116 POLICEASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA Responding to Stressful Events: Taking Care of Ourselves, Our Families and Our Communities Natural or human-caused disasters such asearthquakes, health emergencies, terrorist attacks or acts of war challenge our coping skills, even if we only witness them on television. If they touch our lives more closely (for example, if they occur near where we live, or affect people we know) they can cause a lot of distress, fear and anxiety.We worry about our own safety, the safety of our loved ones and our community. Events of this kind can also stir up memories and feelings about violent or painful events that we may have experienced in the past: the death of a family member or friend in an accident; a serious illness or injury; the loss of a job; family violence or sexual assault. And of course, the stress of a large-scale disaster can make any stressful circumstances we are currently facing more difficult to handle. It is important to be aware that stressful feelings are normal when our lives are touched by catastrophic events, and that there are steps we can take to feel better. Things to Keep in Mind It is important to know that: • People of all ages are strong and resilient, and most recover within a short period of time. • You have knowledge and experience that can help your family and your community cope with the stresses triggered by catastrophic events. • Reassuring people about their safety and explaining what measures are being taken to protect them is an important step in helping them cope. • Parents’, caregivers’ and community leaders’ own responses to an event strongly influences children’s and community members’ ability to recover. Feelings and Reactions to Stressful Events In the wake of stressful events such as a disaster or terrorist attack our reactions can: Affect us physically: We may have headaches, back pain, stomach aches, diarrhea, problems with sleeping, tightness in neck and shoulders, low energy or general tiredness, loss of appetite or tendency to eat more “comfort foods”or use more alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Affect us emotionally: We may feel sad, angry, guilty, helpless, numb, confused, discouraged, worried and anxious about the future, and afraid that a similar event may reoccur. Feelings can come and go like the tides, building up then fading away, only to come back and fade away again. They can also come out of the blue when we least expect it. Affect our thinking: It may be hard to concentrate, to stop thinking about the events, hard to remember day-to-day things. Memories of other sad or difficult events from the past may surface. Thoughts, like feelings, can also come out of the blue, while reading, talking, having a meeting, driving, etc. Affect our sense of safety: We may find it hard to leave home or loved ones; we may tend to overprotect our children; or, we may be nervous about travelling by plane. Responding to Stressful Events Taking Care of Ourselves, Our Families Our Communities