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 2: Relaxation, Values, Spirituality, Affirm Life

An emergency takes you by surprise and requires immediate action. As your body is experiencing the fight-flight reaction, you are trying to sort out what needs to be done. This is often hard because of the nervousness and fear you are experiencing. When you practice calming yourself regularly, then you will be able to draw on that skill to calm yourself down. This will allow you to think more clearly and make better decisions.

One way to do this is as follows (you’ll need to concentrate, so silence or quiet music will be the most useful): Focus on your breath or a word or phrase. Notice your breathing slow down and deepen. Your body may feel either lighter or heavier as you relax more deeply. When your thoughts go to other things, just bring your focus back to your breath or the word or phrase you chose. Sometimes focusing on an image of a peaceful relaxing place is helpful.

There’s no one right way to do this. Choose what you think will work for you and give it a try. Experiment with different methods to find what works best for you. Spend at least 5-10 minutes each day relaxing and calming yourself in this way. Ideally spend 20-30 minutes each day doing this, either all at once or spread out over 2-3 sittings.

Sudden and startling events present you with choices and decisions to make. If you are clear about what is really important to you, it will be easier to do this. Take some time to identify your values. What is important to you about life? What are the qualities you value most in a person? Spend some time with these questions and focus on the answers. Keep them in mind as you go about your day. Think about how you can nurture and strengthen your commitment to them. For example, you may value being a loving person, being fair, and treating others with respect. To strengthen these values you may decide to remember that there’s always a context for any words or behavior, especially those that rub you the wrong way or appear negative. If you value being dependable, you might decide to address your problems with being late or you might decide to find a way to be sure to follow through on what you say you’ll do.

Disastrous situations call into question your most basic assumptions and beliefs about the world and life. When you cultivate your spirituality in whatever way is best for you, you strengthen your ability to deal with mystery and you marshal your resources which support you in a difficult situation. So, connect with something larger than yourself: God, your Higher Power, Light, Oneness, Love, the Universe, nature, beauty, or the web of life. In addition, take time to pray, to meditate, to be quiet, to just be. Reading uplifting material (whether found in poetry, scripture, or inspirational literature) will connect you with what’s important and meaningful to you. Help yourself know about something larger than yourself and about goodness by noticing and appreciating all the things in your life that bring you joy, hope, beauty, contentment, courage, and love. Making a gratitude list every night is another avenue for increasing your awareness of the goodness in life. Do this by writing down 5 things for which you are grateful. Joining with others to pray or focus on any of these practices can be encouraging and helpful.

Finally, in the aftermath of a traumatic event, you may feel shaken about the meaning of life and the inherent goodness of the world. Prepare ahead of time with practices that take action to affirm life. For example, give something of yourself (donate food, make a financial contribution to your favorite charity, volunteer, or provide some service to others). Or make it a point to practice random acts of kindness. Perhaps offering comfort and support to someone else is the way for you. Or you can use your own talents and gifts by being creative (cook, write, garden, build, draw, sew, paint, etc.). And definitely remember to notice what you enjoy and to do something pleasurable. By actively doing something to support what you do believe is real and true about life, you’ll strengthen your connection with what is important to you. In the event of a disaster, it will be good to have these practices available to help you get through the grief and distress, and so come to terms with the event.

You may be doing some of these things already and will want to add to your repertoire of self-care activities. Or you may not be doing any of them. If that’s the case, there’s no need to panic or be overwhelmed. All that’s needed is to choose one or two and give them a try. It’s best to choose those that would be the easiest to do unless you already know that some are especially suited to your current needs. To make changing behavior more fun, work on it with a friend. Supporting one another and sharing ideas already accomplishes some of the recommendations! Developing these practices takes time and using them goes on forever. They can become a way of life and while ensuring that you will be at your best in the event of an emergency, they will also improve the quality of your life generally.