Managing emergency threat stress: Preserving your capacities

Yesterday, I wrote a little about how stress during emergencies might be experienced.

Like all forms of stress, emergency threat stress involves the real situation (about which not much can be done), and how it feels to you (about which a lot can be done). By concentrating on your and others’ physical and emotional wellbeing, you can maintain your capacity and avoid the inefficiency of stress. Here are some actions you can take to help:

  • Take regular food, drink and breaks; preferably before you need them.
  • Don’t work ‘till you drop’, it takes too long to recover – you may not be ready for the crisis.
  • Focus on self-care – don’t take risk – you survive best if unhurt. Respect your needs – you will perform better in the crisis.
  • Take emotional ‘breaks’ by putting aside fears and worries for a time by doing something practical – maybe for others.
  • Physical energy and emotions are tied together. Don’t think about emotional problems when you are tired. Promise yourself to think about it when you have rested.
  • Manage emotions by not feeding negative feelings. Express positive emotions to others – optimism, faith in the future, confidence in survival. If you have negative emotions, talk about them rather than expressing them directly. You inspire others by how you behave rather than how you feel.
  • When you are angry, tearful, upset take someone aside to let off steam with, rather than doing it in front of everyone – emotional distress is contagious.
  • If you feel fearful or hopeless about how big the situation is, focus on something you can do and do it.
  • Even when it is urgent, take a moment to plan what you are doing, don’t just act impulsively.
  • If you can’t think clearly or you feel overwhelmed, take time out – leaving a problem you can’t see how to solve for five minutes allows you to free your mind and often a new thought comes.
  • Combat fear about what might happen by concentrating on what needs to be done.
  • Leave whatever is not part of the immediate crisis until after it is over, but promise yourself to deal with it then.

One thought on “Managing emergency threat stress: Preserving your capacities

  1. Pingback: Common reactions to an earthquake (and aftershocks) « Dr Sarb Johal – Canterbury earthquake support

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