Archive for March, 2011

Finding Balance in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

Japan’s catastrophic quake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown have people across the globe feeling great concern, sadness, and compassion for the people of Japan. Numerous organizations are helping out and many sites list how we can help. Our friend Tamami Kumagai, who traveled from Japan to Portland, OR, one year ago and became a trained GC facilitator, was in the midst of a Girls Circle session when last week’s quake occurred. She posted on our FB site how frightened the girls were. We are thinking of Tamami, the girls, and all of their families and friends during this very difficult time.

Back here in North America, the internet, facebook, twitter, television and radio provide constant updates on the situation. But with so much troublesome news, far beyond normal human experience, we can  become overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Children, teens, and adults are all vulnerable to becoming anxious, depressed, or triggered by such wild and random destruction.

How do we maintain compassion and care and yet have balance to prevent overwhelm or anxiety?

The National Institute for Mental Health identifies a number of steps adults can take to care for their children and for themselves.

Among these, three stand out as most important:

First, for children and adults, limit the amount of exposure to the disaster images. Children, especially, do not yet have sufficient capacity to tolerate the visual and auditory recordings of people and animals in distress. It’s important for adults, too, to be careful with the amount of these images being viewed. Our brains are designed to seek safety and survival, and are highly attuned to danger. For individuals and families who have previously endured sudden disasters, losses, or traumas, viewing of events such as this past week’s quake and tsunami can be troubling and taxing to the brain and nervous system.

Second, involve yourself, your loved ones, and your circles in positive activity. This can be anything from participation in raising funds to send to the international assistance organizations, to simply playing games together or going outside for walks in nature, getting creative in the kitchen or reading inspirational stories. The important task here is to intentional involve your mind, body, and spirit with something that has positive value and requires your focused attention. Positive activities promote positive neurochemical activity in the brain and body and replenish stressed minds and bodies. The Dalai Lama frequently states that an important task for humans is to cultivate a positive mind in order to reduce stress. In other words, we must often be proactive creators of positive experience in order to access the benefits.

Third, stress, overwhelm and anxiety are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. Natural disasters may or may not impact everyone. But for those who do feel anxious, talking helps. The fears, concerns, grief, or anxiety may affect everyday activities and relationships, and can be alleviated for many through sharing feelings with a friend, or within a circle of caring peers. In addition to talking about feelings and worries, it can be helpful to share stories of hope and recovery.

Take care,




March 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm 1 comment

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