Stress management in humanitarian organizations is important to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers. It is far too easy for humanitarian workers to experience job dissatisfaction or burnout if they are not encouraged to effectively manage their stress.
Working within a humanitarian organization can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but oftentimes it can also be quite stressful for a variety of reasons:
- Humanitarian workers who are passionate about what they are doing may be compelled to work longer hours and may be more willing to disregard their own wellbeing in order to do their job.
- Organizations doing humanitarian work may expect more from workers, especially those doing humanitarian work on-site in a difficult location. These organizations may do work in highly impoverished areas.
- Some humanitarian organizations have limited funding. Passionate workers may contribute more of their own time despite not getting paid for additional hours worked.
If humanitarian workers are not encouraged to relieve the stress associated with their jobs then there is a good chance that these workers will be less effective and may wind up leaving their jobs. Perpetual stress can result in both physical and psychological problems. Even though some stress management programs may temporarily take people away from their work or may cost money, overall these programs are worth it if they renew and refresh workers.
Effective Stress Management in Humanitarian Organizations
Humanitarian workers should be empowered and encouraged to seek out stress relief whenever needed, but more importantly, stress management techniques should be taught so workers can consistently deal with stress as they experience it.
Humanitarian organizations should have methods in place to help workers recognize the signs of stress. It is far better for humanitarian workers to recognize their own stress and take action than it is for supervisors to prompt a worker into a stress management program. Worse yet, workers may not recognize their stress and supervisors may not recognize it or ignore it, and this can result in bigger problems for the workers. Stress rarely goes away if not dealt with.
For this reason, humanitarian organizations should have programs that train workers to recognize the signs of stress in themselves and fellow workers.
Empowering humanitarian workers to manage their own stress can be the most effective way stop stress before it becomes a big problem.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for workers to manage their stress. Workshops, encouraging physical exercise, and down time are examples of ways that humanitarian organizations can assist workers in managing their stress.
- Do not allow a negative stigma to surround stress. It is important for organizations to allow the topic of stress management to be prevalent.
- Require time off from work, even if that simply means scheduled time to sit and relax. Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, imagery, and meditation can be quite effective for workers who cannot get away for extended periods of time.
Humanitarian organizations should know how to effectively treat stress in their workers. The stress workers' experience will vary depending on what their jobs entail. For example, a worker who spends most of his or her time in administrative duties will have different stress levels than another worker who deals directly with people who need help.
A great deal of research has been done regarding the effects of stress on humanitarian workers. Great information about stress management in humanitarian organizations is available from these sources:
- The Antares Foundation provides scientific data regarding the effects of stress on humanitarian workers.
- The Headington Institute offers additional information about stress in this occupation.
- The Art of Living Foundation teaches stress relief techniques suitable for work places.
Being involved with a humanitarian organization can be stressful, but this stress can be managed especially if the leaders of the organization have plans in place to assist workers deal with stress.