When I first visited London both tourists and locals were familiar with a pocket-book called London A to Z. Now also an app, the London A to Z is basically a roadmap that helps you “find your way round literally and metaphorically” in this gigantic, wonderful and lets’ face it, stressful metropolis.
Like London aid work can be exciting as well as exhausting. Aid workers could do with a “survival kit” to keep mentally fit, an A to Z to navigate the messy and often ignored emotional side of a difficult, addictive, interesting and paradoxical profession.
That’s why today I’m launching a new series: Aid to Zen – A Quick Guide to Surviving Aid Work from A to Z. A mini-dictionary made up of short reflections focusing on a single topic, one letter at a time: Aidland, Burnout, Cynicism, Dating (or Drinking? still unsure), Empathy, Fears, down to R&R, Stress, Trauma, War, Yoga and Zen etc. just to name a few.
The series is about the wellbeing, mental health, as well as the culture and habits that surround aid workers in Aidland.
Whether you are a student thinking of working in the relief sector, a stressed-out mid-career professional looking to keep sane or get out, or a person who has to deal with aid workers running around your country, this will be your field guide to face the highs and lows of an “impossible profession”. Consider it your “psychological survival kit” to aid work.
Without being too serious, over the next weeks, I will touch upon many of the issues that are relevant for aid workers, exploring in an immediate way the “human side” of humanitarian work, and providing a couple of reading tips to help you look after yourself, as well as educate yourself as you navigate Aidland.
The name Aid to Zen is deliberately paradoxical: I cannot think of a less “zen” profession than aid work. Nevertheless we all crave for some peace, quiet and deeper connection with ourselves and with others.
Aid, believe it or not, is an excellent place to start.
Coming up next: A – Aidland (between Neverland and Divergent)
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