How To Support Peers During A Crisis
12 May, 2022
As professionals at helping others, we are used to helping our clients solve problems and cope with their struggles. However, we make an impact on everyone with whom we come in contact, including our peers. Our professional peers are not immune to struggles, nor are we.
Given our lack of immunity, we must recognize when our peers face times of crisis and be ready to help them as we would a client.
Assess Their Level of Self-Care
As with our clients, we must recognize that a person's ability to cope depends on how well they are taking care of their needs. Remind your peer that they can better manage their problems when they've properly taken care of themself. Remind them of the contributing power of self-care to alleviate stress and help cope, not only with the problem they are facing but with possible compassion fatigue, which will limit their ability to help their clients.
Assess your peers' hygiene. While a person may look as though they are caring for themselves well, note if there are changes in their hygiene and ask how they are doing with managing their daily needs.
Warning Signs of a Personal Crisis
Helping professionals are trained to notice warning signs in people who are experiencing personal crises. These warning signs may be subtle in our peers but still evident and need to be examined more fully if noticed.
If your peer is experiencing a difficult time, they may exhibit physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension, headaches, frequent cold or flu symptoms, or even high blood pressure. Emotional symptoms of personal crisis can include depression, irritability, anxiety, and low feelings of self-worth. Behaviorally, these symptoms may manifest as tardiness, lack of sleep, negativity, and possible use of substances.
There may be other symptoms as well. If a peer is acting out of character or seems “off,” even if they don't exhibit any of the above symptoms specifically, this may warrant a closer look into their well-being. Take into consideration how your peer normally behaves and if the changes in emotional, physical, or behavioral symptoms need to be addressed.
Do not be afraid to address symptoms as they relate to not only how well your peer is doing but how well they can respond to the needs of others, which is critical in the helping field.
Help Your Peer Celebrate and Mourn
We often are willing to celebrate and mourn with our clients and forget to do the same for ourselves. As part of maintaining our own well-being, we need to recognize our successes and losses. We also need to do this with our peers.
Putting our need to celebrate or mourn on pause compromises our ability to cope. It also negatively impacts the effectiveness of our celebration and mourning with clients. Remind yourself and your peers of the need to notice and experience success and loss.
Personal crises arise even in the lives of helping professionals. Some of these crises are a result of not allowing ourselves to fully inhabit our lives due to being too focused on the lives of our clients. We must set boundaries for ourselves and our peers to remember to experience our own life events.
Encourage and Empower
Our peers are experts at helping others, sometimes to the point of neglecting their own needs. This neglect of their needs can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. As a provider experiences compassion fatigue, they might drop compassion for themselves, leading to self-destructive behaviors. Encourage taking time away from caring for others and using self-care to help your peer learn how to help themself.
Another important step in helping your peers is empowerment. Your peer knows how to practice self-care and does not need to be chastised or placated. Empower your peer with reminders about how well they know how to cope and manage life stressors. Remind them of previous successes and times when they overcame adversity. By reminding them of these things, you empower them to believe in their ability to cope with this new struggle.
Encourage Your Peer to Seek Help
We all need professional help from time to time, even professional helpers. We were not made to battle our struggles alone. Despite our ability to help others, we may have a hard time helping ourselves. We do not always have the distance and self-discipline to help people to whom we are close. With these limitations in mind, encouraging peers who are struggling to seek professional assistance from another agency is often the best solution.
The most important thing to remember is our lack of immunity from crises. Professional helpers are just as likely to experience personal problems as our clients. Helping our peers is important, but we must not put ourselves in harm's way to help them. We must have boundaries and help them from appropriate proximity, encouraging them to seek help if they need it. Encouraging self-care and empowerment is the best way we can help each other.
Outside Sources Of Help Can Help Our Peers
Helping our peers cope with difficult situations is an important part of our lives. We desire to see everyone we know cope well with life's struggles. you know someone who needs assistance with abuse of alcohol or other substances, help is available. People do not have to struggle alone.
At The Forge Recovery Center, we recognize the importance of treatment for all individuals, including helping professionals. We know recovery is difficult and offer outpatient and partial hospitalization programs.
Contact The Forge today to learn how we can help you or your peer cope.