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Sonoma County Gazette
Self Care

Self Care During Crisis Times

Oct 23, 2017


By Julie Waters, MFT

Post disaster times of this scale are no doubt unfamiliar to a large majority of Sonoma County residents. Many people are left with shock, disbelief, grief, fear, a sense of hypervigilance and/or of “survivor’s guilt”. Our County is changed, our routines are altered, and we are all in shock from this unexpected event.

We are grieving on all different levels.The community pulling together and showing it’s love for and willingness to help in countless ways, promotes a sense of togetherness and mutual support that is healing. But what to do when you are alone meeting feelings of fear, loss, uncertainty, stress, and sadness? And what about in the coming months as this disaster is farther away but the impact still real for many? Here are some ways you can take care of yourself as we all move forward together through this disaster and its aftermath.

Acknowledge that your feelings are valid. There is no right way to respond to a situation like this, be especially patient with yourself and others, and let your process unfold.

Listen to your feelings.What are they telling you? Do you need to rest, talk to a trusted loved one, be alone, cry? If you feel unsafe, do you need reassurance? Listen to your body and your feelings.

Take a risk to ask for help when you need it. Once you have a sense for what you need, think of who could help and ask them. If you don’t feel  comfortable going to the people you know, seek out a counselor or call a  hotline. Many therapists in this community ready to support you. See bottom of the article.

In moments of overwhelm, don’t be afraid to be your own best friend. Talk to your self in third person. It truly helps! Give yourself a pep talk, remind yourself that you and our community will get through this. It may be hard, it maybe sad, but it will be done. 

Regression in times of great shock and overwhelm, you may notice old feelings and reactions resurfacing, or a sense of nostalgia. This is called regression. It’s normal and it should pass. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. It’s important to also find a balance between meeting the feelings that come up and staying engaged in your life, however altered that may be. What makes you happy in normal times? Try to do that, even if it feels odd.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try the following:

  • Breathing – breathe in for three seconds, then out for six, repeat that three times, three times. It should decrease your flight or fight system.
  • Stretching or yoga releases tension and emotions held in the body.
  • Do mindful meditation and visualizations. You can visualize a place where you feel safe and happy, picture yourself there. Or focus on a safe happy future for yourself. 
  • Exercise at a gym or when the air is clear enough, outside.
  • Watch a feel good movie or TV show.
  • Ask for a hug. Physical contact can be reassuring for many.
  • Find humor! What and who makes you laugh?
  • Help others – many find that volunteering time to help others keeps your mind off of stressors and provides a sense of togetherness and positive impact.
  • Activities that take concentration like puzzles or mind games.
  • Journal, write about your feelings, your thoughts, your experience, your hopes and fears
  • Paint or draw or do other soothing art activities.
  • Read a good book.
  • When the weather and air permits it, get outside
  • Spend time with animals.
  • Take breaks from looking at, reading or talking about the disaster.
  • Remember to eat good meals and drink lots of water. Having a well
    functioning body helps manage stress. If food is hard to come by, look for theBite Clubfood prep donations through, or contact the Redwood Food Bank.

Last, please remember that as horrible as this is, many, many communities, including Sonoma County, have recovered from natural disasters and we will too. #SonomaStrong #SonomaProud.


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