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Educators Can Have Secondary Trauma Too

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront how educators are frontline workers and they have their share of stress. To top it off the current circumstances make them susceptible to secondary trauma due to the various interactions with their students.

Educators may be affected in significant, detrimental ways by the traumas they see or hear about. These effects may include vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress. Secondary Traumatic Stress is the reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from exposure directly to a traumatic event.

Secondary trauma symptoms are similar to those of posttraumatic stress and can include anxiety, depression, avoidance, and hyper-arousal. The educator's reaction to the student's trauma story may also mimic the trauma reactions of the student

Signs of Secondary Traumatic Stress

Prevention and Self Care

Components of self-care are physical, psychological, social and interpersonal, and professional. When considering physical self-care, it should include bodywork, which is exercise or yoga to reduce tension or stress. Proper nutrition and ways to maximize sleep are also part of the physical self-care component. “Psychological self-care strategies refer to effective behaviors and practices implemented to sustain a healthy balance between work and leisure” (Flint, 2018, p.120). This involves setting aside relaxation time for yourself with time management. The use of meditation and activities like reading or journaling are ways to create cognitive flexibility. This includes setting realistic expectations for oneself. Social and interpersonal self-care involves interaction with other individuals to promote wellness. A diverse social support system is important because one can receive highly supportive feedback from different perspectives when necessary. Social activism is also encouraged to give oneself a sense of satisfaction and purpose in addressing social justice. This is also helpful for a clinician who empathizes with clients and wishes to make a difference. Professional self-care is work-related strategies that help keep a realistic balance between work and home and devoting sufficient time and attention to each separately without compromising one or the other.

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