2 techniques from a counselor to cope with earthquake stress
An Anchorage counselor has a few easy tips to help people deal with stress from November's 7.0 earthquake and all of its aftershocks.
"In the face of a really stressful, overwhelming experience [people] tend to really stick with a negative. We're kind of wired to search for threat and be aware of danger at all times. And so we have to work hard to level the playing field," Mandy Casurella, a licensed professional counselor, said.
She says there are some simple exercises that can be done to deal with stress from the quake or other things that come up in daily life.
"We do a practice called 4-3-2-1. And so the four stands for just look around the room and look for four blue or green things around you. And then take a breath. And then listen for three noises in the room and then take a breath. And then notice two breaths. Just really noticing the inhale and the exhale, pushing your tummy out on the exhale and then letting it fall back in on the inhale. And then give yourself one kind and true thought," she said.
The exercise is something she did with third- and fourth-graders after the earthquake.
"And it was really amazing to watch them in that last part, of one kind and true thought, that they all looked at each other and they said things like, I'm OK. I'm really glad to be here with you. I'm really glad I didn't have to go through this alone," Casurella said.
She also uses word Kimochis — similar to stuffed animals — to help kids and adults. In Casurella's case, they're stuffed words. She asks people to pick out words to describe how they feel, which she says can be really helpful to get people to express themselves.
"After the earthquake, I had kids, adults, pulling up all different feelings," Casurella said.
She uses another exercise to get people away from negative thoughts. For instance, thinking of a time when someone felt safe.
"And it might just be that I was riding my car and I have a seat belt on," she said.
Thinking of a time when someone felt satisfied.
"I really enjoyed that cup of coffee," she said. "There's nothing too small."
And thinking of a time when someone felt connected.
"That could be with a stranger. That could be with your partner. That could be with your parent," she said.
"Repair mode is giving us a message that says, 'It's OK. You don't have to stay in this amped-up place.' That is really good for our physical and mental health. Practices like that are seen to help reduce depression and anxiety," Casurella said.
If someone is having a hard time coping with stress for a month or longer, Casurella said they may want to consider professional help.
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