21 Apr Self-care: more than wearing a mask.
Taking care of one self manifests itself in many different ways: working out, proper nutrition, spiritual practices, daily walks, meditation, and yoga are among some of the most popular self-care practices (a few of them fit into my daily regime). I worry though about the all too familiar self-care trap in the field of emergency management and crisis communications. Now, more than ever before, I worry about my colleagues with the extraordinary demands in their life and their ability to maintain balance.
For emergency management and crisis communication teams demands and expectations of stakeholders can be difficult to balance with the need for self-care (rest, nourishment, etc). This is especially true during prolonged events as we are seeing unfold now during COVID-19.
As leaders during crisis events, we have a responsibility to take care of yourselves. Making sure that we dedicate time to recharge our batteries or so to speak is just important for our teams as it is for us. Although the nature of us who venture into this field is more often to work hard and long hours, critical decision making needs to be made by a rested and nourished mind.
As COVID-19 continues to impact on a global scale, organizations and governments must be mindful of changing seasons. Many parts of Canada and the United States for example, are coming into flood and wildfire season. Emergency management and crisis communication teams are already running at risk of exhaustion.
I think it is safe to say that during the response to an event, a very valuable tool is our mobile device. We’ve heard it a thousand times – communication is key. In several events that I have been a part of, I can remember keeping an eye on the battery status of my mobile device, worrying about that moment that it would lose charge.
Found this graphic on the internet and it simply resonated. Every time we check the charge on our mobile device, we ought to be checking our own charge. If I found that my mobile device was “struggling”, you can be assured, that my (almost) immediate action would be to find a charger and re-charge that battery. I couldn’t miss a call an email or a text under these circumstances – I just couldn’t let that happen.
The same holds true for myself, and my team. As a leader in crisis communications, I need to be sure that I am regularly checking my battery and the battery of my team. If I sense any batteries are “struggling”, I need to take action to help see that they are recharged.
Tips for self-care during a crisis:
Schedule shifts for a reasonable length of time. Consideration will have to be given to the depth and availability of your team. Allow adequate time for shirt transition and handover.
When building your crisis communication or emergency management team be sure to create depth for each position. Many organizations will identify three people per role.
Create flexibility within your team so that one person may be able to function in two or three different roles (not all roles may be required for each event).
Before an event, create collaborative relationships – like organizations, neighbouring municipalities, agencies, etc.
Pay attention during an event so that new relationships can be nurtured for future collaboration.
Have access, at least to nourishment and hydration for you and your team.
Provide access to mental health professionals (potentially an extension of employee benefits).
Have a plan to support yourself or team members if access to additional resources are required.
Check your own battery every time you check the battery life of your mobile device.