“Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.” John Zenger
- “Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety, or fear;
- Changes in appetite, energy, and activity levels;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images;
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes;
- Worsening of chronic health problems;
- Anger or short-temper; or,
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.”
While these are natural physical, emotional, and mental responses to a traumatic event, some people and communities have a difficult time sharing that they are experiencing symptoms. They may feel like no one can understand their pain, embarrassed that they can’t “handle it on their own,” or may be dealing with feelings of survivor’s guilt. Whatever the reason, they are still experiencing symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life and that can hinder your community’s recovery.
As leaders, we need to be aware of and looking for symptoms of trauma, and understand that members of our community may be suffering, even if we can’t see it ourselves. These tips from the CDC on dealing with trauma are broad enough to cover a variety of situations and can be shared with individuals or your community at large:
- “Take care of your body. Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed. When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
- Seek help when needed. If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor, or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-985-5990.”
- What to do right away
- Tips for checking in with people inside and outside the organization
- Best practices for communications for individuals and teams
- Suggestions for communication and resourcing for your team
Leah Kahn has been professionally and academically involved in emergency management for nearly a decade. Currently, Ms. Kahn works as an Emergency Management Specialist for the US Navy. She has worked with cities, counties, and states across the nation and is passionate about supporting communities before, during, and after trauma and disaster.