The relationship between security and stress is reciprocal; high levels of insecurity in the field will increase stress levels among staff, and high levels of stress will lead to a riskier security environment. Something must be done to stop, or at least manage, this self-reinforcing and harmful cycle.
The basic “need to know” information about stress can be readily found from many excellent print and on-line resources. The primary points that all field personnel should know include:
- Stress is a normal part of life but can become destructive when:
- – The stressors exceed our capacity to adapt
- – The stressors last for too long without a chance to recover
- Stress can be caused internally by personal reactions and emotions, as well as externally, by events happening around us.
- Stress reactions affect our emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioural and spiritual selves.
- Stress reactions vary widely in individuals—there is not one absolute common norm.
- Stress management is not a one-time action; it is most efficient when practiced regularly. Knowing about stress before undertaking work in difficult environments is essential. Developing a personal plan, adapting, and using coping techniques will help you deal with stress in a more effective and positive way.
Those who are responsible for managing staff in the field should recognize their responsibility in the area of stress management as well as in other areas of responsibility such as program, administration and security responsibilities.
Some basic measures managers can take to reduce stress on field staff include:
- Creating a supportive climate for staff
- Establishing routines
- Managing information
- Monitoring health and well-being
- Attending to nutrition
- Monitoring alcohol (and other drug) consumption
- Providing exercise opportunities
- Monitoring stress levels
Advice for responding to critical or traumatic stress incidents includes, among other things, providing for basic human needs, and being available to listen. For severe cases professional help may be required.