Preparing the Mind for Disaster: How To Replace Negative Thinking With Positive Thoughts
Australia recently went through its hottest summer on record. The recent bushfires remind us all of how vital it is to be psychologically prepared when disaster strikes. Preparing mentally aids in survival and in recovery from such devastating events.
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has worked in conjunction with the Red Cross to produce a special guide to aid communities in preparing for a disaster. The guide was created out of vast expertise in dealing with emergency situations, involving disasters which have affected entire communities. The guide was created to help people facing:
Preparing Your Thinking
The guide Psychological preparedness for disasters urges people to understand the dangers of certain negative thinking such as “thinking traps”. These may lead individuals to avoid preparing practically because they simply “don’t want to think about it”.
Senior Psychologist Dr. Susie Burke has been a professional member of the APS for over 20 years. Dr. Burke recently outlined how important it is to be prepared mentally as well as practically for a disaster. Dr. Burke said that negative thinking and saying things like: “I can’t cope; we are all going to die” will cause panic or hindrance while the situation is being bought under control. It is important that you prepare yourself to think positive thoughts in a disaster scenario.
Anticipating Your Response
Although it is difficult to know exactly how you are going to feel during a disaster, you can start to deal with some of the uncertainty beforehand. This helps to limit the amount of fear and anxiety you feel when it does happen. The survival guide proposes different scenarios and asks how you would think, feel and react to them. Being psychologically prepared will aid people in making better choices, while feeling more in control than if they were unprepared. This type of preparedness psychology, in turn, will limit the effects of post trauma stress disorder.
Individuals are asked to prepare in the following ways. Before a disaster happens think about the following:
- What are my needs going to be?
- What sorts of thoughts am I likely to have?
- How am I likely to feel during the event?
During the Emergency Situation
Be aware of specific feelings and emotions. Aim to fight unhelpful negative thinking by focusing on more practical concerns.
Emotional Responses to Trauma
In APS publication InPsych in April 2009, Professor Bob Montgomery published a report on trauma recovery. The report was created to aid in harm prevention while aiding survivors of traumatic events. It clarifies how during a traumatic event like a disaster, survivors typically experience a sequence of responses. However, there is no exact model for these experiences, as human emotional responses are often so varied and different.
<h3)>Common Psychological States Associated with Trauma
The following are a list of common psychological states experienced by people dealing with the after effects of trauma:
- 1. A Frozen Emotional State
During this state, people tend to focus only on survival. They can have problems dealing with basic tasks. Accompanying this state is often a certain calmness which others can mistakenly identify as an ability to cope.
- 2. A State of Disbelief
Some trauma sufferers are unable to accept what has happened to them.
- 3. Shock
A crisis is going to be a shock even if it has been prepared for in advance.
- 4. Realisation
When the reality of the situation kicks in, trauma survivors experience realisation.
Dealing With Fear and Anxiety
It is extremely common for people facing a disaster to feel frightened and anxious. So in the face of disaster, you can’t be expected to be able to control this feeling completely and entirely rid your self of negatie thinking. Some individuals can find experiencing anxiety to be a crippling experience. Anxiety can sometimes be felt so intensely that people become incapacitated by it. This makes it incredibly hard to make vital practical preparations needed for survival. Those who are not affected so severely, and are able to replace negative thinking with positive thoughts and reactions, can offer assistance to others who may need support to make it through.