Taking Care of Ourselves, Our Families and
8 Pages - (72 KB) in PDF Format
Natural or human-caused disasters such as earthquakes, health emergencies, terrorist attacks or acts of war challenge our coping skills, even if we only witness them on television. If they touch our lives more closely (for example, if they occur near where we live, or affect people we know) they can cause a lot of distress, fear and anxiety.We worry about our own safety, the safety of our loved ones and our community.
Events of this kind can also stir up memories and feelings about violent or painful events tha we may have experienced in the past: the death of a family member or friend in an accident; a serious illness or injury; the loss of a job; family violence or sexual assault. And of course, the stress of a large-scale disaster can make any stressful circumstances we are currently facing more difficult to handle.
It is important to be aware that stressful feelings are normal when our lives are touched by catastrophic events, and that there are steps we can take to feel better.
It is important to know that:
The basic information provided below will help you help others.
In the wake of stressful events such as a disaster or terrorist attack our reactions can:
Affect us physically: We may have headaches, back pain, stomach aches, diarrhea, problems with sleeping, tightness in neck and shoulders, low energy or general tiredness, loss of appetite or tendency to eat more "comfort foods"or use more alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Affect us emotionally: We may feel sad, angry, guilty, helpless, numb, confused, discouraged, worried and anxious about the future, and afraid that a similar event may reoccur. Feelings can come and go like the tides, building up then fading away, only to come back and fade away again. They can also come out of the blue when we least expect it.
Affect our thinking: It may be hard to concentrate, to stop thinking about the events, hard to remember day-to-day things. Memories of other sad or difficult events from the past may surface. Thoughts, like feelings, can also come out of the blue, while reading, talking, having a meeting, driving, etc.
Affect our sense of safety: We may find it hard to leave home or loved ones; we may tend to overprotect our children; or, we may be nervous about travelling by plane.
Most of us have had some of these reactions. Some of us may feel them more strongly or more often than others but it is reassuring to know that these are common reactions when people experience a very stressful event. In other words, you are not alone.
Stressful events, even major crises, are part of life. In most
cases, our life experience has given us the strengths and skills we
need to gradually
work through our feelings and reactions. Friends and family can help. Here are some healthy ways of looking after both ourselves and one another:
Children and teenagers will need our help. Other pamphlets in this series "Helping Children Cope" and "Helping Teens Cope" offer some helpful hints on what to expect and what to do for children and youth.Taking care of older relatives
Today's seniors are an independent, resourceful group who have weathered many storms. Catastrophic events may trigger memories of previous painful xperiences. Some seniors may be concerned about their safety and about the future. Others may feel sad, confused and disorganized for a while. Coping may be more difficult for seniors suffering from depression, thinking and memory problems, those living alone or those with few social supports.
You can help by:
Some of us react strongly at the time stressful events happen. Others react later, after a few days or even a few weeks. Delayed reactions can be confusing. Remember, not everyone reacts the same way. Following the tips on self-care given above will help you deal with delayed reactions.
The information offered in this brochure is a reference point to help you to understand some of the stress reactions you or other family members or friends may experience. If, at any time, you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope it is important to seek out additional assistance. Here are some circumstances which indicate that it is time to get help by speaking to a health professional such as a psychologist, family doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or nurse:
This document was revised by the Mental Health Support Network of Canada, a network of professional and voluntary associations concerned about mental health and the stress arising from extreme stressors. Much of the information in this document was developed following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States using information put together by Health Canada with input from the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Psychological Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Public Health Association.Mental Health Support Network of Canada, Members:
Please use this space to list the names and telephone numbers of key resources and programs in your community (including friends and family you can call to talk things over).
This pamphlet has been published by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9.
It can be reproduced freely for non-profit educational purposes or as part of a public awareness initiative, provided that full acknowledgment of the source is made. For more information about the psychosocial dimension of emergency preparedness, see the Personal Services manual at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/emergency-urgence/index-eng.php.