Stress is a process during which the human body initiates a number of internal resources in order to confront a real or imaginary threat. A chain of physiological changes that take place in the process, prepare the body to either confront or flee the stressful situation. If this processes of confrontation or flee extend in time it becomes a negative stress and it can lead to significant health problems.
The mental health professionals also have thoughts, sensations, and feelings- private events- which on occasions are disturbing. These may derive, on one hand, form the daily contact with persons that suffer and, on the other hand, from their personal life. The way in which the professionals interact with and handle these private events will determine the impact that these will have on their wellbeing. This interaction can either contribute to a richer therapeutic relationship- and consequently greater quality of care- or, on the contrary, become a wrestling, generating more stress and limitations in detriment of personal and professional efficacy and satisfaction.
In professionals, negative stress is related to depression, anxiety, emotional drain and decreased professional satisfaction which may lead to professional burn-out. Negative stress also produces difficulties in attention, concentration and decision making, undermining productivity in the working context and the professional’s capacity to establish significant relations with patients/clients.
Application of mindfulness strategies has been proven effective introducing a different way of interaction with disturbing thoughts and feelings, i.e. to impede their interference with meaningful vital activities. From this perspective, mindfulness training should be seen as the provision of effective tools to handle and manage stress and, in a broader sense, to care for oneself. Transposed to the professional sphere, it will likely result in improved quality of care, therapeutic relationship, teamwork, and self-realization.