How to prepare for disaster emotionally and mentally

Today’s emergency preparedness experts are finally working to align their work with mental health. This can be as simple as practicing empathy. Jessica Weider, director of the Center for Radiation Information and Communication at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wieder was part of a team that reviewed more than 12,000 pieces of news and social media posts about Covid testing and vaccines to better understand how the public accommodates and responds to emergency warnings. Their research hopes to provide insights into how people will deal with future disasters, especially invisible threats (a virus or radiation, for example) or chronic accidents (long droughts or hurricanes caused by deterioration. climate crisis).

The truth is that no balm, amulet or individual advice can protect us from the dark feelings that swell inside when disaster strikes. But it is possible to find ease, clarity and courage to move forward. Here are some suggestions from experts to help overcome emotional crisis:

There is no “right” way to respond or recover

Disasters pull natural life out from under us, and each person has a unique way of finding a foothold in the rubble. It is impossible to attribute a single emotional response to a particular traumatic event since then All reactions are manifestations of fear. Silver’s research found that some people experienced debilitating distress even when they had not experienced an immediate disaster. As such, Wieder stresses the importance of validating emotions – friends and families, as well as our own – even if we don’t think they correspond to the situation. In general, people are bad at assessing risks, and talking to others can elicit arguments when perceptions of a situation do not match. Recognizing that all feelings are normal improves communication and decision-making, and creates common ground. (Scientists have found that a sense of understanding activate Neural responses associated with social reward.) Maria Kohut, A Medical news today shareholder who wrote about him Flexibility development, also recommends framing disaster recovery as a Conversion Rather than “rebound,” which encourages people to embrace new possibilities rather than worrying about achieving a certain standard of healing.

disasters are a Processing, so expect updates

Emergencies have no neat endings. Information changes as situations evolve over time. Most people are not comfortable in a state of flux, and can be suspicious of information that does not provide closure. According to Madeline Bell, the EPA’s chief risk communication officer, the change of guidance means experts are applying what they’ve learned as quickly as possible. “Disasters are a process. People don’t like the idea of ​​changing science, but it should be expected,” she says. Communication experts have also found that people respond more positively to framing new information as ‘updates’ because it indicates real-time context and does not conflict with knowledge. Remember that change is part of the experience that can help you manage your fears.

Get to know your trusted voice

In an emergency, we naturally turn to experts for guidance. Although central authorities – FEMA or the CDC in the US, for example – have access to reliable resources for large-scale emergencies, they are not necessarily the most effective messengers. “The reality is that people decide who is credible to them,” explains Kristin Karl, a professor of political psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology who specializes in risk communication. “For some, the neighbor is more trustworthy than the government. With the politicization of disasters, it will be difficult to find a common messenger that everyone will listen to.”

Disaster planners working with state and local authorities now work closely with messengers such as community organizers and religious leaders who already have a local trust. But most people aren’t consciously aware of who they consider authoritative voices and why they trust them (often an intuitive rather than a deliberate decision), so it’s helpful to include them on the list, get to know where they receive their information, and keep track of inconsistencies or inconsistencies in their messages.

help others

It is easy to assume that disasters lead to antisocial self-serving behavior that leads to social chaos and further destruction. after searching Show constantly That people demonstrate increased generosity and pro-social behavior during and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Aid can go up during a disaster feeling in control And increase happiness. Besides joining spontaneous volunteer groups, consider how you can help address social inequalities in emergency response. Black, Latino, and Brown residents are less likely To receive disaster assistance, the emergence of informal mutual aid networks and local translation efforts provide alternative avenues for emergence.

Plan in advance

Covid-19 has re-established interest in disaster preparedness. According to the 2021 Federal Household Survey, 48% of Americans They said they made contingency plans, a slight increase from the previous year. However, many people still find the task intimidating. Carl admits, “Disasters are in the same category as funerals and living wills—not fun to think about.” Wieder suggests starting with simpler logistics, such as locating an emergency meeting place next to the house; research on how to take care of pets (many people risk their lives to find their pets or refuse to leave them behind); buy a hand crank radio in case of a power outage; and setting a common touch point to give you updates about other family and friends, if it’s not possible to communicate directly with each other. No matter the situation, planning gives you a sense of preparation. Our guide to Emergency preparedness equipment is here.

Today, I’m more grounded than I was a year ago, but I’m still preparing for possible turn of events as our journey through Hell continues: a new variant of Covid, or the next sweep of California wildfires. I already expected to break the record last year. Fear and sadness still sat with me, but I also found kindness and resilience within these difficult feelings. I move forward, a little more in tune with my body and mind, and more willing to take on what’s to come. I hope we all do.

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