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Stress Resilience and Natural Disasters

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We’re experiencing more natural disasters forcing us to cope with the unexpected. Our limbic system evolved to manage our reactions to these emergencies. It automatically turns on the systems we need (the fight or flight center) sending adrenaline to our muscles, our breathing gets shorter, etc. Simultaneously, it shuts down unnecessary systems, blood and oxygen are prioritized away from the core and digestive system to our arms and legs muscles.

As we recover from COVID, wildfires, floods, etc., people have remained in a chronic state of anxiety. Our nervous system was meant to switch off from alert and reset to calm. Unfortunately for many people, this isn’t happening. Symptoms include being short-tempered, easily frustrated, and overwhelm from decision-making required to recover successfully.

Resiliency is a mindset that encourages thought using the pre-frontal cortex (where the brain’s big picture, planning, and preparation are located). Having a mindset of being prepared, thinking about a family plan for evacuating, meet-up places, contact lists, assembling a Go-bag, etc in advance of needing one is a key element. The better prepared we are, the less anxious we feel before and during the next disaster. For someone who has previous experience with disaster, an unexpected wildfire can trigger emotions based on memories of the past. For people who may already feel victimized, whether because of traumatic experiences or fears about their inability to return to a home after a disaster, coupled with the loss of a community support system, these days can feel overwhelming.

If you are feeling stunned, overwhelmed, stuck, depressed or victimized, angry or sad, it is ok to not be ok. Help is available. Communities come together to help each other stay resilient.

Below are some positive steps to take to reduce stress:

Control the things you can control

Taking care of yourself should be the first thing to do. This means eating fruits and vegetables, protein, drinking plenty of water. Sleeping at least 8 hours a night and exercising when possible.

Other tips for restoring the nervous system to calm include:

Breathwork

If you are stressed and notice prolonged periods of very shallow breathing, this reduces the oxygenation of the blood and contributes to anxiety and the body’s stress response. To shift to a parasympathetic response, try slow deep breaths (pretend to blow out the candles on a cake):

  1. Completely exhale through your mouth
  2. Close your mouth and count to 4 (mentally) inhaling through your nose
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7
  4. Exhale through your mouth for a count of 8

Repeat for five minutes. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or asthma-like symptoms due to smoke in the environment, seek professional medical help.

Shaking

If you’ve ever watched an animal after it has escaped a predator, you have seen them hide and tremble all over. This is the nervous system discharging cortisol and adrenaline – humans do this by dancing or shaking.

Grief is normal, even if it is not due to someone dying. Unwelcome changes, such as the loss of one’s home, neighborhood, animals, a weekend cabin, forest, etc. cause grieving. Our happy memories are gone. It is important to talk and write about how we’re feeling.

The Neurosculpting Institute has help available. Neurosculpting is a whole-brain visualization technique that is fast and simple to learn. In 20 minutes, by accessing the brain’s neuroplasticity, we can use our creativity, empathy and compassion to find new solutions. Find a Facilitator near you at: https://www.neurosculpting.com/find-a-neurosculptor/

 

Linda L Gunter, based in Seagrove NC, is a Certified Neurosculpting Facilitator, Flower Essence energy healer, and certified Reiki practitioner. She also works in disaster response as a communication specialist and has plans to help communities become more resilient by utilizing her energy practice to help people reduce stress and improve their decision-making. Private and group sessions are available via Zoom.

 

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