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Psychological and Physical Survival – Part 1, by K.B. MD Situational Stress

The three parts of this article will describe:

  • Part 1 – Stress- Types and Tips
  • Part 2 – Disaster, Depression, Grief, and PTSD
  • Part 3 – Preventive Strategies

Part 1:

Everyone has experienced challenges in life such as illness, injury, bereavement, unemployment, financial loss, social dislocation, overwork, sleep deprivation, hunger, pain, cold, loss of power, civil unrest, etc. The chance of encountering some or all of the above skyrockets during times of prolonged disaster or TEOTWAWKI.  How will you or your loved ones, adults and children, fare during disasters? In reality, all of us will feel tremendous stress and over a third of us will be afflicted with a psychological condition (see Part 2). There will be no escaping it, and stress threatens survival by negatively impacting upon our emotional and  physical health. It even suppresses our immune system and makes us more susceptible to viral disease.

No one is immune to emotional stress, no matter how resilient we may think we are or how determined we may be to triumph over any situation. Eventually stress will manifest itself and can impact upon physical health even to the point of causing death. Consider a few of the possible results such as hypertension, unrelenting tachycardia (rapid heart rate), or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Remember that stress affects not only the individual but also reverberates throughout the entire household and community.

Today in Part 1, we will cover types of stress and begin to touch on tools and techniques for control.

Part 2 will discuss some of disaster’s effects such as depression, grief, and PTSD, while Part 3 will focus on numerous preventive strategies. While I am a licensed M.D., now retired disabled, I am not a psychiatrist and remind our readers that I am neither diagnosing nor prescribing. Please obtain prompt medical care from licensed practitioners as long as they are available.

This series covers information that may be helpful in the event of TEOTWAWKI and I invite our readers to share other positive tips that they may have, especially after careful study of the full 3-part series. While I encourage the reading of all 3 parts, the third section is especially important as a component of survival preparation which may make the difference between living and dying.

Types of Stress

I encourage you to take a look at the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, one for adults and another for children. These show us a point system for 43 life events. For example the death of a spouse is 100 points, dismissal from work is 47 points, and a change in financial state is 38 points. If one’s yearly total is 300 points or more, there is a definite risk of illness. This total and more could easily be reached during a prolonged disaster. Dr. Karl Albrecht published his model of four common types of stress in his 1979 book, Stress and the Manager. These are: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. There are other ways of subdividing stress, but we will now discuss Albrecht’s stress categories, with a TEOTWAWKI application.

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Time Stress

After a disaster, chores will abound and there will not be enough time to accomplish them all.

Time stress will require prioritizing tasks and assigning them wisely to those best able to finish quickly. In order to avoid burnout, consider switching chores around to provide variety and change in type of work stress, both physical and emotional. Remind workers to stop, stand up, and take a few deep breaths when they feel pressured, if the situation permits. A lot more time if necessary and continue to encourage the group and promote a sense of supportive community.

Anticipatory Stress

Anticipatory stress is a result of real or imaginary fears. Make a list and deal with the most likely threats first. Be very practical about what can be accomplished and what is necessary. Unrealistic or imaginary threats must be set aside and dealt with by counseling if needed. Repetition of positive phrases and stopping negative thoughts can be helpful. If the worry is real, limit time devoted to useless worry and instead put that emotional energy into positive action after appropriate planning. Example: Person 1 is concerned about the present lack of clean water while Person 2 is afraid that her minor age son will be shot again after escaping the city and wants to build an earthen wall around the entire farm. Obviously, clean water takes priority, but what if Person 2 can’t stop worrying? Lacking a helmet and flak jacket for the child, have the parent verbalize the fear and devise a positive phrase that combats it such as: “He is here on the farm and is safe.” Each time the fear intrudes, repeat the positive phrase mentally and/or verbally. Prolonged stressful situations can result in fears and unusual expectations. Be ready to deal with them. I’ll have more about effective strategies in Part 3.

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Situational Stress

Situational stress occurs when there is little or no control over one’s circumstances, especially those which are unexpected. In TEOTWAWKI, there will no doubt be a plethora of unanticipated challenges. What can we do? Well, of course, many people are increasing supplies and skills. That is great, but we will also need an excellent leadership structure plus help with controlling personal stress. Rare is the person who has the wisdom and experience to provide leadership in all areas. Each group/community will most likely need to delegate security/defense to one individual, health care to another, and agriculture/animal husbandry to a third, etc. The medical officer or spiritual leader will have to carefully observe the individuals and especially the leaders for signs of stress. I’ll have more on that in Part 2.

Encounter Stress

The last type is encounter stress meaning problems with interpersonal relationships. People often pull together very well the first week, but after that nerves can wear thin and tempers

flare. That is a time to definitely apply conflict resolution skills and to speak carefully to one another. Avoid “you” accusations and instead substitute “I feel” statements. Example, one is tired of mucking out the stables and is feeling picked on. Instead of saying, “You *always* have me shoveling s__t! I *never* get to do anything else!” try “I feel like I am the only one assigned to mucking out the stables. Could that duty be rotated?” Remember, avoid “you”, “always”, “never”, and substitute “I feel”. If a person is irrational with anger, let them read for 20 to 30 minutes to calm down. Consider the risk of unexpected additions of people to your group who may or may not be like-minded in faith, work-ethic, etc or who come with extra burdens of physical or mental illness perhaps even medication and/or substance abuse withdrawal to endure.

Volumes can be written about psychological stress and its effects and management. Today we touched kust the surface. I will continue tomorrow with Part 2 – Disaster Effects and Resultant Depression, Grief, and PTSD. The day after that we will conclude with Part 3 – Preventive Strategies which can make the difference between life and death.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)

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