We are so blessed that Harvey didn't hit San Antonio the way it was expected to, but our hearts go out to all those in Houston, Rockport, Victoria, Corpus Christi and Goliad who have been so badly affected by this horrific storm. Dr. Novian and I have family and friends who are still trapped and dealing with the ongoing danger and damage, and our thoughts and prayers are with them in this time.
Thank you to the volunteers and first responders who are boots-on-the-ground (or boat on the water) right now, and to all those who are stepping up with their hospitality, finances and with goods donations to prepare for rebuilding. In the mean time, don't forget to take a moment for self-care in the midst of the chaos. This is especially true for our first responders, volunteers, and rescue workers. You can not give what you do not have, and the best way to help others is to fill your reserves. Before you jump into a volunteer task, take the following steps to ensure that you can do the most good.
5 Ways to Prepare for Making a Difference:
1. You need to eat and sleep too. If you are diving all in as a volunteer, your desire to help may override your appetite, especially if you tend to forget to eat when you are under stress anyway. There may seem to be no end to the need around you, but no matter what you do, it will not be over before bedtime. Take a break when you need it, and try to sleep when you can so that you are at the top of your game when you get back to your tasks. Make sure you are taking care of your own basic needs, and if someone suggests that you take a break DO IT.
2. Take some "breathing breaks." If you haven't realized it, breathing is necessary to life, and it is paramount in keeping your body from entering a stress response. If you are face-to-face with people who have experienced the tragedy and devastation of the storm, chances are their stress is going to have and impact on you too. So, before you start, and periodically throughout the day, take a moment to breathe. If you know how to do diaphragmatic breathing, take 4 deep breaths, a 10 second rest and repeat that pattern 4 times, for a total of 16 breaths. It will help your body relax so that you can do what needs to be done for others.
3. Make your thanks list and write it down to take with you. Sometimes, when we are faced with adversity we get pulled down into the pain. Take a moment to list 5-10 things that you can be thankful for in the midst of emotional storms. Put them on your phone's reminders list or write them on a scrap of paper and stick it in your pocket. If you have a photo of someone special in your life, keep it as the lock screen so that you can get to it fast. Pull it out when you feel overwhelmed.
4. Find your servant's heart but don't pretend to be Superman. If you're volunteering, then chances are you are doing in because you want to help. Keep yourself in that place and remind yourself that while you can be proud of yourself for helping others, you may not get recognition for it. Be willing to help anyway. If you find yourself loosing perspective then it is time to take a step back. People will be upset, they may lose their tempers easily, collapse and cry, or they may just get intense, especially if they are responsible for a group of volunteers or victims. Be flexible, be reliable, and be willing to say "No" if you are asked to do something you don't feel able to do. Know your limits so that you don't make mistakes.
5. Stay connected to your faith. Let's be honest, your faith will be challenged in the face of struggle and strife. If you don't have a spiritual background, this still holds true. Regardless of your religion you have some core beliefs about life. Hold onto them. If you can pray, then be in prayer the whole time you are serving. If you don't pray, then sit in contemplation. Put language to what you are seeing and feeling. Hold onto the good, focus on the positives, and release the negative, so that it doesn't poison your own wellbeing.