Friday, September 21, 2012

Managing Our Fear In Disasters

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 What do you fear most?  Is it being home alone at night?  Is it a big hairy bug?  Or is it the footsteps behind you while you're walking home at night?  Big or small, we all have dealt with fear in our lives.  For me, ever since I woke up one morning with a big centipede crawling on my face, the thought of those things lurking around in my bedroom has caused many sleepless nights.  During the last two years, my wife and I lived in Japan with my family and we had our fair share of centipede encounters (I'll merely say without exaggerating we killed nearly one hundred centipedes in the last two years and most of them were in our house!).  Thanks to these encounters, I learned a little bit about fear, how it works, and what we can do to manage them.

Before going into fear, you should know a few things about centipedes.  Centipedes are very aggressive meat eating bugs that come out at night to hunt for their food.  The ones we saw ranged from 2 to 6 inches long (I hope you can understand how difficult it is for me to write about this).  They love dark and damp areas with access to other bugs for food.  They usually have about 30 to 46 legs and have a pair of very sharp and venomous fangs.  Its poison is known to attack the lymph nodes and cause extreme pain and sometimes shock.   I will not post a picture here but you can certainly look it up if you're curious.  Now that you know, we can proceed to our main topic, fear.

Fear is a part of life
If you ponder your life's experiences most of us will quickly realize that fear has always been a large part of our lives.  Sometimes, it serves as a way to protect us from harm's way. 
How do we know we shouldn't stand so close to the edge of the cliff or stand in the middle of the street?  It is because somethings are taught to us since our early childhood years by using fear.  We are taught to fear oncoming cars.  We are taught not to talk to strangers.  We are taught stick our hands in the fire.  The list goes on.  In these cases, fear serves us by preventing us from doing things that are potentially harmful.  In this sense fear is something useful and even beneficial to our lives. 
However, we know all too well that there is the other side to that coin.  Rather than being a protective, helpful part of our lives, fear sometimes presents itself as a destructive and paralyzing part.  It is most visible when disasters and emergencies strike.  It feeds on the unknown and compounds by spreading itself to others.  It can make people do things they wouldn't do on a normal day.  Why would anyone choose to stand still while all logic and common sense screams "RUN!"  But that's what fear does.  And it often plays a significant role in making things worse.  So, what can we do to better prepare ourselves for emergencies and disasters when they strike?


Managing Fear in Emergency/Disasters



Know Your Enemy
Take what you're scared of and pull it out into the light.  It's usually not as big and scary as you thought.  The one thing that scared me most about centipedes was their unpredictable nature!  They didn't tell me when they were coming out!  However, as I did some research, I began to see areas around the house that are hot spots for centipedes.  This and other knowledge about centipedes, allowed me to understand and see the object of my fear in plain light.  In disasters and emergencies, we can reduce the fear by simply knowing.  They say knowledge is power, then knowledge is the power you need when the power goes out!  Arming ourselves with knowledge and tools to obtain information in disasters are some of the easiest ways to reduce fear.  A portable radio, an emergency contact to call when you can't reach your family, a simple first aid/survival guide are some of the things that will arm you with knowledge and information to control fear. 

 

Strike First-(Prepare)
There is no reason for us to wait for fear to strike first.  In this battle against fear, a great offense is the best defense!  Rather than kicking fear out, we shut them out by being prepared.  For me, it meant taking the initiative to keep centipedes out of our house.  It meant resisting the temptation to buy something else at the store to buy centipede spray (even if I haven't seen any centipedes).  It meant taking a few hours on my day off to clean and spray around the house.  And the important thing is that I did them BEFORE they came out.  According to the Oxford American Dictionary the word prepare means the following:
  • make (something) ready for use or consideration
  • (as adj. prepared) created in advance; preplanned
  •  make (someone) ready or able to do or deal with something
Perhaps when it comes to fighting our fear in emergencies, we could take the words of Kobra Kai from Karate Kid.  Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy!


When the power goes out there is no room for fear if we have flashlights, candles, and light sticks.  When you lose a job there is no room for fear if you have money saved, food stored, and have education and skills to help obtain a new job.  Peace of mind is a reward given generously to those who prepare early.  So strike first and prepare.

Treating Your Body With Care
Fear, like any other emotional response occurs in the mind.  But have you noticed that the mind is so inseparably connected to the body? We are prone to anger, fear, and anxiety when are bodies are deprived of the things needed to support our lives.  Hunger, thirst, fatigue, and a lack of sleep all have an effect on our minds.  In contrast, we tend to be happier when we are well fed and well rested.  Learning and exercising all have positive effects on our mind and body.  Healthy eating, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of rest each day together with work and recreation will fortify your body and mind to think and see things clearly.  So, be nice to your body.  Eat well, rest well, work well, play well, and enjoy your life to the fullest.  

Conclusion
Being prepared before something happens requires is no easy task.  It requires a deep commitment and an active mind and effort.  It requires communication and cooperation.  But when a disaster strikes and fear tries to creep in to our mind, I hope we will be those who have prepared early. 

by Kento Fukuyasu

A Few Quotes on Fear

People living deeply have no fear of death.
Anais Nin

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Bertrand Russell

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
Marcus Aurelius

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
Dale Carnegie

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.
Gandhi
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.
Unknown

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