Extension and Ag Research News


| Share

Helping the Helpers in Times of Crisis

The emotional and physical needs of those who help others are sometimes forgotten during a crisis.

As floodwaters rise and recede, hundreds of people are working actively on the front lines of disaster. These people are the professional and volunteer helpers. They may include Red Cross volunteers, city officials, National Guard troops, fire and police departments, health-care workers and many others. The hours they serve can be long, continuous and exhausting.

“The emotional and physical needs of those who help others are sometimes forgotten during crisis,” says Sean Brotherson, North Dakota State University Extension Service family science specialist. “They may not consider their own needs or they may be too occupied with other responsibilities to handle personal or family needs. Helpers sometimes seem to be invulnerable to fatigue, stress, frustration and depression. Perhaps the demand is so great they think they can muddle through. However, helpers need help, encouragement and assistance, too.”

Helpers need to take care of themselves to have the emotional and physical resources to help others.

Brotherson has these tips for the emotional well-being of helpers:

  • Get some sleep
  • Eat well-balanced meals as much as possible
  • Set up and maintain a structured routine if possible
  • Learn to say no without feeling guilty
  • Take time for pleasure or stress breaks
  • Change your environment by taking short breaks
  • Seek normality
  • Realize when a situation or problem should be referred to another helper
  • Delegate tasks to others or call for additional support if needed
  • Be aware of your energy limits and stop when these limits have been reached
  • Prioritize your time
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Communicate with people who understand your endeavor
  • Practice optimism and humor

“Volunteer and professional helpers also can use help from people not directly affected by a crisis,” Brotherson says. “Provide support to the helpers so they can give support to others. To help communities recover after a disaster, the load must be shared. The helpers need to know that others are willing to stand with them and provide continuing support.”

For more details about dealing with stress and other information, visit NDSU’s flood information Web site at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/disaster/flood.html.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Sean Brotherson, (701) 231-6143, sean.brotherson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.