Category Archives: Emotional Resilience

What’s Missing In This Picture?

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We all know what “hunger” means. Do we all know what “personal preparedness” means?

Personal preparedness means having what you need in an emergency. The emergency could be a hurricane or a major snow storm.

Ideally, we do not want to be fighting for the last can of tuna fish or the last flashlight at the supermarket. We want to have this stuff at home AHEAD OF TIME.

What’s missing in the picture above? Actually, two very important things are missing.

One is a manual can opener. The other is water.

If there is no electricity during an emergency, we can still eat the cereal, the raisins, and the almonds. However, if there is no electricity, an electric can opener won’t work. The result? We will not be able to eat the can of tuna or the can of tomatoes.

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness has a wonderful article. It is entitled “The 5 Steps to Personal Preparedness” (Check it out!)

According to this article, “You MUST have 1 gallon of safe drinking water per person, per day, including pets. Without water a person will die in just a few days, children and pets sooner”.

Words are good. Ideas are grand. However, to be ready for the next Sandy, we need to DO something NOW.

Unfortunately, many things get in the way of doing what we know we should. One of these things is ANXIETY–not just ordinary anxiety, but PRIMITIVE ANXIETY.

It’s an approach-avoidance situation. Taking steps toward preparedness can–in the short run–increase anxiety. To reduce anxiety, we put off doing (and even thinking about) what we know we should do.

Anxiety makes it hard to move ahead. However, if we find a way to outsmart our anxiety, being better prepared–in the long run–reduces anxiety.

What have you done to prepare in the event of another disaster? Does anxiety get in the way of doing what you know you should? If so, what would help you over the hump?

There is a Comments section below. I hope to hear from you.

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Ten Tips For Emotional Resilience

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It seven months later: I’m still thinking about Hurricane Sandy.  As a psychologist, my focus is on the storm’s emotional aftermath.

The people affected are a large group, quite possibly all of us. How will they/we recover from the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability caused by the storm? The answer has much to do with our innate capacity for emotional resilience.

Some people will take advantage of traditional psychotherapy/counseling. Others will use a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach.

It doesn’t matter which group you are in. Here are 10 tips for handling your emotional response(s) to Hurricane Sandy.

1. MINIMIZE EXPOSURE TO THE MEDIA. It’s good to stay informed. Whether it’s coverage of Hurricane Sandy or more recent tragedies, watching stories of misery for hours on end doesn’t help the people affected or you. Will you write to elected officials? Send a check to a charity? Donate clothes? Decide what you will do to aid the recovery. Then stop obsessing and get back to real life.

2. ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS. Talk about what happened with family, friends, and other people.

3. DON’T SELF-MEDICATE. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and other drugs—either to help you sleep or to deal with feelings. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, get involved with a 12-Step Program. If you’re already clean and sober, go to extra meetings to avoid a relapse.

4. MAKE RELAXATION A PRIORITY: Walk the dog, exercise, go to the park, play bridge, ice skate, or do yoga. Now is the time for self-care.

5. RE-ESTABLISH NORMAL ROUTINES. If major losses make “normal” impossible, define a new normal. Then take small steps toward achieving it. Go fishing. Go for a swim. See the fireworks.

6. DON’T ISOLATE. Sometimes, staying inside your own head is not a good place to hang out! Say “thank you” to people who are making a difference. Ask other people how they’re doing. LISTEN to their response.

7. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT PREPAREDNESS. Learn what to do if another storm strikes. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness (2009) is by Maurice A. Ramirez and John Hedtke; it is easy to understand and readily available. To avoid getting overwhelmed, find one thing you can do now to be safer during the next storm. Then do it–even if it’s just buying a fresh supply of batteries!

8. MOURN YOUR LOSSES. Losses can include a beloved pet, a home, a boardwalk, or a favorite tree. Losses can also include your sense of safety and your ability to trust the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.

9. RECOGNIZE SYMPTOMS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IN YOURSELF & OTHERS. They include numbing, hyper-arousal, irritability, anxiety, depression, reactivity to reminders of the trauma (seeing fallen trees or living through another storm), tension, stress related medical problems, feelings of detachment and estrangement from others, bad dreams, and insomnia.

10. IF NEEDED, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. Find a licensed therapist familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Do you have a problem with alcoholism or drug addiction? If so, look for a licensed therapist who is also a Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).

Do these tips ring true? If not, speak up. Comment about what you’ve tried, what’s been helpful, and what’s been a waste of time.

We each have our own story. We need to learn from one another.

The Recovery & Adelphi

    Adelphi University Garden City, New York
Adelphi University
Garden City, New York
(May 3, 2013)

On May 3rd, Adelphi University’s School of Social Work sponsored its annual Alumni and Friends Day. The beauty of Spring and the campus contrasted with the seriousness of the topics addressed. Lorraine Gutierrez, Ph.D., a Professor at Michigan University, delivered a keynote address on empowerment.

“Working With Agencies: Group Based Approaches in Hurricane Response” was one of four workshops offered. It was ably led by Assoicate Professor Carol S. Cohen.

Dr. Cohen pointed out the value of experienced agencies in responding to disaster. Two examples are North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center and Catholic Charities.

Several workshop participants are hard at work in areas such as Long Beach–that is, in the areas most impacted by Hurricane Sandy. They represented Project Hope, REACH, and Long Island Cares (The Harry Chapin Food Bank). My apology if I omitted your agency!

Project Hope is a program of Long Beach Medical Center. Unfortunately, Long Beach Medical Center itself was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Donations to help rebuild are welcome.

In an informal conversation, I asked one participant if people in the hardest hit areas know how much other people care. She said they felt the love in the outpouring of donations–from individuals and also from corporations.

I asked if there is something we can do for them now. She asked us to remember them in our prayers.

Recovery And Resilience

It is six months since Hurricane Sandy hit New York and other States.  Thousands of people have contributed to the recovery–both the physical recovery and the emotional recovery.

Much has been accomplished.  Much remains to be done.

This blog is a meeting place.  It is for people who share the following beliefs:

  • Technology is an important tool for combatting health problems.
  • Complete recovery after the storm includes emotional recovery.
  • There are many roads to a complete recovery.
  • Those affected by disaster should be in charge of their own recovery plan.
  • All Americans–regardless of financial circumstances or cultural background–should have equal access to health care.
  • Traditional as well as newer approaches to healing are part of a comprehensive recovery effort.

I am a psychologist and a New Yorker.  I received my professional training on Long Island, at Adelphi University’s Derner Institute.  “Hurricane Sandy–Feeling Safe Again” is my first blog.

Please share your thoughts and your experiences.  Whatever our background, we learn from one another.  We learn as we go.