What to do When Disaster Strikes...

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1 What to do When Disaster Strikes... Resource Packet Compiled by JoAnne Lancaster, Counselor Glenda Goodwin, Counselor Decatur High School 750 East Eagle Summit Drive Decatur, TX Fax

2 Distress Signals Some very common signs and symptoms or a Stress Reaction in a Traumatized person (Note: * denotes symptoms requiring immediate corrective response.) Physical Thinking Emotional Nausea Slowed thinking Anxiety Upset stomach Difficulty making Fear decisions Tremors (lips, hands) Difficulty in problem Guilt solving Feeling uncoordinated Confusion Grief Profuse sweating Disorientation (as to Depression time & place) Chills Difficulty concentrating Sadness Diarrhea Memory problems Feeling lost Dizziness Difficulty naming Feeling abandoned common objects Rapid heart beat Seeing the event over Feeling isolated and over Rapid breathing Distressing dreams Wanting to hide Increased blood Poor attention span Anger pressure Headaches Decreased alertness to Irritability surroundings* Muscle aches Hyper-alertness* Feeling numb Sleep disturbances Seriously slowed Panic reactions* thinking or disorientation to person, place, or time* Chest pain* General loss of emotional control* Difficulty breathing* Shock* Excessive vomiting* Phobic reactions* Shock-like state or severe hyper-emotional feelings*

3 Guidelines for Stress Management Stress is the body's physical, mental and chemical reaction to circumstances that produce distress in our lives. Stress is a very natural antecedent to most kinds of emotional or physical trauma. There are a variety of ways with which one copes with stress. No one approach in coping with stress is the best approach. If fact, one needs to develop and depend upon numerous coping strategies. Keep in mind, the following definition: Stress is a state of psychological and physical arousal, which comes about as a result of a threat, challenge, or change in one's environment. Stress is a normal and natural response that is designed to protect, maintain, and enhance our lives. The following list includes several suggestions for anxiety reduction and stress management. This list is designed to help in a normal recovery of normal people who are suffering through normal, but painful reactions to abnormal events. 1. Talk with others about the traumatic event. You will feel as though your concerns or difficulties in adjusting are unique and the sharing will give you a common bond with one or more individuals who can be supportive. 2. Build cooperative rather than competitive relationships. Look for ways that you can constructively help your co-workers and/or family members. 3. Plan some time to be alone. This solitude will free you up emotionally, at least for a short time. The stress of others depending on you will temporarily be decreased. 4. Allow yourself more breaks than usual when at work. A 5-minute walk, a coffee break, or reading a magazine article will give you a refresher from other demands. 5. Take time out for activities other than work. Often physical exercise, (e.g.sports) is helpful in letting off pent-up energy while providing a pleasant diversion from something more tense. 6. Recognize that decisions will be harder to make. Seek assistance if needed or defer decisions that can wait. 7. Do not rely heavily on any one person. His/her stress level may increase to a point of not effectively meeting your needs. Choose people to depend on who will be understanding, patient, and hopefully, calm. 8. If you are in a position of authority attempt to either rotate the authority from time to time or consciously delegate some of your leadership tasks if you begin feeling the pressure of always "being in charge." 9. Anticipate and plan to reward yourself when the stressful situation diminishes. Try to arrange for a day off, take a short trip, plan something out of the ordinary with friends or family, etc. 10. Don't be reluctant to seek professional help. The stress, hopefully, will be a situational one for you; however, it might by useful to have some additional support or guidance. 11. Within the first hours, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reactions. - Keep busy as appropriate. 12. Structure your time - Rest and recreation are vital to any recovery program. 13. You're feelings are normal and you are having normal reaction. Don't label yourself crazy or weak.

4 14. Beware of numbing the pain with use of drugs or alcohol. You don't need to complicate this with a substance problem. 15. Healthy food and lots of water and/or natural juices fuel a good recovery. 16. Keep your lives as normal as possible but remember you are under stress. (Little "trivial" or "minor" problems may seem more severe.) 17. Contact your family minister and make him aware of the situation and seek his or her support. 18. Help your co-worker or family members as much as possible by sharing your feelings and checking out how they are doing. 19. Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others. 20. Remember that the intensity of the hurt will lessen over time, but "Grief is the price we pay for loving deeply." 21. Keep a journal; write your thoughts down during those sleepless hours. 22. Do things that are good for you and that help relax your mind. (e.g. hobbies, etc.) 23. Realize those around you are also under stress. 24. Don't make any big life changes or decisions. 25. Do make as many daily decisions as possible, which will give you a feeling of control over your life. (e.g. If asked what you want to eat, answer even if you are not sure.) 26. Check the "Symptoms Sheet" and remind yourself of normal and abnormal symptoms. Keep two things in mind: First, the problem is a normal reaction to an abnormal circumstance. Second, stress-related symptoms are transitory, long-term detrimental effects are relatively rare.

5 Lifelong Stress Management Strategies It is important to develop your awareness of your stress signals and how well you listen to them. Become aware of what stresses you in daily living. The following are suggestions to developing a personal lifelong stress management plan. Your ability to handle critical incident stress is in direct relationship to your ability to manage everyday stress. 1. Make a conscious decision you are going to manage your stress (rather than it managing you). 2. Eat healthy (three times a day) and stop smoking and stop drinking. 3. Develop adequate recreational outlets--aerobic exercise (e.g. running, walking, swimming). 4. Pursue your spirituality and personal belief system. 5. Have a life beyond your job (e.g hobbies, personal interests). 6. Develop a support network that allows you limited self-disclosure. 7. Develop good stress management skills (e.g. deep breathing, relaxation,) 8. Learn to set goals, reach goals, and reward yourself for goals reached. 9. Learn good management skills in the following areas: A. Time B. Money C. Stress 10. Develop a sense of balance about life. 11. Decide on the priorities that will govern you life and stick with them. 12. Seek self-improvement opportunities in important areas of you life (e.g. marriage seminar, personality profiles, conflict resolution, communication, etc.). 13. Monitor your health. 14. Learn your "body language." Know when your body is telling you that you are stressed (e.g. sore legs, sore arms, sore back, diarrhea, upset stomach, headache, etc.). 15. Remember the following: A. "You manage your stress or your stress will manage you." B. Stress is managed by either gaining a greater ability to deal with stress or lessening the stressors in your life."

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