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Support for volunteers and volunteers helping refugees

Support for volunteers and volunteers helping refugees

Hi,
Welcome on board - while you are here, it means that you have decided to share your skills and time and support the relief efforts in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia's armed attack on Ukraine. We are very grateful to you for this and we want to take care of you, so we have prepared some useful information for you.


1. What to expect 

The role of a volunteer exposes you to emotional strain and difficult health conditions every day. Even though you may not feel it - your body is in an alarm state - your brain is stimulated by stress hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine keep you on the alert. Your pulse speeds up, your muscles tense, your digestive system slows down, and your brain goes into a specific mode of operation - it constantly scans the environment for threats and prepares for a quick response. It is a natural state in stressful situations, but at the same time very exhausting for the body. Even after a few hours, you can start to feel its consequences. In such a situation: distraction, irritability, feeling lost, helplessness, sadness, difficulty concentrating and remembering, trembling hands, lack of appetite, problems with falling asleep, sleep without rest, headaches and stomachaches are completely natural reactions of the body. Find out what you can do to take care of yourself and thus be able to effectively help refugees. During your shift, you may not notice disturbing signals. The first symptoms of stress overload do not appear until you return home, in a safe place. Don't wait for it to pass by itself. Get help, contact a psychologist. Your mental state affects your relatives. When you experience the consequences of prolonged stress, you may have less patience, react with anger faster, have mood swings, and distance yourself from people who are important to you and who do not understand what is happening to you. If you do not want your condition to reflect on them - take care of yourself and seek support, do not underestimate what is happening to you. Experience shows that long-term neglect of your needs, overstraining the body, exposing it to trauma without using support, can lead to serious health consequences. You can face long-term mental problems, such as: sleep disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, burnout, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or suicidal thoughts. You are your own tool - take care of it 

2. What You Can Do How To Protect Yourself 

Take care of your body 

You don't feel hungry (it's natural when you are under stress and in a rush), but your body still needs fuel. Eat regularly, eat warm meals and drink fluids. Do not eat on the run, sit down, do not throw food into yourself mechanically, try to eat in the company of others, what you like, what you enjoy. During meals, talk about something unrelated to the situation of refugees, the war. Direct your attention, thoughts to what will allow your brain to reset for a while. 

Get sleep, avoid constantly reading, browsing and watching news, talking about war, refugees. Turn off the phone, mute the ringer (at least when you have to rest). Your work is very important, but there are many volunteers - nothing really will happen if someone else replaces you while you are resting. 

If you can afford it during the day - try micro naps. Set the alarm clock for 15–30 minutes, lie down reasonably, close your eyes and see what happens. If you manage to fall asleep - you will probably notice that already 15 minutes allows you to regenerate and you will probably feel surprisingly refreshed. The nap should not last longer than 30 minutes. 

Exercise regularly, stretch and run. Effort is very important, because it not only helps to distract from swirling thoughts, but also leads to the release of endorphins and other substances that act contrary to stress hormones: they relax, improve mood, and energize. Systematic patting, massaging, warming up the body, hands and head can give you relaxation. It is no coincidence that babies will be calmed down by rocking, patting their backs and cuddling. Keep them comfortable and warm. 

Remember that your body is more prone to infections in a stressful situation, so take care of regular rest and relaxation (time without help). Remember what has helped you in the past, do not give up your daily rituals. Every day do something that gives you pleasure and positively engages your attention. Go for a walk, call your friends. You can play a game, write down your thoughts, listen to music (on headphones if someone else needs silence), try to read, watch a movie or TV series 

Take care of emotions 

Limit the flow of information that reaches you - you are in the center of events, so do not watch the news , do not read the news on this topic. Now is not the time for press releases, dealing with other topics that are touching. Try not to overstimulate your brain. 

Breathe! When you feel that you are overwhelmed by anxiety, you have the impression that the situation is overwhelming you - sit down, concentrate on the surroundings (find 3 blue things in the room or 4 square ones), scan your own body (feel the body parts one by one from head to toes) , think about whether they are tense, whether you feel any pain in them, what they touch. Breathe in with your nose and exhale very slowly with your mouth. Remember that it is the exhalation that calms down, relaxes and relaxes the muscles. Concentrate on breathing in and out, give yourself a few minutes. It is an important time for your body, which may save you from a breakdown or a panic attack, and in the context of the current crisis - it makes no difference. 

Be mindful of your feelings and feelings of others. others about their needs). Use the presence and company of people with whom you feel good and safe. You are among many people, in a crowd, in chaos. If you feel overwhelmed - isolate yourself, go out alone for a moment (but inform someone so that others won't look for you), sit in a dark room, put headphones or earplugs in your ears. You have the right not to want to talk temporarily, not to want company. If you need a moment of peace - take off your vest or other IDs for this time. This way, you will become anonymous for a moment, no one will harass you and ask you questions. 

You have the right to be emotional. What you feel is normal is the situation you are in is not. Talk to others, express what you feel and think, especially after returning to the reception point / action. 

Seek support after completing tasks, interact, share responsibility and work with others. People around you will only be able to help you if they know you need it. Talking about your limitations, difficulties and needs is not a sign of weakness, but of strength and responsibility. We're in this together and we need to take care of each other. 

Avoid defusing your emotions with alcohol and stimulants. Alcohol is a strong depressant. 

If you feel and experience severe stress (e.g. you have difficulty sleeping, hunger, dizziness, increased anxiety, tension, nightmares, thoughts that are difficult to control) call and ask for support from a psychologist. 

Take care of people around you

If you see that something is wrong with someone, try to talk to that person, sometimes such an external signal helps to become aware of the problem and get help. 

Thanks for being there!


Agnieszka Carrasco – Żylicz, Kasia Ciszewska
If you need additional support - you can contact us: +48 692 913 993, zapisy@forummigracyjne.org

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