Although your tasks are likely to be waiting for you when you arrive in the field, it is important not to underestimate the phase of arrival and settling in, and to be aware of possible stress factors.
Examples of possible stress factors
Your body needs time to acclimatize to your new surroundings and to adjust to things such as jetlag, new food, and the climate. You will have to orientate yourself and find your way in a new environment by gaining local knowledge, and adjusting to cultural differences and language, among other things. You may feel disillusionment or even disappointment because you had other ideas about your assignment. You may suddenly notice how much you miss your social network and how different friendships and social relations are in the country of your deployment and within the mission. Your living situation will be new and unfamiliar, and you may miss the freedom of movement and privacy you are accustomed to. External factors, for example an instable political and security situation, the potential of violence in everyday life, frightening levels of poverty, and a lack of infrastructure, may increase the stress you personally experience.
Stay in contact with your family and friends
During your assignment we recommend scheduling regular written and telephone (Skype) contact with your partner, children, other family members, and friends into your weekly agenda. Even though it can at times be difficult or strenuous describing what you have experienced, giving your partner at home the opportunity to participate in your life is important for your relationship. Share your feelings as well, so that your emotional ties are sustained. You might need to prepare for these conversations mentally. Plan your conversations so that you can speak calmly and without interruptions. Keep in mind any time difference, daily routines, and potentially stressful times at home (such as dinner and the children’s bedtime).
Regular contact with your family and friends is important and can reduce stress. Often, however, contact with people in your home country remains a challenge. You might ask yourself: how can I recount the experience of my deployment in words? Should I tell my friends and family everything or should I leave out disturbing experiences? Discuss these questions directly with your family and friends and reach an agreement with them. It is possible that you will not want to discuss everything all the time, choosing instead to practice a kind of self-censorship. Reflect upon your reasons for doing this and to whom you are doing a (dis)service.