*Preparing for Disaster *
14 December 2009
We prepare for material shortages in order to minimize the impact that a lack of resources would have on our ability to function. Have you given due consideration to the emotional impact of disasters and other traumatic events? We must prepare for trauma in order to minimize the toll critical stress takes on our ability to function. The effects of trauma can be as debilitating as the physical impacts of disaster or crisis. It can result in mental health issues that permanently change people.
It is not enough to assume all will be well when trouble comes just because we are physically ready for it. It is a serious mistake to fall back on the fact that one is “tough”, unemotional or self-disciplined. We must deliberately develop stress management skills now, otherwise when trouble hits we will end up suffering more than we have to – and the results can be disastrous. The ability to manage major stress pays off in better decision-making as well as effective action taking. Every one of us wants to be at our best during an emergency – here is another area we must address to ensure just that.
Therefore proper emotional preparation for trauma is an essential part of any preparedness plan. Every one of us will experience various traumatic events throughout our lives. We may never have to survive a major disaster such as a hurricane or a war, but every one of us will lose a loved one. Be prepared. The better your emotional state before a traumatic event, the better you will manage during and afterwards.
Using good coping skills daily will pay off in hard times. Adopt the following behaviours and adapt them to what works for you:
- Discover your personal stressors. What creates stress in your life? Give this some thought, think about times in your life that have been worrisome or pressure-filled. Often the things that cause us stress include changes in areas such as work, home, health, finance, relationships, etc. Stress can result from upcoming events – good or bad. There is pressure in any career, relationship or community.
- Identify which stressors you can affect – choose the most stressful thing and break it down into smaller steps that you can better manage. Look for ways to solve the little pieces of the problem, and look for stressors that can simply be eliminated. Be patient with others and yourself too! When facing change educate yourself about the aspects specific to the situation and then prepare accordingly. A good way to deal with relationship pressures is to identify your concerns and then communicate them to the other person without judgement – a good chat can often go a long way towards clearing things up, one way or another.
- Give yourself “space”. Engage in fun social activities, hobbies and having fun. Honor your spiritual beliefs in a way that feels meaningful to you. Take time for breaks when things are stressful – a little space can give you perspective which goes a long way. When there isn’t a lot of time or opportunity to disengage then use some of the simple breathing exercises that abound on the net. Something I use when in high-pressure situations is to take half a minute to focus on the way I’m breathing, without trying to alter it and without disengaging from the scene around me. If you are serious about stress management then really give yourself some alone time every day, during which you do something that gives you a sense of comfort and peace. You get to decide what makes you feel this way and how long you can devote to it.
- It helps to beat stress if, when thinking about your life situations, you really try to find and then focus on the positive aspects of what’s going on. Simply put, some stress in daily life is normal, and what’s more, difficult situations will come along. Unless we train our minds to look for, and to appreciate the light at the end of the tunnel we risk developing a negative life-view – which makes it more likely that a serious crisis will overwhelm us when it comes along. I suspect none of us intend to ever “give up”; this tool gives us one way of reinforcing our ability to carry on in the face of hardship. IT also helps a lot when we become and stay involved in healthy, positive activities – these will foster a positive outlook, which goes a long way when the chips are down.
- Set reasonable goals. Without goals we can’t plan and as the saying goes, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”. However if we set unrealistic and unreasonable goals we risk wasting our resources seeking unattainable results, or worse suffering emotional setbacks when we fail in our efforts. With reasonable goals we can plan accordingly, use our resources efficiently, and benefit from the realization of those goals in both material and emotional ways.
- When times are tough or troubling talk it out. When we share our concerns with trusted and supportive friends, or even counsellors, our brains are better able to make sense of things, which leads to less emotional stress and better problem solving. When you feel overwhelmed or unsure of how long you can cope it is time to find good professional help.
- Stress is also reduced through physical activity. Not only is such activity good for your overall health and mood, it helps us cope with stress and negativity. You do not have to go to the gym for this (although you certainly can) – you can go for a walk, do stretches, or do strength exercises at home. Get together with friends, family or rubies and take part in a fun activity!
- Eating nutritious foods also helps with your natural stress busting. Regular meals with less alcohol, salt, caffeine, or fatty foods along with less tobacco should increase your energy level (get more done!) and enhance your general health.
- Laugh! Good humor is an amazing stress buster. Make time in your life to enjoy whatever makes you laugh!
Doing these things can really help to give you a sense of hope and confidence when facing challenges - which further enhances your ability to cope with, and to overcome adversity.
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