"VAN" (Europe Bureau - Aleksey Vesyoliy) :: The transition from child to adult can be rocky. A teenager may lose the confidence they had as a child. Unlike a younger child, a teenager isn’t as dependent on their family. A younger child realises they couldn’t survive without their parents, whereas a teenager is more aware of their ability to make it "on their own".

For teenagers, friends and peer groups are very important. By comparing themselves with their friends, a teenager gets a sense of how "normal" they are. Teenagers tend to seesaw between independence and insecurity after a distressing event. This sort of contradictory behaviour can be confusing to the teenager and to the parents and also to youth workers trying to help them.Family problems can occur if the family doesn’t talk about the event; the family misunderstands the teenager’s behaviour and assumes the teenager is just being difficult or taking advantage of the situation; parents try to keep the teenager from their peer group or criticise their choice of friends; parents feel hurt or angry because the teenager prefers to talk to friends about the event rather than the family; the family argues over different points of view; parents try to get emotional support from the teenager.

Stress nowadays affects a lot of people, especially those working in helping professions – youth workers, teachers, nurses, social workers etc. A lot of great professionals "burnout" after some time because they do not have an effective support mechanism and the right methods of self – protection. Sometimes, working with various people, it can bring up some hidden fears and emotions and simply lack of knowledge how to tackle them.

There is a commonly held belief that human service workers is a highly stressful occupations as a result of conflicting roles, status, functions and contexts. The very core of these occupations lies in relationships with clients. Even when social and youth workers or teachers, doctors, nurses etc are engaged with social groups who have clearly unrealistic or inappropriate demands or expectations, there is potential for internal conflict.

Much emphasis is placed on the relationship between client and a specialist. Human services workers have previously been identified as being at risk of experiencing stress and burnout. Their work is strongly client-based and involved in complex social situations. As such they can experience many of the conflicts that are evident in human service work.

Youth work is a profession of the heart. Most people come into the field because they are dedicated to and passionate about making the lives of young people better. Those same motivations make self-care an important topic.

Many researchers have studied the causes of burnout, and these causes can be grouped into three different categories: personal characteristics, job/role characteristics, and organizational characteristics. Additionally, many researchers have focused on burnout treatment and have identified several different techniques for reducing and/or eliminating burnout. It is the purpose of the present study to review and integrate all of the existing research on burnout causes and treatment.

It is very important also to provide professional and personal support to youth workers who work on a daily basis with vulnerable youngsters, by providing knowledge that can guide them in their work: to understand how young person’s behaviour directly or indirectly tied to attachment processes and to identify the areas of support the young people need.

In order promote knowledge and practical methods of stress management, youth workers and youth field activists travelled to Malta to take part in international training course “PAUSE- SELF REFLECTIVE PRAXIS FOR YOUTH WORKERS”. The training course took place from 2-8 September 2019 in Malta and gathered 27 participants from 8 countries (Malta, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and Turkey).

Marika Rimša Buša, Eva Behmane and Madara Strelča represented Latvia in international training course "Pause" in Malta.

The main aim of the training course was to raise youth workers’ and youth field activists awareness of the interplay between the inner and outer worlds of adolescents. Objectives of the training course were following:

► to raise in awareness of job burnout, secondary traumatic stress (STS) and vicarious trauma (VT) both on a personal and community level.
► Self-evaluation and in-depth assessment of occupational situations and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle that diminishes occupational exhaustion.
► to provide with methods and tools that resolve issues of burnout, STS and VT and other tools for youth workers to equip them with the needed support to do their work more effectively;
► to increase the level of youth work in the partner organizations in this project and beyond.

Most professionals easily recognize the importance of taking care of young people in our communities, but unfortunately do not recognize the importance of taking care of themselves until they are simply overwhelmed. This is why self-care should not be seen as a one-time or reactionary event, but rather part of our everyday maintenance and well-being.

Training course created a comfortable and safe space where youth workers, especially those who have faced moments of crisis, burn-out and stress, can reflect on their role, needs and resilience. Experienced facilitators and trainers Marie Claire Testa, Margaret White and Audrey Agilus provided participants with practical methods and tools for recovering balance with themselves and with the target groups in their work. Methodologies used during the training course were based on non-formal education methods such as experiential games, transactional analysis, debriefing, feedback methods, and evaluation.

Much of the growing body of literature perpetuates a prevailing "medical model view of the burnout phenomenon. In particular, the bulk of the research fails to grasp the nature of the social services as activities conducted in organizational contexts, and the problematic ways in which attitudes and practices are constructed and negotiated in these contexts.

Do you know what causes you stress? Knowing your triggers will help you identify when to pay more attention to taking care of yourself.

Diversity of activities gave all the participants an opportunity to open up and share their life experiences. In order to help other people, we have to take care of ourselves first. We need to tackle our fears and to ensure that we protect ourselves in stressful situations. "Sailing through fears to the shore of changed life." Most of our fears come from childhood, from various experiences – some that we are aware of and some that have been buried deep down in our souls.

Participants had a chance to explore themselves through various exercises. It is crucial to be aware and to acknowledge the fears as it is the first step to overcome them. Youth workers learned about the importance of assessing risks in their daily lives and to look after themselves in order to provide better support to others.

The first step towards taking better care of yourself is knowing where your problem areas are. Realistically, many people do not have the time or resources to go to the spa and get a massage at the end of a stressful week. But there are things you can do on a daily basis:

● I should give myself the same care and attention as I give others.
● I am not an endless "resource" for others, I must stock up on ‘reserves’ and not get too drained.
● I have needs to which may be different from my family’s, my friends or my colleagues.
● I do not have to say "yes" to all requests – or feel guilty if I say "no".
● The "perfect" parent, partner, child or teacher does not exist – the "good-enough" one does!
● I have the right to be treated with respect as a worthwhile, intelligent and competent person.
● I do not have to have everyone’s approval all the time to know that I am trying my hardest.
● Time for unwinding is time very well spent.
● Making mistakes is not a disaster – I can learn from these and it allows others to as well.
● I must be fair to myself and remember, at all times especially in the face of criticism, anxiety and difficulties

Participants explored Johari Window model. It is a simple and useful tool for illustrating and improving self-awareness, and mutual understanding between individuals within a group. This model can also be used to assess and improve a group's relationship with other groups. It was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles. The model was first published in 1955, and was later expanded by Joseph Luft. Today the Johari Window model is especially relevant due to modern emphasis on, and influence of, 'soft' skills, behaviour, empathy, cooperation, inter-group development and interpersonal development.

Week spent in Malta was an eye opening experience as it provided an opportunity to learn and explore themselves and to face their fears. Sharing brought relief and an amazing feeling of freedom.

During the training sessions participants discussed about the importance of being present and not concentrating on the past or future as it creates inner chaos.

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." (Alice Morse Earle).

Another key aspect of self-care is being our "real selves" – it has been scientifically proven that, on average, people are their real selves only about 20 minutes a day. Young children and elderly people are more connected to their “inner child” than any other age group. We need to learn how to reconnect to our real selves. One of the methods that were explored, was closing our eyes and imagining our “happy place” – a place where we feel safe and peaceful.

Participants explored various support mechanisms that are available, such as cognitive and social support. “We grow and develop through relationships” and discussed about the importance of relationships in their daily life and how people around can support each other.

Participants had an opportunity to visit a residential home for young people, and it gave “positive practice” examples in real life and allowed to meet some of the residents. Members of Karl Vella Foundation also shared some of the practices that they use in their daily life with children and youth.

Erasmus projects are not only a great opportunity to learn about various topics, it also gives a chance to learn about different cultures. During the intercultural night participants played a quizz about different food and afterwards to taste it. Training was an excellent opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge that will help for future professional and personal development. The friendships and memories that were made in Malta, will warm the hearts for the rest of the lives. And for those of you who are only thinking whether to participate in an Erasmus project, do so! Even if you are afraid, take a chance, it will be worth it!

International Training Course "Pause" was implemented by Karl Vella Foundation within the European Union program Erasmus+ KA1 and Latvian partner was Non - Governmental Organization "Donum Animus". Erasmus+ KA1 program provides opportunities for individuals to improve their skills, enhance their employability and gain cultural awareness. Beneficiaries are able to spend a period of time in another participating country gaining valuable experience of life, study and work with the aim of increasing the opportunities available to them in the future. KA1 is the largest action in Erasmus+ with focus on increasing mobility and skills.

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