Your sanity matters – at ALL times

Humanitarian workers are incredibly adept at working in the most chaotic and demanding of environments, typically with only themselves and a few friends to help them through. There is no institutional or organizational support for your sanity, in truth there is little support at all. Common sense is the most important tool in our toolkit. 10 tips, take ’em or leave ’em.

Take some time out… yes there is always a social event, but learn to rest. Take a nap, visit a beautiful spot at sunset and take some time to reflect. Make an effort, no-one can work effectively when mentally and physically drained.

Always seek advice… its easy to ask a friend, colleague or even stranger their opinion, no-one has all the answers, we always make mistakes so minimize that risk. During frenetic activity we often make decision after decision, perhaps, just perhaps another opinion, any opinion, would help, it certainly will never harm.

Trust your instinct… often your gut instinct is correct, it is certainly one possible solutions, sure it may need fine tuning but the worst move is provarication and not acting. Don’t doubt your fundamental ability, its unlikely anybody would do better. Think it through a second time and act!

Deal with it… for sure your best ideas, plans, achievements will not be recognized, that’s part of the course. Don’t complain, get on a high horse, or make a big deal. It happens all the time. Your team needs leadership not negative reflection.

Volunteer and contribute… be proactive, we can all spare a few minutes or hour or two to help others. Act as a mentor or coach, provide advice, volunteer your time, it will actually benefit you a lot, and after all if everyone took this attitude imagine the possibilities.

Seek to view issues from the other’s perspective…. It is impossible to effect change or provide support without putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. If it helps literally do their job or place yourself in their situation. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. Never be self-absorbed, trust me it will become reflected in their approach.

Step back from reacting… give time before reacting, write an e-mail but don’t send until the next day (never put the name in the TO field). Don’t over-react, you can be sure that it is not so serious. Calculated over reaction or outrage should be saved for critical issues… values, ethics, safety, health, urgency. Remember, raise your voice and it is perceived as anger by others.

Compliment style and appreciate beauty… of course within cultural bounds. Cultivate such appreciation, all societies and cultures have their own aesthetics and awareness of music, prose, art, fashion; a richness that can breakdown barriers in seconds.

Treat yourself… especially when the going gets tough, appreciating oneself matters. Don’t feel guilty, live, life for many we work with and among is tough don’t make yours harder than it has to be. Enjoy your favourite films, wine, have a massage, take a spa… you need a break.


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