5 key categories to help manage the negative effects of Acute Stress Disorder

In Ridgecrest and surrounding areas, we experienced two major earthquakes and a significant number of aftershocks. As a community, we were directly involved. We witnessed a natural disaster as it unfolded. We learned news of family and friends who had suffered as a result. We were exposed to the related details, such as the increased sounds of helicopters flying over and EMS sirens, repeated aftershock notifications and news media presence around town.

In my experience, I found the majority of people who were in a public area, struggled to find control in their situation. Those with children found it difficult to then separate, because the reaction of the child sparked a need to provide a safe and close environment. Healthcare providers were faced with the challenge of providing patient care when they were scared.

This initial reaction is what we call - Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), which tends to manifest immediately after a traumatic event. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, irritability, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nausea, increased heart rate or difficulty breathing. ASD can last anywhere from three and 30 days.

Here are 5 key categories to help manage the negative effects of ASD:

1) Positive self-talk. Remember that something stressful happened and it caused a change in the comfort of our lives. Remind yourself that sometimes we need additional help to get through a stressful event.

2) I encourage people to talk out your fears and emotions with supportive people. In most cases people are never alone in stressful situations.

3) Try to balance the imbalance by creating a structured pattern (even if temporary) in your daily life. Example: waking up and reading positive statements, during the day go for a quick walk, chat with a certain person at a certain time, create a bed time routine to ensure yourself that one can find stability again.

4) Try mindfulness activities, such as coloring, a fun cell phone game, crafts, baking each day to promote an activity that has nothing to do with the recent stress. Remind yourself that there is more activities in life to focus on.

5) Take time to just sit for 3-5 minutes to breathe. Visualize breathing in colors. Think about how the air travels throughout the body and how the air provides us life. One step further is when you drink water, you visualize the water providing you with life. This allows a person to focus on self.

Among all of the recent turmoil, we can be certain that stress isn't something to be taken lightly for most people and can cause serious social, occupational and personal life issues. If you feel you might be suffering from ASD, I highly encourage you to speak to a professional therapist in your local area.

Counseling resources are currently available at the Kerr McGee Center, check with your employer about their employee assistance program, call Rural Health to speak to a licensed clinical social worker (760-499-3855). We also have a mental health brochure with listings of local providers available on our website here: https://www.rrh.org/documents/mentalhealthbrochure..2018.pdf