Personal qualities and life circumstances will influence how high pressure and risk is managed in a disaster situation.

They say you can’t save the whole world, and of course I know I can’t do that.

Anne Kristine Jensen, Red Cross

There is not much we can do about our heritage, age and childhood experiences, but there are many factors we can influence:

Protective factors:

  • Previous experience with working in disaster zones
  • Passion and motivation for the mission
  • Mature age and rich life experience
  • Heritage and stable attachment
  • Balance between the desire to help and personal benefits
  • Resilience and ability to separate personal and work life
  • Empathy and ability to separate the needs of self and others
  • Extroversion and social skills
  • Good network, close and secure friendships and/or family connections
  • High degree of self-leadership, decisiveness and responsibility for personal decisions
  • Self confidence, faith in one’s problem solving and coping skills
  • Ability to talk about, be flexible and regulate emotions
  • Optimistic outlook on life, finding a sense of humour even in difficult situations
  • Ability to focus awareness in the present moment (mindfulness)
  • Spirituality, finding a meaning in life
  • Natural talents and abilities for cognitive assessment and processing
  • Physical fitness

Risk factors:

  • Young, little life experience
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Self-sacrificing attitude to work
  • Strong identification with the disaster victims
  • Weak self-leadership, leaning on other’s decisions
  • Easily discouraged or anxious
  • Avoiding thinking/talking about difficult experiences
  • Can not stop talking about difficult experiences
  • Psychological problems or previous (unprocessed) traumas
  • Stressful life circumstances (recent relationship breakup, losing a job etc.)
  • Lacking a sense of belonging, support and social network