There is a psychology to surviving a disaster. A disaster essentially removes you and your family from your everyday reality and places you in an extreme reality. This alternate reality stresses you to the max and can jeopardize your decision making
process. These stresses produce thoughts and emotions which can render you completely paralyzed; a deer in the headlights. It is important to understand the nature of stress, how you naturally would react and how you might react better so that you are more effective when you need it most.
The Nature of Stress
The nature of stress is described as our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual reaction to pressures. Stress effects our brain and nervous system, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines, reproductive system, joints and muscles. We do need stress.
Stress provides us with challenges which gives us opportunities to learn about the world around us, our fellow man and who we are, our values, weaknesses and push us to be our best. It is good to have stress, just not too much. It is crucial to manage stress so that it doesn’t spiral down into distress. Distress leads to an inability to make decisions, angry outbursts, forgetfulness, low energy, constant worrying, mistakes and carelessness. Distress during a disaster can kill – it is deadly. Stress from a disaster requires you to face injury, illness and death. Add to that stressor stack the responsibility of those around you like your spouse and children, and it can plummet you quickly into despair.
How Do You Naturally React To Extreme Stress
How do you naturally react to extreme stressors? What is your natural tendency, fight or flight? When you experience extreme stress, or stress for that matter, your body sends a message to release stored energy from sugars and fats, your breathing rate increases to supply more oxygen to important organs and limbs, blood pressure rises to provide more blood to your muscles, your muscles tense to prepare for your reaction, adrenaline releases to enhance your sense of hearing, sight and smell. Stressors stack up on one another and your body’s natural resistance to the effect of stress wears down and the stressors increase. Sometimes that stack is instant and so heavy it renders you almost comatose, your body cannot process it. Anticipating how the stressors will accumulate will help you to create a strategy to cope.
In my humble opinion, which may mean nothing to anyone else, is that it describes PTSD. A solider has to react to insane stressors which stack on top of one another, instantly. They had to develop the skills to deal with the stack of stressors, checking off one or two at a time until the pressure is gone. The problem arises when the solider has had to deal with this boredom broken by moments of sheer terror and has had to successfully break down that stack of extreme stressors and that cannot turn the skill off again. PTSD, to me, is someone who expects those moments of terror, even when it is unlikely for them to experience it and their bodies are prepared for a fight and have to release that pent up energy regardless of a disaster occurring. http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ http://www.realwarriors.net/family/support/preventsuicide.php
How You Might React Better To Be More Effective
To be able to deal with a disaster, acknowledge your natural reaction such as fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, isolation and guilt. Through training and relationships with family and friends take time to discover who you are on the inside. Acknowledge your weaker qualities and attempt to develop areas that you know are necessary to survive. Strengthen your stronger qualities to assist you in a
time of need. Be realistic by making an honest appraisal of the disaster by seeing circumstances as they are, not as you wish them to be. Then keep your hopes and expectations within the scope of the situation. Follow the proverb, “Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst”. Are you a glass is half empty kind of person? Work on this. Try to see the opportunity or potential in every circumstance. Keep what is at stake in the forefront of your mind. These stress-busting techniques can help you to practice your reaction to stress.
- Meditate: Meditation creates mental acuity and clarity of thought process.
- Take Long, Deep Breathes: Controls adrenaline release, heart rate and breathe rate to ensure a controlled reaction
- Do a Mental Scan of Your Body: Determine that everything is working properly. This gets your mind to focus on the here and now.
- Train: Get moving! Exercise gives your body the opportunity to deal with stressors.