Last weekend I had the great opportunity to present "Help the helper" - a first (self) aid for mental health.
It is a small stress relief kit for spontaneous volunteers in crisis situations to members from the red cross in Germany. What a great honour.
My team members Luise and Michael who founded that project with me unfortunately were not there, to receive the amazing feedback I got. We created this little "tool box" of instant stress relief techniques to support the volunteers we worked with at the Berlin central station refugee arrival center. Every day our volunteers were facing a lot of stress on an emotional as well as on a physical level. Tears, sweat, smell, bags to be carried, people to be guided from A to B and of course all the stories and scenes happening... Some took it very well, others struggled immediately and for some the symptoms of stress unfolded over the weeks.
Luise, Michael and I all have different backgrounds in psychology, coaching, yoga, physio therapy and other healing arts. We joined our knowledge and offered regular sessions for the volunteers along with daily checkin and checkouts to show them our appreciation as well as our support. Because a main concern was, that they were not allowed to need help. As they were not the victims of a war... As they had not left behind their house, their friends and family... As they were actually the once who are helping...
And that is actually the crucial point.
You all know the safety instructions on the airplane. First put the mask on your face, and then help the others who are not able to help themselves.
It is a powerful image and can be transferred to a lot of other situations.
Yes, also helpers need help. And that is totally ok! Especially as somebody who is supporting others, helping others, you should be taking extra good care of yourself. You can only give away your resources, if you have extra... if not, first fill up your own cup. A lot of volunteers where likely to be running themselves into a burn out. Yet, we needed them and therefore created "Help the helper" - to openly share our experiences and emotions as well as to share our coping strategies and practice them together.
There is no "one size fits all". One day this works. The other day that works.
We offered a mix of different physical/ tapping techniques, breathing exercises and journaling prompts. All of them easy to understand, execute and all ready effective taking little time. The idea was that in case the volunteers could use the techniques right in the moment or on a small break. And it worked.
We are living in a chaotic world and different crisis will become more frequent. We cannot avoid that. What we can do is to prepare ourselves.
If you want to learn more about "Help the helper" or even introduce it in your organisation, feel free to get in contact with me.