Dealing with the aftermath of disasters is nothing new to Beckie Gierer, but even she needs time to recharge — and she believes that will be important for everyone after the coronavirus pandemic.
Gierer, born and raised in Jefferson City, is the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s director of continuity of operations planning, making sure the department’s offices, psychiatric facilities and habilitation centers can continue to carry out their essential functions in the event of a crisis — be it a tornado, pandemic or something else.
Gierer has been in the position for three years and with the department for 14 years.
Her background is actually in criminal justice, in which she has bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she said.
While she was finishing her bachelor’s degree at Lincoln University, she started working with the Department of Public Safety, dispatching the Capitol Police Department.
Gierer then worked for the Department of Social Services, doing child abuse and neglect investigations, which later led to doing investigations for Mental Health.
At the time her current job came on her radar, she thought it would be a good mix of her public safety background and her interest in disasters and their mental health implications — in part spurred by the trauma she witnessed among children she worked with.
She said the most rewarding part of her job so far as been working with crisis counselors who are made available after a federally declared disaster and hearing success stories as those counselors she helped train help survivors.
Gierer also practices her own techniques for coping and building personal resiliency.
“When you are feeling alone or when you’re feeling that there’s no hope left, you can do some of these things to shine the light at the end of that tunnel,” she said.
“If people model that behavior for others and really encourage them to do that, that will help people in our community.”
Working remotely at home during the pandemic has presented its own challenges and opportunities for including self-care in her daily routine — and just having a routine is one of those techniques.
Gierer said it’s important for someone to take a shower, get dressed, brush their teeth, do their hair or makeup — do at home every day “all those things we do when we report into a building for work,” but it lets someone think they are still functioning.
She tries to maintain a sleep schedule — otherwise she knows she won’t be able to function at 100 percent. She also tries to eat right and exercise, like taking her dog, Gordy — a Labrador and basset hound mix — for a walk.
There are also board games, one of the newest additions to her self-care routine.
Gierer and her husband enjoy them, especially “Everdell” and “Settlers of Catan.”
Her husband might enjoy the kind of strategy board game where it takes a long time to even put the pieces together, but “I don’t have the patience for that level of intensity,” Gierer said.
The couple have been married 22 years and have two children in their early 20s.
She said it will be important for people to maintain self-care routines, even as things begin to reopen and life begins to return to some level of normalcy.
Having raised children, she said, she knows how easy it can be to focus on everyone but herself, but “it’s important for me to recharge and shut down,” even if that’s reading a book 30 minutes before going to bed.
She said supervisors and departments should also be thinking about how to have their employees recharge, especially if they’ve been working 24/7 through the crisis of the pandemic.