Remember that you are not able to fix everything or help everyone
Challenges: as an individual
The main one has been the shock and pain of seeing the place where I live to be invaded and worrying for all the people I know. I am still missing my home in Kyiv and my daily life there, and it has been hard to accept – and I am somehow still in denial – that Ukraine has been damaged and hurt so much, and knocked off the positive development in such an unfair and meaningless way.
I have so much faith in the Ukrainian youth and the bright future of Ukraine, and now they will have to work much harder. It has also been an enormous challenge for me as an individual to have my ideals and worldview challenged so violently. I strongly continue to hold on to the belief that we should not give up our dreams of peaceful, democratic societies in a stable Europe, but we should keep working for it.
Challenges: as a team leader
Overall, it has been about crisis management, and I have never tried that before. From not knowing where my colleagues were to very quickly having to adapt to a new reality where our tasks could not proceed as expected. It has been extremely challenging to readjust and try to operate when everything is in chaos and make decisions based on uncertainty.
I had to accept that everything we were working with was changed. The tasks were different, and the ways we did them were different. Also, I had to accept that everything was uncertain, so we had to navigate into the unknown because nobody knew how next week might turn out or whether we need to readjust. I felt generally frustrated to have to try planning and somehow leading a team when there was nothing to navigate from since our original tasks and working methods were disrupted. I also felt exhausted since I had to make so many decisions all the time, as we had no procedures for how to work in this situation.
Dealing with the stress
We have decided to keep an open tone and culture in the team so that people feel comfortable saying if they feel anxious or have a hard time, and then we respect that. It should be a safe space to share things that are difficult when we are in it together. We work with youth and democracy and are no experts in working in such trying circumstances, but I think we have all turned out to be reliable and supportive towards each other, and that has meant a lot to me. I have been lucky enough to have a job where I can channel some of my frustration and pain, and I feel that I am somehow contributing a bit to support Ukraine. So engaging in projects that support a bigger cause – Ukraine in this case – is a great way to get some sort of relief and not have a breakdown. Also, I have been surrounded by people who also work for the same and share the same hopes and vision, so this has been very helpful.
My advice is to remember to take breaks.
Remember that you are not able to fix everything or help everyone, and therefore, in the end, it might be the most useful to focus on what you and your organization are the best ones at doing.
And of course, remember to focus on your small successes and happy moments in your work, and that there are so many of us working persistently to make Ukraine and Europe a better place.