World Day of Social Justice – February 20th, 2022

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Laura Lillo Pulido

Laura Lillo Pulido

Forensic health psychologist

What can I find in this article...?

Next Sunday, February 20th, is World Day of Social Justice. It is a perfect time to recognize the need, importance and value of helping those who need it most. Unicef explains that social justice is based on equal opportunities and human rights, beyond the traditional concept of legal justice. In the same line, they mention the importance of equality in order to achieve a healthy coexistence and a peaceful society.

At Wemby, we are aware of this: we are a certified social company. If you decide to join us, you will not only improve the mental state of your team, you will also help us provide mental health support to the most vulnerable. For every session with Wemby, we will set aside a percentage of our profits for free services offered to people suffering from inequalities.

Humanitarian workers

Staff working to improve social justice experience stressful situations in their daily routine, what can be done about it?

The World Health Organization defines stress as “the set of physiological reactions that prepares the body for action”. Stress can also be defined as an imbalance between the personal resources that we perceive that we have and those that we actually need in a specific situation. In short, it can appear before changes: house moving, especially uncomfortable environments, some social relationships, work overloads …

Just as they explain in this Red Cross article, it is normal that stress appears in the staff working with emergencies. In fact, it is necessary that stress shows up, its main function is to activate the body, but if it is present too frequently or intensely, it can be very harmful.

How do I notice stress in my body?

Stress experienced in a critical situation can manifest itself through 3 response levels:

  • Physiological level: headaches or back pain, muscle tension, chest pressure, shortness of breath, shaking, or even vomiting. 
  • Motor level: nervousness, hyperactivity or extreme stillness, difficulty falling asleep, rapid speech, inability to express one’s own feelings …
  • Cognitive level: any thought manifestation. Fear of facing emergency situations again, trouble remembering certain events, loss of interest in certain things that were previously perceived as rewarding, or even taking unnecessary risks. 

To sum up, it is natural that at an emotional level, staff working in emergency situations may feel sad, fearful, insecure, anxious or even guilty. More specifically, as the director of the Red Cross Health Department explains, the following can occur:

  • The need to repeatedly speak and recount the experiences of the disaster.
  • When they return to their routine, they feel boredom, restlessness and melancholy.
  • Difficulty accepting that it is no longer necessary to intervene, there is a desire to continue working.
  • It is not understood why the performance they have made is not as important to family and friends as to themselves.

Seven concrete tips for stress management

There is no one right way to deal with stress. Each person will find through trial and error which strategies work best for them. It is even possible that depending on the moment the same activity does not work in the same way. This is the reason why it is important to keep present and constant our self care if we work in very demanding environments

From Medline Plus they offer us some insights for stress management in the short term, in the form of daily self care:

1. Learn to recognize stress before it overwhelms you.

2. Avoid “unhealthy” ways of managing stress like eating too much, not getting proper rest, or consuming alcohol.

3. Accept that there are situations that are not under your control and therefore cannot be changed.

4. Try different forms of meditation or mindfulness. Find the way that works best for you to train your mind.

5. Also exercise your body to release neurotransmitters that improve your wellbeing.

6. Connect and lean on your loved ones.

7. Find activities that you find enjoyable, try until you find the one you enjoy the most.

What do our experts at Wemby recommend?

Teresa Salgado, Wemby psychotherapist, gives us some recommendations to manage stress in the short, middle and long term. 

  • In order to cope with emergencies and prepare to do our job better, we can train using the “PCR strategy”: Presence – Cooperation – Respect. In this way we promote empathy and teamwork, something fundamental in this type of work in emergencies.
  • For professionals who work in humanitarian settings, it is recommended that they have a first-aid kit of self care resources. This kit is personal and non-transferable, and should contain everything that makes us feel good immediately, as a reminder: some helmets to listen to some good music, incense to practice meditation or simply some photos of your loved ones. It must be “alive”, since what makes us feel good also varies over time.

At this very moment you can begin to help your organization to minimize the impact that mental health problems can have on it. A good prevention strategy is key to managing the stress experienced by personnel working in emergency situations. Wemby will help you to have the necessary tools and support according to the specific needs of your team.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura Lillo, a forensic and clinical psychologist. I  strongly believe that psychology services should be accessible to all.  I’ve worked in prisons and with kids with risks of social exclusion. This has taught me the importance of constant learning and improvement as a person and as a therapist.

If I’m not cooking, drawing or singing, the most likely scenario is that I’m playing board games. Right now, I’m busy learning and writing content for Wemby, an online psychology platform. During my weekends I’m Game Master in Exit Madrid, a escape rooms company.

Wemby provides online therapy and wellbeing services delivered by experienced psychologists. Our team is here to help you start building your balance and emotional wellbeing today.

Download the app, complete a matching questionnaire and get paired with a therapist with the best licensed professional to match your needs.

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