Nathan's Blog- surviving the earthquakes
Earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding- what a tumultuous week New Zealand has been experiencing!
I don’t know about you but I found riding out an earthquake- that built and built in its intensity to the point where I was seriously wondering if this was going to be how I met my end- an extremely unsettling experience!
It’s amazing how quickly one incident can shatter the illusion of complete control over your life. Being confronted by a potentially life threatening event provides a sudden and unwelcome awareness of how in a flash, life can become dangerous and uncertain.
Our emotional and psychological wellbeing is reliant on there being a reasonable degree of consistency, predictability and safety in our lives. This assumption of safety becomes undermined in the aftermath of a life threatening natural phenomenon. Having faced the very real fear of dying in unforeseen and sudden circumstances leaves people feeling unnerved and constantly on edge. They may experience flashbacks, be constantly irritable and have difficulty sleeping.
But unfortunately it doesn’t just end there. Catastrophic events such as those experienced this week also affect the life routines we take for granted. People face employment disruptions and loss of income. Many have homes that are damaged, sometimes uninhabitable and beyond repair. This sense of loss that accompanies these tough unforeseen changes coupled with the stress of feeling unsafe creates significant emotional disturbance
Under such circumstances it is not surprising that many seek to escape this uncomfortable emotional turmoil through the use alcohol or other drugs.
Perhaps you’re reading this and not only are you facing the stress and disruption of this week’s earthquakes, tsunamis and floods but you’re also dealing with a family member who is using alcohol and other drugs to in the aftermath of all of this to cope.
An increase in drinking or other drug use isn’t a matter of consciously “self-medicating”, rather it is the fact that the earthquakes have created a pressure cooker of internal and external pressures. And, under pressure, small cracks become large cracks. It is the cumulative weight of all of these worries that make the desire to escape become stronger, and for those prone to substance misuse, this escape path presents itself all too clearly.
Seeing your family member abusing substances as a coping mechanism can leave you feeling hopeless and wondering what to do. And, with all the chaos of this week, you might not be aware of just how elevated your levels of stress have become. It is really worthwhile to take some time to consider just how you’re doing right now and think about some positive things you can do to de-stress. Take a breath and remind yourself that the only person you can change is yourself. Are you causing yourself further stress in an already intolerable situation by trying to control your family member? Remember- you are not responsible for anyone else’s behaviour except your own.
You have a choice here, what are you going to do? How about something nice for yourself? What are the things that make you happy? Do you like soaking in the bath, catching up with friends, or catching a movie? It doesn’t matter what you do just so long as you do something for you that will make you feel better.
Self care is the first key step in increasing your happiness. Taking care of yourself allows you to act well because regardless of what is happening around you and how others are acting, you are in a good place. Being in this place of self care ultimately allows you to have a much more positive influence on your family members than any attempts at controlling their behaviour.
Remember, what you do matters, and you need to be as well as you can be!