Lisa Joan Reardon, LICSW Washington, DC Therapist
Washington, DC Therapist
  Lisa Joan Reardon, LICSW

My office is located at:
1325 Quincy Street NE
Washington, DC 20017

My phone number is:
202-526-4445 x 707 OR
888-862-2615, x 707

Emotional and Spiritual Disaster Preparedness
Part 1: Self care (physical, social, and emotional)

The federal government continually assesses the level of alert status and encourages us to prepare for this possibility of another terrorist attack. Local and federal governments have issued guidelines: have food and water on hand, arrange a meeting place and way to communicate with your loved ones, create a first aid kit, and so forth. These are important considerations for unexpected events.

Preparing in these practical ways is very important, but what about preparing inside? Whenever a disaster occurs, people feel shaken up. Usual patterns and routines are disrupted, significant loss may occur, and assumptions about the world and one’s safety are challenged. How could you get ready emotionally and spiritually? Following are some things you can do on a regular basis to help yourself be equipped to respond more effectively.

Basic self care is an important way to strengthen yourself and make sure that you are at your best no matter what you face each day. Whether facing ordinary stress or unexpected traumas, being strong and healthy will help you respond effectively. Some ways to take care of yourself are generally known. For example, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Your body needs the nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources. Salty snacks, sweets, and fast food deplete your body by depriving it of the nutrients you need.

It’s also important to drink lots of water. Your body needs water to renew and cleanse itself as well as to perform its many functions. Your body can use water instantly, no processing is needed as with other liquids.

Another often heard self-care practice is to exercise regularly. This happens most easily when you put it into your daily routine. Exercise rejuvenates your body, improves your immune system, promotes your cardiovascular health, develops muscular flexibility and strength, and enhances your energy and alertness. If necessary, check with your doctor to get advice on the appropriate amount and type of exercise.

Finally, in terms of your physical well being, it’s important to get enough sleep. Your body and mind renew themselves during sleep. Adequate sleep is necessary for your immune system to function properly. Memory and attention are facilitated by enough rest and good quality sleep.

To be at your best, you need to take care of your inner self as well. Feeling secure in your connections with others and having adequate support provides strength and stability, especially in a time of crisis. Therefore, nurture your relationships. This can be accomplished by spending time with those you love, enjoying each other’s company, and doing what you love doing. It’s even worthwhile to waste time together and to play. Having serious talks, saying what needs to be said, and resolving hurts and disagreements are critical in order to be on good terms with each other. You and your loved ones need to be clear about what’s important to you and what’s important about your relationship.

In a crisis, emotions surge. As your body experiences the age-old response to danger and prepares to fight or flee, your emotions are responding to what the situation means for you personally. To be as steady as possible in such a situation, it’s important to care for yourself emotionally on a regular basis. You can do this by making conscious efforts to be aware of your needs and address them and by taking responsibility for yourself. This involves knowing and respecting your limits, being clear with others about what you can do, and being able to say "no" when necessary.

Identifying your feelings and expressing them in appropriate ways clears the emotional air and leaves you free to be present to the next thing that comes up. If you keep a journal you can release your feelings by writing (or drawing) and can process your thoughts and reactions as well. By identifying your motivations you’ll achieve a fuller understanding of yourself. If there are longstanding sources of distress in your life, do your best to resolve them. And get support from others; know that you are not alone.

Strengthen yourself and improve your self-esteem by catching yourself doing what you like and being the way you want to be. Appreciate your goodness and the likable things about yourself. Practice letting go of things over which you have no control and focus on what you can do instead. Above all, be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself kindly, especially when you are disappointed with yourself or make a mistake. You, like everyone, make changes most easily with understanding and gentle encouragement, not ridicule and criticism.