Providing care and support in the immediate aftermath of a disaster can be an enriching professional and personal experience. It can also be physically and emotionally exhausting.
Activities that promote self-care include:
Managing personal resources.
- Planning for family/home safety, including making child care and pet care arrangements
- Getting adequate exercise, nutrition, and relaxation.
Using stress-management tools, such as:
- Accessing supervision routinely to share concerns, identifying difficult experiences, and strategizing to solve problems.
- Practicing brief relaxation techniques during the workday.
- Sharing upsetting emotional responses with another person.
- Staying aware of limitations and needs.
- Recognizing when one is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT), and taking the appropriate self-care measures.
- Increasing positive activities.
- Practicing religious faith, philosophy, spirituality.
- Spending time with family and friends.
- Learning how to “put stress away:’
- Writing, drawing, or painting.
- Limiting caffeine, cigarette, and substance use.
As much as possible, providers should make every effort to:
- Self-monitor and pace their efforts.
- Maintain boundaries: delegate, say no, and avoid working with too many survivors in a given shift.
- Perform regular check-ins with colleagues, family, and friends.
- Work with partners or in teams.
- Take relaxation/stress management/bodily care/refreshment breaks.
- Utilize regular peer consultation and supervision.
- Try to be flexible, patient, and tolerant.
- Accept that you cannot change everything.
Lastly, providers should avoid engaging in:
- Extended periods of solo work without colleagues.
- Working “round the clock” with few breaks.
- Negative self-talk that reinforces feelings of inadequacy or incompetency.
- Excess use of food/substances as support.
Common attitudinal obstacles to self-care:
- “It would be selfish to take time to rest.”
- “Others are working around the clock, so should I.”
- “The needs of survivors are more important than the needs of helpers:’
- “I can contribute the most by working all the time.”
- “I am the only one who can do certain tasks.”