Disasters and emergencies can occur in a single home, community-wide, statewide, regionally, or nationwide. The aftermath of the situations can often provoke anxiety and grief and can leave people feeling overwhelmed or with a sense of purposelessness. These situations can also have the opposite effect on people, giving them energetic hope and determination.
While emergency systems will respond to the unfolding crisis, you as an individual also need to calm down and reassure those around you. Unlike emergency responders, you are the one with detailed knowledge of the needs of those around you. You and your family, friends, and neighbors are also there for the long haul, long after the emergency management systems and responders have left. You can start building your resilience now.
Recover Your Well-Being
In–and right after–an emergency, there is a sense of shock. People may wander about, cry, or feel like they urgently need to do something. These are all normal responses of the body. There are things that you can do to help your body calm down, so you can start to return to your regular routines, including sleep. You need to recover your well-being to start making a strong foundation for a renewed living circumstance, which might include fear of future disasters.
Stop and Focus
Do you have calming music or a favorite scent? Tune in to one of your nonvisual senses (sound, touch, and smell). It will help interrupt your thoughts. When you are in shock, your mind will spin in circles. You can organize better when you let your mind calm down, and you can do that by focusing on what you are sensing.
Start by listening to one sound at a time–up to five sounds. Then, try to focus on what you are smelling, also up to five. After that, move on to focus on five touches or sensations such as the ground beneath your feet. Is it hard? Muddy? Noisy like gravel? Pause, and then start again, but only focus on four items per sense. Repeat this exercise, decreasing to three, two, and finally one item per sense. Do this as often as you need to until your mind slows down and focuses.
Focus on a calming image, prayer, or viewpoint, and breathe deeply three or four times. Make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale so that you do not get dizzy. Do this regularly–maybe every 15 minutes at first and then regularly throughout your day or night. At first, you might want to lean on something (a fence, car, or counter). After a while, it will be a reminder that you are calming down.
Attach to Others
Hug or touch another person or pet. Human touch is reassuring. It helps us feel safe. If you have young children, don’t rush around. Sit down. Listen, cuddle, and hold their hands. If it is safe, take them with you. They will feel safer if they are with you. If you can call others, have their grandparents or family send them reassuring voice messages that they can listen to repeatedly.
Stay warm. Body temperatures drop during an emergency because blood flows to the muscles so the person can act (fight or flight). Afterwards, people need to relax and let the blood return to our core.
As you work to put your life in order, remember these steps to recovering your well-being. Make time to connect with others. Sit down for communal meals. Recharge. You will be more useful to yourself and others when you are calm, hydrated, and starting to sleep better.