Tag Archive: Coping

Do No Harm: Humanitarian Volunteer Self-care

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I know that many of you are quietly working away. Your gift is beautiful and you are changing the world. But the world needs you rested too.

-Heather Leson, President Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team -heather.leson@hotosm.org

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Tips For Humanitarian Volunteer Self-care… From Experience

  • Set boundaries.  If struggling to do so, you may need to reach out for support.
  • Rationalization is a dangerous mechanism.  It doesn’t matter the types of tasks you assign or complete: you still need to practice self-care and enhance well-being.
  • Do no harm: don’t bring affected population into your decision-making if you lack the ability to think clearly, overwhelmed or are suffering from sleep deprivation or insomnia.  You are incredibly more useful when your head is on straight.
  • Do no harm: if you are a leader, what kind of example are you setting for your team?  People look up to you and are most likely are following your lead.
  • You are not alone!  Other disaster response and humanitarian volunteers have experienced burnout, compassion fatigue, anxiety, toxic stress, and other physical and mental issues.  Support is available if you just ask for it!
  • You are a human being.  You will make mistakes.  You are susceptible to the circumstances you are in and exposed to.
  • Coordinators or leaders, it may seem like it all falls on you.  It doesn’t.  Life happens, events can never be fully controlled.  Your sole mission isn’t being present every minute.  You are more effective when you allow yourself to sleep, eat, take breaks, and breathe.  If you’re worried about leaving your crew, take breaks together.
  • Remember that the fact that you are providing aid or responding does not harden you from being personally vulnerable to disturbing content, no matter how you’ve coped in the past.
  • Asking for help shouldn’t have shame or stigma attached.  Make self-care a top priority and focus, not what others think.  It is absolutely to critical reach out if you can’t cope anymore.
  • Suppression, bottling up emotions and dishonesty are not coping mechanisms!
  • Difficulty thinking and performing simple tasks means your brain needs rest.
  • Be proud you are smart enough to recognize the need to rest, take care of yourself and/or reach out for help.
  • Listen to your body.  If you don’t feel well, or can barely keep your eyes open then rest, don’t rationalize.  Physical cues from your body mean you need to act now, or suffer later.
  • Observe yourself from time to time to make sure you’re in a healthy place emotionally, and mentally.
  • Refresh and revitalize!  Listen to your favorite music, read a book, enjoy the outdoors, do something you love.
  • Stay hydrated.  How much water are you drinking versus coffee?  If you don’t prefer water, there are other choices, non caffeinated and healthy.
  • Spend uninterrupted time with those you love.  Log off, stay off.  They need and deserve your love and time.  You do too.
  • Respect yourself and your well-being.   If scheduled and dreading the next time you volunteer, don’t.  Tell your coordinator you will not available.  Talk to someone you love or trust.
  • Don’t be talked into working longer than you planned.  Just because someone isn’t present doesn’t mean it’s automatically your responsiblity to take their place.
  • Keep a log of hours worked.  If you don’t have an official schedule, keep one.  See for yourself how long those “few extra minutes” turned into.
  • Consider the value in preserving your long-term ability to help others.

Relevant Self Tests

Tests don’t diagnose, but they are useful for evaluation and self-reflection.

Life Stress Test

PDF DIRECT LINK: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/lifestresstest.pdf

Professional Quality of Life Scale Test

PDF DIRECT LINK: http://www.proqol.org/uploads/ProQOL_5_English_Self-Score_3-2012.pdf

Compassion Fatigue Test

HTML ONLINE TEST: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/pages/cfassessment.html

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Dealing With Disasters

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Dealing With Disasters

During disasters, it can be hard to know what to do, and how to deal with unimaginable tragedy, destruction and loss… this list has resources available on the Internet, for Adults, Adolescents, Children, with information on traumatic stress, stress in disasters, how to cope, how to talk to your family and children about a disaster.
Soon to be added, tips and resources to help pets, in field, international, and multilingual resources…

Red Cross: Searching for Family Members

During an emergency, letting your family know that you are safe can bring loved ones peace of mind. If you have a loved one in a disaster-affected area and are unable to contact them directly, please visit our Safe and Well service to see if your family member has registered. If no information is available, contact your local Red Cross chapter to request assistance.

Help for Military Families, Active Duty Service Members, Veterans

Find Your Local Red Cross Chapter by Zip Code

Resources on the Web:

General & Adult Resources

Coping with Traumatic Stress Reactions -from VA Webpage

Fact Sheet on Stress- National Institute of Mental Health -Webpage, and PDF available
PTSD Meetup Groups- Search in your local area
Coping With Traumatic Events- SAMHSHA webpage   
Taking Care of You Coping Guidelines – From American Red Cross  
Red Cross Trauma & Emotional Support – all pdfs, all languages for download  
Trauma Information on Mental Health & Coping- Webpage 
Coping with Traumatic Stress 
Coping With Stress– CDC- Webpage

Adolescent & Children Resources for Parents

Helping Children Cope with Disaster (from FEMA)  
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: For Parents  (From National Institue of Health)
Where to Get Help for PTSD: General, Family, Military -National Center for PTSD
Helping Children Cope in Unsettling Times: Tips for Parents and Teachers– NASP
What Community Members Can Do: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters- National Institute of Mental Health -Webpage, and PDF available

National Help Hotlines For USA

Disaster Distress Helpline

“Feeling stressed? If you or someone you know has been affected by a disaster and needs immediate assistance, please call this toll-free number for information, support, and counseling. You will be connected to the nearest crisis center.”

1-800-985-5990 or
Text TalkWithUs to 66746

TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired:
1-800-846-8517

Also you can call:

Samariteens Emotional Support Hotline (For Teens)    800-252-8336

Samaritans Emotional Grief Support & Suicidal Hotline

877-870-4673

24 hours a day: 617-247-0220 and 508-875 4500

Other Resources:

Ready.gov on Recovering from Disasters:

Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. If assistance is available, knowing how to access it makes the process faster and less stressful. This section offers some general advice on steps to take after disaster strikes in order to begin getting your home, your community and your life back to normal.

 

This originally started as a spreadsheet and I wanted to make the list more publicly available in wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings, and more recently, the Texas and Oklahoma Tornadoes this month… Tragedies and disasters can be stressful and anxiety provoking. We are all human, we are all breakable. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it, seek it out!

(Kelli Merritz)

info4 PTSD & Trauma Resources

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Special Features

APA: Managing Traumatic Stress:
Tips for Recovering From Disasters and Other Traumatic Events
Trauma Information Pages

Advice on Talking to Children about Disasters

FEMA: Kids

Helping Children After a Disaster

Purdue Univ: “Terrorism and Children”

CDC: Children and Terrorism

Mental Health.com: Acute Stress Disorder

NY State: Age-Related Reactions of Children to Disasters

Child Trauma

Coping With a National Tragedy

NEA: Crisis Communications Guide & Toolkit

Guide to Children’s Grief

NIMH: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters