I have been working with the American Red Cross for the past seven years doing leadership development. I feel so lucky to even be a small part of such an incredible organization. When I coach people here, I often begin with asking the staff what they are doing successfully in their lives to keep them going in such a hard work environment. One thing I have learned here is the tremendous amount of resiliency present, particularly from the disaster relief people.
The disaster relief team is particularly special because they are volunteering in the field for 6 weeks, sleeping on a cot, away from their families and working with people at their worst. The public loves them for the first few days and then starts picking them apart, forgetting that they are mostly volunteer run. When I am training them, I ask them, “What do you do to keep your resiliency?”
Here are some of the beautiful lessons I have learned from the disaster relief people.
1. Focus on the greater purpose of what you are there to achieve. For them it’s obvious, but for everyone else it might be harder to see. In our daily lives we are all part of a greater purpose. Look at the context of your specific situation–even if you sell janitorial supplies, you are part of people keeping a clean environment.
2. Keep a compassionate perspective. Many people who come to the Red Cross for assistance are seeking medical, financial, or mental help or trauma counseling from trained therapists. Most people coming to them for help are not in the best mental state. The disaster relief team frequently encounters people who are stressed, looking for a loved one, or are yelling or complaining because the meal is not what they wanted. This work environment can easily make the team feel unappreciated. The teams realize that the people they are helping are going through a hard time, so they focus to give them extra compassion.
It is important to remember that everyone you are dealing with has some conflict in their life–fear of losing a job, a sick child, divorce, etc. Understand that when you’re dealing with someone who has a bad attitude and bad behavior it’s probably not about you.
3. Nourish your personal life. Even though your job can be extremely stressful and time consuming at times, make sure to nourish good experiences such as going to yoga, hiking, or spending time with your family. Include enough time in your schedule to get adequate amounts of sleep. Make sure you find some way of nourishing yourself both physically and emotionally, so you are recharged and able to give.
4. Support each other at work. Supporting your co-workers sets up a network of trust and reliability among the team. You are all dealing with some of the same things and your co-workers can be your biggest allies in stressful times.
5. Finally, eat well, drink plenty of water, and relax when you get a chance.
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