Strategies for Stress Reduction
Even after the disaster operation, you may continue to face stress from different sources, e.g. yourself, work or family. The following suggestions may serve as a reference for you to cope with stress:
- Try to appreciate and encourage yourself. Do not be too harsh to yourself.
- Identify and accept the fact that there are certain things you cannot change. Allow yourself to feel bad in a distressing situation.
- Avoid magnifying or being picky about the unsatisfactory performance of yourself and your colleagues during the operation. Try to show understanding towards the limitations at that moment and focus on how to improve in future operations.
- Do not take others' anger too personally. Anger is a common reaction people facing emergencies and psychological traumas will show. Some injured individuals or colleagues may unintentionally take their emotions out on others.
- Seek temporary assistance from others, including professionals, if you are getting easily irritated in child care or parenting.
- Avoid making important decisions when you are under significant stress.
- Do not isolate yourself. Stay in touch with others and keep up with your normal daily routine.
- Express your reactions, thoughts and feelings by sharing with others or writing diaries. This helps restore your inner peace and relieve pain. Talking to a trustworthy listener can help alleviate your stress.
- Show support to colleagues. Encourage each other and appreciate the contributions they make. Meanwhile, try to listen to the feelings of others and avoid making unconstructive criticisms.
- Tell your family and friends that you have participated in disaster work. Share with them your current feelings and needs (e.g. wishing to spend time alone, go for a sleep, or head out for a walk). Honest and sincere conversations can reduce misunderstanding and alleviate stress.
- Accept the appearance of repetitive images, thoughts or dreams. They will fade away as time goes by.
- Participate in memorial activities and ceremonies related to the incident to facilitate the expression of your feelings.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Even if you have a reduced appetite, try to keep up your nutrient intake by breaking your regular meals into smaller and more frequent ones.
- Avoid foods high in sugar or caffeine. Alcohol is particularly harmful to your health.
- Moderate amount of exercise can reduce stress-induced physiological reactions. Exercises such as jogging, swimming, and brisk walking can relax your muscle and banish tension from your body.
- Get sufficient sleep. Before going to bed or in case of insomnia, take up activities that can help you relax, e.g. taking a hot bath, reading a good book, listening to your favorite music, or strolling at a comfortable place.
- Cultivate a spiritual life, be it religious or not. Through praying and meditation, you can purify your soul and stay calm despite adversities. Form positive and optimistic beliefs to strengthen endurance under different challenges.
- Practice relaxation techniques consistently to reduce stress reactions. For example, you may try the breathing exercise at Resources: Psychoeducational Materials.
As emergency workers, you may be so used to staying tough that you would feel uncomfortable to accept help from others. However, you should recognize the need and importance of seeking professional assistance. Through professional counselling, you can develop an insightful understanding of yourself and the reasons behind your symptoms, which can not only prevent the problems from worsening, but also strengthen your ability to cope with stress. If the reactions persist and disturb your daily life, you shall consider seeking help from professionals with reference to Resources: Professional Services.