Humanitarian work is stressful.
No matter what you call yourself – a humanitarian, human rights, relief, development or aid worker – you help some of the world's most vulnerable people. And every day your work exposes you to challenges that can leave you feeling stressed out, burnt-out, ineffective, and overwhelmed.
That's where Resileo comes in.
I'm Dr. Rebecca Dempster, a clinical psychologist, Canadian expat, and consultant. Inspired by my work in staff welfare for UNHCR, I started Resileo to support humanitarians where and when they need it.
I've worn a lot of different hats over my career. Along the way, I've learned a lot about stress and burnout - and even more about thriving and resilience.
Here's the most important thing I've learned so far.
Resilience is a habit.
Anyone can learn to be more resilient to stress. It's a habit you build - one I've built - by changing the way you think and respond in stressful situations. It takes time and effort but it is something anyone - you included - can do.
I give practical strategies for coping with stress that help whether you're in a cubicle at headquarters or a field office two days' drive from the nearest airport. Learn more about my online stress management course for humanitarians here.
Want to know more about resilience? Read on.
Re ∙ si ∙ lience (noun): the ability to adjust easily to or recover from stress, disaster, misfortune, bad luck or change.
When you pick a rubber band out of your drawer to wrap around a deck of cards or a bag of chips, it easily changes shape and adapts to the situation. And when you're ready to use that deck of cards or you've eaten all the chips, the rubber band easily bounces back to its former shape. It constantly stretches and bounces back, adapting to what's needed in each situation.
When we're resilient, we stretch to meet our challenges - and bounce back into shape when the challenge is over. Just like a rubber band.
Resilience doesn't mean being superhuman or never feeling stressed or down. It means coping well even when you're stressed.
Being resilient comes from recognizing and building on the coping skills we have, and developing new habits that helps us thrive. That's what Resileo helps you do.
Dr. Rebecca Dempster is a clinical forensic psychologist with experience in assessment, treatment, program development and training. She earned her Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada in 2002, specializing in assessment of risk in violent and sex offenders. She worked at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada, where she provided assessment and therapy for people struggling with suicidal urges, problematic anger, substance abuse, self-harm, and sexual offending. She was the Senior Clinical Lead on a collaborative project with Corrections Canada to develop a trauma-informed substance abuse program for female offenders - a program that has now been implemented Canada-wide in federal institutions and community corrections. Following her work at CAMH, she provided consultation to British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Services on the development of a specialized concurrent disorders program for forensic psychiatric patients.
In 2008 Dr. Dempster began her humanitarian career as a consultant with UNHCR on psychosocial issues in the aftermath of post-election violence in Kenya. Based in a field office in Nakuru, Dr. Dempster worked with local mental health professionals to build capacity in providing culturally sensitive trauma-informed support to survivors of violence. In 2009 she worked as a Senior Staff Welfare Officer for UNHCR, providing support to UNHCR staff and their families in the East and Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa. Since 2010 she has worked independently as a consultant developing programs and training for humanitarian organizations, including UNHCR, GIZ, UNDSS, OSCE-ODIHR, OHCHR, the Canadian High Commission in Kenya, Refuge Point, and others. Her work has taken her to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In 2015 she founded Resileo.net to support humanitarians with online tips and training in stress management. She provides off-line training on stress management, interviewing and credibility assessment, and working with survivors of violence. She currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon.
Read what others have to say about her work.