Self‐Care Information After Extended Deployments
SAR volunteers may be involved in extended deployments for tasks such as lengthy searches that extend into several days or even weeks, or for assisting in tasks such as evacuation notices for natural disasters such as flooding or wildfires.
When SAR volunteers are deployed for extended periods of time and then eventually stand down, thought should be given to the transition. Long periods of deployment often mean some challenging conditions such as being away from family and friends, difficult assignments and not having access to your home. The personal connection to the event increases with the length of time involved and may have potential for additional stress, and the stress responses can be acute or delayed. No stress response is also a reaction that may be expected.
Here are some reminders as you transition into time off:
Prior to departure:
- Make time to discuss with team mates anything that may be bothering you about your experience. Talk about the really hard parts with your fellow volunteers because they have been through it with you.
- There is also on‐scene CISM and post incident support if needed
After you leave:
- What happens to you, happens to your family:
- There may be stressors for you being here and them being elsewhere.
- They also may need the opportunity to express what has been happening for them and their worries around your health and safety.
- While family and friends may be interested in your experience of the event the more important discussion is about how you are doing.
- For others, set boundaries. You do not have to give details of your volunteer activities to interested neighbours or friends. It’s ok to say “I am not able to talk about it right now”.
- It is ok to be selective in both what you say and who you say it to.
- Social connection is important, social media ‐ not so much.
- As much as possible, avoid media (TV/newspaper).
- Talk about how you are feeling and encourage family to do so as well. Talking helps to begin to make sense of what can be an overwhelming experience.
- Difficulty with sleep can be expected but make efforts to get a good rest:
- Exercise, eat foods low in fat and sugar – vegetables and protein are your friend.
- Drink lots of water to flush stress chemicals from your system.
- Be prepared for emotional reaction of community members – either Hero or Zero. Grief and loss issues may be directed toward you – do not take it personally.
- During your days away from work, take time to do something specifically for yourself that energizes you.
- Do not take personal blame for tragedies that befall others.
- Keep supporting each other during this difficult time.