Now here’s a subject that never gets in the spotlight, although it`s absolutely crucial in matters of survival. I`m talking about psychological preparedness. And despite what most people think, this is not some psycho-babble BS as useful as a hole in your head. In fact, psychological preparedness acts like that ground layer of thick cement that holds your whole house up right.
Being mentally and emotionally prepared is the best way to reduce the effects of natural disaster or terrorism. Disaster disrupts our way of life and peace of mind. It can make us feel unsafe and afraid. This may increase feelings of mistrust and prejudice. You may find you react in different ways to stressful events. You may change who you will talk to or trust, or where you travel, or how you spend money. Sometimes feelings of hate towards others arise and lead to violence. This can destroy families and community life.
How might I react to an extreme event?
People react differently to extreme events because everyone has a different set of past experiences. Memories and feelings you thought you had left behind may return. However, the strength of these reactions tends to disappear after a few weeks for most people.Accept your own reactions and support those of people around you. Realize that different responses may occur at different times. You may have experienced some of the reactions below during other stressful times.
In most children, these common reactions will fade over time. Children who were directly exposed to a disaster can become upset again; behavior related to the event may return if they see or hear reminders of what happened. If children continue to be very upset, if their reactions hurt their schoolwork or relationships, then parent may want to talk to a professional or have their children to talk to a provider who specializes in children’s needs.
Children who are ventilator-dependent, or are confined to a wheelchair or bed, may have even more pronounced reactions to threatened or actual terrorism. The same is true for youth with other physical or mental limitations. They might display feelings like distress, worry or anger because they have less control over how they get around than other people. They may need extra verbal reassurance, or more explanations, hugs, comfort and other positive physical contact.
Common reactions to extreme events include:
- Shock, numbness and disbelief;
- Difficulty concentrating at work or at home;
- Eating too much or too little;
- Smoking/drinking more than usual or misusing drugs;
- Problems falling or staying asleep; having nightmares;
- Recurring and unwanted thoughts about what happened;
- Fear about your safety; the safety of your children, spouse, parents and pets; and about losing treasured possessions;
- Upsetting images, thoughts and feelings about the event. This can happen suddenly or because something (such as an odor, sound or sight) reminds you of the event;
- Anger, short temper and increased suspicion of others that may lead to more arguing or fighting;
- Feeling guilty, ashamed or helpless;
- Feeling restless, anxious, uneasy or worried;
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach and bowel problems and skin rashes. Chronic health problems can get worse;
- Frequently changing and intense moods.
- Inability to manage feelings.
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Nightmares.
- Thinking too much about what happened.
- Being afraid for your safety and the safety of your family, friends, police, and firefighters.
- Headaches, stomachaches, skin rashes, body pains. and more severe allergic reactions.
For most people, painful emotions, physical reactions and distressing thoughts are temporary; many reactions diminish within a few weeks after the disaster is over.
What can I do to prepare myself?
You can do several things now to prepare for and be ready to respond to catastrophic events. These suggestions can benefit you and help you assist others.
- Make a plan for yourself and those with whom you live. Prepare a disaster supplies kit. (I recommend this books and Bulletproof Home)
- Review your options so you have made decisions about what to do before something unexpected happens.
- If you have children, read the section for parents and caregivers to learn how to help them prepare for and handle a disaster.
- If you live alone, maintain social ties with coworkers, friends, and family members. Keep their contact information with your other disaster supplies and equipment.
- Keep a spare pair of glasses and extra medicine handy in case you need to leave quickly.
- Learn about preparedness plans in your town and workplace. Contact your local emergency management agency.
- Know your neighbors and how to get in touch with them.
- Keep important documents in a safe, accessible place in case you need to leave your home.
- Learn more about stress—what it does, how you respond to it, and ways to deal with it.
When you know you are prepared, you gain confidence, sense of security and mind peace. Acts of terror can have an additional impact because they are:
They seem random and often come without warning, which can make us feel unsafe;
Most people have no experience of them. This can make us feel vulnerable;
We are unable to manage or govern such events and acts.
These aspects of terrorism can increase people’s fear and stress. Preparation for such events is similar to other disasters; following the previous suggestions can increase your confidence for managing most situations.
If a disaster occurs, how can I best deal with it?
Talking about what happened and sharing your feelings with others you trust or who have lived through similar events can be helpful. It also is important to take care of yourself physically. This includes eating properly, taking your regular medications, and getting a good night’s rest. Get back into a normal routine as soon as you can. It helps if you can find meaning in what happened or how you handled things.
Immediately during or after a disaster, it is important to protect yourself from harm and additional exposure to the trauma. If directly involved, move away from continuing danger, destruction and dead bodies. Limit your exposure to media coverage of the event.
In addition, you can:
- Get your supplies kit and use your plan.
- Take care of your immediate and ongoing physical needs.
- Get exercise, rest, drink plenty of water and eat healthy meals whenever you can.
- Return to your daily routines whenever and wherever possible.
- Recognize people’s strengths, including your own, as well as their suffering.
- Share your experiences when you are ready to do so.
- Spend time with other people.
- Remind yourself of your strengths.
- Reflect on how you have dealt with problems in the past.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Allow others to spend time by themselves. Spend time by yourself if that helps.
- Mark the event in a symbolic way, such as a service or memorial, alone or with other people.
- Find sources of information you can trust.
- Stay informed and follow official directions to protect yourself and others.
- Stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbors, if possible.
- Spend time with family and loved ones.
- Even though you need to stay informed, avoid repeatedly watching disturbing events. Watching TV or hearing radio replays of tragic events can increase anxiety and fear.
- Remind yourself of your strengths and how well you have dealt with problems in the past.
- Remind yourself that in time you will feel better.
- Be patient with others and with yourself. Take time to relax. Find a quiet place where you can collect your thoughts and feelings.
- Keep up your exercise and good health habits. Get plenty of rest.
How will I know if I need help?
Experiencing a disaster can leave people feeling like life will never be the same. You may try lots of ways to feel better, yet still be unable to return to feeling comfortable. If things aren’t going well after several weeks, you may want to seek professional help. Talk to a professional at any point in time if you feel that you are having difficulty with your recovery.
You will know that you are on your way to recovery when:
- Your suffering has lessened.
- You are able to concentrate on work or family and do things you used to enjoy.
- You are able to resume caring for your family and complete daily tasks.
- You are engaging in reasonable and appropriate use of:
- Alcohol or cigarettes
- Recreational drugs
- Prescribed medicines.
- Cars and other vehicles
- Your appetite and sleep patterns are not of concern
- You are able to manage your anger and avoid fights
- You are staying well instead of getting sick
- Are still having eating or sleeping problems.
- Are getting physically sick.
- Feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
How do I get the help I need?
Asking for support may sometimes feel uncomfortable; however seeking the assistance you need can help you cope better. Sources of assistance could include:
- A health care provider.
- A pastoral care counselor.
- A mental health professional.
- Your employer’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), if they have one.
- Your city health center.
- The local mental health clinic.
- Local hot lines.
- Mental health specialty and advocacy groups.
- Mental health associations.
- Family doctor.
This information is provided by the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)