Reflecting on the stress experienced by those in traumatic situations can certainly serve to put our own day-to-day stresses in perspective.
I have had the privilege of working with people who are called on to assist in natural disasters and hostile environments. They, like the people they serve, can experience 3 types of traumatic stress1: acute (which occurs when one is faced with serious harm or death); vicarious (from witnessing or hearing about traumatic incidents that have happened to others) and cumulative (from the low-intensity, prolonged stressors that “pile up”).
Whilst to compare oneself with others less fortunate, is itself a useful stress coping strategy, it is important not to trivialise one’s own stresses that can arise from daily demands and big events.
How we cope with stress is a very personal thing: we experience it differently depending on the context and our disposition.
Whatever one’s situation, these 5 ‘S’ principles may be useful to bear in mind:
— Stress: a certain level of stress helps us perform – focus on harnessing positive stress and minimising negative stress.
— Sources: learn to manage those particular to your situation.
— Signs: ‘tune your antennae’ to notice them (they can be physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, behavioural) and don’t neglect them.
— Strategies: expand your pool of coping strategies, both for the short and long term.
— Specialists: call for them when appropriate.
1. Williamson, R (2011), Stress and humanitarian work, Headington Institute
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