Mental Preparedness Tips – Being Emotionally Prepared

| October 1, 2013 |

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Many people struggle to make it through a disaster situation because they have not practiced mental preparedness to handle the devastation that can often come with a disaster. Mental preparation is almost more important than physical preparation. If you aren’t able to deal with what’s going on and think straight, you will quickly become a liability to yourself and anyone around you. While each disaster is different and will present its own unique set of challenges, it is possible to prepare your mind to deal effectively with the idea of surviving a disaster.

The first step to preparing mentally for a disaster is having an understanding of the types of emotions that are typical in a disaster or emergency situation. When people go through a disaster they may feel emotionally drained, physically or mentally tired, unfocused, overwhelmed, numb, sad, frustrated, irritable or lonely. They may also find it hard to make decisions in the moment.

These are all very normal reactions to an out of the ordinary situation. Disasters and emergencies aren’t things that many people deal with on a daily basis. It’s completely understandable that you’ll feel these emotions. It’s important that you recognize this and give yourself a break for feeling this way. Your emotions are valid and should not be ignored. This applies to your family, friends and anyone else you encounter during this situation. Now that you have an idea of the types of emotions you may experience, there are some steps to take to keep everything in mind and move forward to ensure that you make it out alive.

Anticipate that you will have an emotional response to the disaster

No matter how stoic and logical you are, a disaster situation brings just as many emotions as it does anything else. You will experience a range of emotions even if you don’t find them useful. Being caught off guard by your emotions can cause you to make poor decisions and not survive.

Determine whether the thoughts and emotions you’re having are making the situation worse

Sometimes fear, anxiety and a case of the nerves can make a bad situation seem worse. When you’re dealing with a disaster or emergency situation it will already be bad. But take some time to figure out whether your emotions are making things seem worse. This isn’t about looking for the silver lining. It’s about making sure you’re not adding to an already bad situation.

 Control how you respond the stress

You will be in a high stress situation. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s very important that you properly control how you respond to the stress. You may be experiencing a lot of different emotions but this isn’t the time to collapse under them.

It’s important to learn how to effectively deal with stress. Preparing mentally for a disaster doesn’t mean you should become paranoid and hyper aware of the world. It means taking some time to practice dealing with stress and remaining centered even when everything is swirling around you. This skill can be very beneficial in your day to day life. Everyone has to deal with stress so learning how to deal with it will improve your everyday life. There are some tactics you can use to work to manage your stress.


The practice of yoga does involve stretching and holding poses but it also includes learning how to breathe through tough moments. You don’t have to tie yourself in a knot to learn how to breathe. There is some yoga that’s only a series of stretches combined with intentional breathing that can be a big help.


Meditation requires you to practice concentration and focus. It really strengthens your mind and gives you practice clearing your mind.

Positive Thinking

The practice of positive thinking isn’t something you should wait for a disaster to begin thinking positively. This is something you should start well before something bad happens. If you make it a point to find the positive in everyday situations, you’ll find it easier to be optimistic during a disaster.

The good thing about preparing mentally for a disaster is that you’ll also be better prepared to deal with life’s everyday occurrences. This is an added bonus that can improve your day to day interactions. But there is another, more sobering aspect of disaster preparedness that many people don’t want to truly consider.

It is entirely possible that some of your friends, family and loved ones won’t survive the disaster.

This is a sobering thought but one that must be addressed. Any time you have to deal with death it can turn your world upside down. But if you add death in with a disaster scenario your world can easily go in a tailspin. One of the things many people who make it through a disaster have to contend with is survivor’s guilt.

Survivor’s guilt is what happens when someone feels like his/her survival in disaster or emergency situation is wrong because others did not survive.

It can cause you to make decisions you wouldn’t otherwise make.

Unfortunately, a disaster or emergency situation brings with it the possibility of injury or death. If this happens, it’s a tragedy that must be dealt with on its own but survivor’s guilt is an added layer that can make it tough for you to exist beyond the situation. There is a pattern of characteristics that tend to show up in someone who may be suffering from survivor’s guilt.

  1. Anxiety and depression
  2. Social withdrawal
  3. Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  4. Physical issues
  5. Loss of drive or lack of motivation
  6. Emotional lability which is characterized by episodes of uncontrollable emotional responses such as crying or laughing that may last for several minutes. Often these responses don’t match with the mood of the person experiencing them. For example, laughing may happen as a result of frustration or anger.

When these traits show up in conjunction with one another, it could very easily signal a case of survivor’s guilt. The challenge with properly diagnosing survivor’s guilt is that someone exhibiting these characteristics in the wake of a disaster can be completely understandable and may be accepted as simply the emotional aftereffects of a tragic event. However, survivor’s guilt is something that cannot be ignored and will often not just go away as life moves on after the event.

When you or someone close to you is experiencing survivor’s guilt, it’s important to recognize the characteristics and actively reassure yourself or the other person that their survival was not because of someone else’s death. If possible, get the person or yourself to a grief counselor to address any potential issues that could arise after the disastrous event even survivor’s guilt.

However, if you are in a long term survival situation, it may not be possible to get to a grief counselor or a counselor of any kind. You will have to contend with survivor’s guilt on your own. Here are some tips for doing that.

Talk about your feelings

It’s important to express your feelings during this time, whether they seem appropriate or not. You can’t let it fester and build up inside of you. It’s not ultimately healthy.

Look for ways to create or restore routine as soon as possible

Even if you can’t completely go back to the way things were, it’s important to establish a routine. A routine speaks of safety and stability and that’s an important sense to create and foster during and after a disaster.

Help with the recovery effort

Even if the disaster has long term effects there will always be a recovery effort taking place in some shape or form. Get involved with it. Help others rebuild.

Create a support network

Chances are you aren’t the only survivor that may be suffering from survivor’s guilt. Find others and create a network. Connecting with others will go a long way towards overcoming your feelings of guilt.

The sad part about survivor’s guilt is that it’s not an irrational side effect of a disaster. It’s completely normal and understandable. The key to truly surviving is to focus on your ability to continue to live your life. Your life can honor the lives of the ones you’ve lost.

Mentally preparing for a disaster requires that you increase your mental strength and stability. The tools outlined in this article will help you in your day to day existence as well as a more extreme situations. We all could benefit from increased mental strength and stamina.

Category: Mental Preperation

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