Photo: Cellou Binani/AFP

Flexibility can be developed through  goal-oriented and practical approaches, such as expanding your own comfort zone by regularly exposing yourself to new and unfamiliar situations and tasks. When working in disaster zones, personnel are thrown into new roles and challenging tasks. This is an opportunity for growth and development, but requires the ability to adapt. Flexibility is a personal quality that increases coping skills, therefore protecting and building resilience. What is the best way to deal with the unknown?

Avoid the victim mentality and encourage curiosity and a sense of humour. What is a challenge today can be a good story tomorrow.

Silja Nordahl, Master in Psychosocial Studies

Knowledge and experience
Knowledge and education can be utilized in other areas than where it was originally intended. A broad knowledge base increases flexibility, makes it easier to manage challenging situations and acquire new information.

Through varied work- and life experience, personnel may have previous experience coping with challenging and unknown situations. This strengthens self-confidence and makes them better equipped for facing the unforeseen in the future. Challenges appear less daunting, more manageable and perhaps even interesting and stimulating. Young age predisposes for stress, while mature age is protective.

Personal skills and qualities
Personal skills and qualities, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, creativity and the ability to relax, can be trained. These qualities help personnel to think outside of the box and see things in perspective when faced with a disaster. A prerequisite for cultivating these personal skills is a stable life situation, financial security, a supportive family and social network. Insecurity is draining and leaves the person without energy to challenge personal boundaries.

Psychosocial work environment
A good psychosocial work environment in which colleagues support each other, teams are well functioning and there is acceptance for both mistakes as well as success, is protective against stress.