Every time you go through an emergency situation, you learn a little bit more about survival tactics, physical and mental.
After the recent back-to-back earthquake and hurricane events, I learned that after the initial danger of a disaster has passed, you need to take a moment to relax, to celebrate life, to appreciate that things could have been worse, to recognize that you are fine and to realize that people are tough and that life goes on. You can’t just go from emergency situation back to “normal” without passing through this transitional state for at least a brief moment.
After the earthquake and aftershocks, it took several days of normalcy to remember that the earth isn’t always going to shake violently at unexpected times and that this only happens once in a while (hopefully!). Some things that helped me cope after the earthquake:
1) Check-ins from family and friends. About an hour after the earthquake, I received a nice phone call from a neighbor who just wanted to check that we were OK. Later, phone calls poured in from family members as well. It’s a simple but meaningful gesture that helps you realize that you are safe and that there are many people out there who care. The act of repeating your situation over and over again sometimes can desensitize you to the situation and help you start to view it more objectively as well.
2) Stress Management. While it is true that the east coast earthquake was relatively insignificant in terms of physical damage, it definitely caused a lot of stress. Sometimes you need to take a moment to acknowledge that you are stressed out, afraid or overwhelmed and process what happened rather than pretend that it all was no big deal.
3) Humor. Humor is a complex coping tool. At the right moment, it is incredibly helpful but at the wrong moment, it trivializes the situation and can be offensive. Once you have calmed down, the use of humor is very healing. It was so helpful to read hilarious Facebook messages from friends who had been in the earthquake and who can forget the famous lawn chair photo.
Many of the same coping mechanisms applied to our hurricane recovery. However, the biggest help was that after the hurricane, we had a sunny, beautiful day. It was such a relief to see good weather and sunshine to signal that the danger had passed.
The human mind is tough but it works overtime in disaster situations. Taking a moment for rest and relaxation is important. It is also important to recognize that others you work with or depend upon may need this stress relief time for themselves. If you are an employer, for example, give your employees some time off to go home, hug their loved ones and recover before asking them to get back to work.
How do you destress after a traumatic event like an emergency situation? Please share in the comments.