"Flexible, adaptable, stress resistant, tolerant of changes of plan, and ready for a challenge."
This was one of the specifications in my Job Description. If only I truly were this stress resistant person.
Stress in the field is a hot topic for MSF. How it is managed probably makes the difference between a successful mission and something else. Many of the volunteers I have met experience exceptionally high levels of stress; it comes from a variety of sources and is dealt with in a variety of ways.
Sometimes the coping mechanism becomes the problem.
So how am I doing? Well I am 4 days away from my first 'R and R' and counting. For southern Sudan missions, Rest and Recreation is a 10-day break that volunteers must take after they have been in the field for approximately 60 days. It is sobering to note that I have been out of the field twice already for sickness but still feel the overwhelming need for my R and R.
My stress management strategies thus far:
1. Music – Before I left for Sudan, I downloaded every CD my husband and I own onto my new ipod; 80 gigabytes accommodates a lot of songs. Every day I try to listen to something new and surprising. This morning it was blues legend Robert Johnson singing a song called Dead Shrimp Blues. I like the words. "I woke up this morning, all my shrimp were dead and gone, I woke up this morning, all my shrimp were dead and gone, I was thinking about you baby, someone fishing in my pond".
2. Photos – I downloaded all my digital photos onto my ipod. I can look at pictures of my family and friends anytime I feel like it. I have pictures of my parents, Eda and Regis, on their 50th wedding anniversary and pictures of my husband and I on our wedding day. We looked quite nice in retrospect.
3. Audio Books – I have several audio books that I am listening to: The Classic 100 Poems, The Kite Runner, Ovid's Metamorphosis, Empire on the Nile and What is the What.
4. Support from family and friends – having a strong base at home is more important than I thought. Knowing that people at home are thinking of me and interested in my MSF adventure is very comforting. Support from my husband is probably the most important. Erik holds the fort at home, deals with the administrative loose ends of my life and gives me an immense amount of practical and psychological support. He is my emotional home base.