short course of counseling with an objective and emphatic professional can reinforce your strengths and help you adapt to change. Effective counseling will highlight your previous mastery of problems and will help you see that what you are experiencing is normal and even similar to other problems you've coped with in the past.

The counselor's conveyance of understanding and support of your problem-solving strategies to date will be an important catalyst to adaptation. Cautionary reminders of the importance of pacing yourself and remaining patient in the adjustment process will relieve the stress of trying to meet a pre-determined timetable for resolution. Reflective listening by a counselor helps you better understand your struggles. As a result of such interventions, hope is renewed and acceptance of change ensues.

Some will master similar transitional stresses more quickly than others. We all are constitutionally diverse with different experiences. It is not useful to compare yourself to others or deny the importance of your distress. Engagement in the counseling process need not be for any prescribed period of time, but adjustment can occur in a relatively short time.

Refrain from going it alone when you clearly perceive you are stuck. It is easier to be helped through a difficult time than you think. If you conclude that counseling could help you accept and adapt to stressful life changes, call us at NYSUT Social Services at (800) 342-9810, ext. 6206. We will help you get the help you need.