Maintaining Focus at Work During a Disaster or Traumatic Event

Reviewed Apr 1, 2016

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Summary

  • Re-establish daily routines.
  • Talk to others for support.
  • Take time to grieve.

When disaster strikes, the community, including the workplace, is affected in a number of ways. Depending on the proximity to and the severity of the impact, people’s lives and routines are disrupted, causing stress and emotions to run high.

Responses to disasters or trauma

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

  • Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster or traumatic event is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and the safety of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.
  • Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters.
  • Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.

When traumatic events occur, our first response is concern—not just about our own safety and well-being, but also for the welfare of our family, friends and co-workers. We naturally feel threatened and respond accordingly.

Our stress behavior may be counterproductive. For example, if we allow our anger at a response to the situation to boil over at work, we do more harm than good.

As anxiety and fear begin to wane in the aftermath of disaster, other less obvious responses can affect our working relationships and productivity.

Preoccupation

Becoming mentally preoccupied in the wake of a traumatic event is a common but counterproductive response. This response saps focus, time and energy from all areas of our lives, including our jobs.

Fear and/or anger are often the root of mental preoccupation in such instances. It’s easy to become caught up in things we can’t control and get mentally “stuck” in an unhealthy thinking process that leads to unhealthy emotions and ultimately affects our well-being, important relationships and productivity.

Anger: Anger may be warranted in the wake of a traumatic event but the feeling can cripple our ability to be emotionally present for those whom we love and who need us. Anger can also hinder productivity in our jobs, creating further stress and uncertainty. Venting and ranting about the cause of a disaster, or who is responsible for the effect on our lives and livelihood may have its place but not when our focus should be on other important things, like our jobs and our families.

Fear: Feelings of anxiety and fear are also common whenever our safety or the safety of those we love is threatened. The loss of property or the threat of losing a job can also produce tremendous anxiety. One of the responses to fear is to become irritable, angry and overly controlling. This provides a false sense of security for the anxious person but also can make friends, family and co-workers anxious, annoyed or irritated.

Coping with your emotions

Everyone experiences strong emotions during times of stress. The challenge is to manage and express our emotions in constructive ways. Here are some suggestions.

  • Re-establish daily routines as soon as possible. Re-establishing familiar habits can be very comforting and helps make life more manageable again.
  • Identify your thoughts and feelings. Understand that your emotions are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
  • Talk to others for support. Talk to your family, friends or co-workers, especially if they share the same experience. It doesn’t have to be an expert, just someone who will listen and not judge.
  • Take time to grieve. Disasters always bring loss, big or small. Let yourself feel the sorrow for the situation, for yourself and for others.
  • Get enough sleep and rest, eat healthily and enjoy your leisure time. Spend more time with your family and other loved ones.
  • Don’t get preoccupied and worry about the things you cannot control. Life happens and life goes on.
  • Limit exposure to media coverage if hearing about the disaster overwhelms you. Too much information can increase your anxiety.
  • Associate with positive people and avoid negative people as much as possible. Although disasters can bring out the worst in people it can also bring out the best. Be aware that negativity can drag you down and reduce your productivity.
  • Be part of the solution by getting involved. Doing something can help alleviate stress and worry. Join community efforts to respond to the disaster.
  • If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try stress-reducing exercises. These can include relaxation and breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, working out, listening to music, or taking a walk—whatever works best for you.
  • Get professional help if you feel overwhelmed by worry, sadness or stress. Call the toll-free number on this site for assistance and referrals.
By Drew W. Edwards, EdD
Source: Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress; Uniformed Services University School of Medicine; Federal Emergency Management Agency

Summary

  • Re-establish daily routines.
  • Talk to others for support.
  • Take time to grieve.

When disaster strikes, the community, including the workplace, is affected in a number of ways. Depending on the proximity to and the severity of the impact, people’s lives and routines are disrupted, causing stress and emotions to run high.

Responses to disasters or trauma

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

  • Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster or traumatic event is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and the safety of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.
  • Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters.
  • Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.

When traumatic events occur, our first response is concern—not just about our own safety and well-being, but also for the welfare of our family, friends and co-workers. We naturally feel threatened and respond accordingly.

Our stress behavior may be counterproductive. For example, if we allow our anger at a response to the situation to boil over at work, we do more harm than good.

As anxiety and fear begin to wane in the aftermath of disaster, other less obvious responses can affect our working relationships and productivity.

Preoccupation

Becoming mentally preoccupied in the wake of a traumatic event is a common but counterproductive response. This response saps focus, time and energy from all areas of our lives, including our jobs.

Fear and/or anger are often the root of mental preoccupation in such instances. It’s easy to become caught up in things we can’t control and get mentally “stuck” in an unhealthy thinking process that leads to unhealthy emotions and ultimately affects our well-being, important relationships and productivity.

Anger: Anger may be warranted in the wake of a traumatic event but the feeling can cripple our ability to be emotionally present for those whom we love and who need us. Anger can also hinder productivity in our jobs, creating further stress and uncertainty. Venting and ranting about the cause of a disaster, or who is responsible for the effect on our lives and livelihood may have its place but not when our focus should be on other important things, like our jobs and our families.

Fear: Feelings of anxiety and fear are also common whenever our safety or the safety of those we love is threatened. The loss of property or the threat of losing a job can also produce tremendous anxiety. One of the responses to fear is to become irritable, angry and overly controlling. This provides a false sense of security for the anxious person but also can make friends, family and co-workers anxious, annoyed or irritated.

Coping with your emotions

Everyone experiences strong emotions during times of stress. The challenge is to manage and express our emotions in constructive ways. Here are some suggestions.

  • Re-establish daily routines as soon as possible. Re-establishing familiar habits can be very comforting and helps make life more manageable again.
  • Identify your thoughts and feelings. Understand that your emotions are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
  • Talk to others for support. Talk to your family, friends or co-workers, especially if they share the same experience. It doesn’t have to be an expert, just someone who will listen and not judge.
  • Take time to grieve. Disasters always bring loss, big or small. Let yourself feel the sorrow for the situation, for yourself and for others.
  • Get enough sleep and rest, eat healthily and enjoy your leisure time. Spend more time with your family and other loved ones.
  • Don’t get preoccupied and worry about the things you cannot control. Life happens and life goes on.
  • Limit exposure to media coverage if hearing about the disaster overwhelms you. Too much information can increase your anxiety.
  • Associate with positive people and avoid negative people as much as possible. Although disasters can bring out the worst in people it can also bring out the best. Be aware that negativity can drag you down and reduce your productivity.
  • Be part of the solution by getting involved. Doing something can help alleviate stress and worry. Join community efforts to respond to the disaster.
  • If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try stress-reducing exercises. These can include relaxation and breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, working out, listening to music, or taking a walk—whatever works best for you.
  • Get professional help if you feel overwhelmed by worry, sadness or stress. Call the toll-free number on this site for assistance and referrals.
By Drew W. Edwards, EdD
Source: Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress; Uniformed Services University School of Medicine; Federal Emergency Management Agency

Summary

  • Re-establish daily routines.
  • Talk to others for support.
  • Take time to grieve.

When disaster strikes, the community, including the workplace, is affected in a number of ways. Depending on the proximity to and the severity of the impact, people’s lives and routines are disrupted, causing stress and emotions to run high.

Responses to disasters or trauma

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

  • Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster or traumatic event is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and the safety of your family and close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.
  • Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters.
  • Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.

When traumatic events occur, our first response is concern—not just about our own safety and well-being, but also for the welfare of our family, friends and co-workers. We naturally feel threatened and respond accordingly.

Our stress behavior may be counterproductive. For example, if we allow our anger at a response to the situation to boil over at work, we do more harm than good.

As anxiety and fear begin to wane in the aftermath of disaster, other less obvious responses can affect our working relationships and productivity.

Preoccupation

Becoming mentally preoccupied in the wake of a traumatic event is a common but counterproductive response. This response saps focus, time and energy from all areas of our lives, including our jobs.

Fear and/or anger are often the root of mental preoccupation in such instances. It’s easy to become caught up in things we can’t control and get mentally “stuck” in an unhealthy thinking process that leads to unhealthy emotions and ultimately affects our well-being, important relationships and productivity.

Anger: Anger may be warranted in the wake of a traumatic event but the feeling can cripple our ability to be emotionally present for those whom we love and who need us. Anger can also hinder productivity in our jobs, creating further stress and uncertainty. Venting and ranting about the cause of a disaster, or who is responsible for the effect on our lives and livelihood may have its place but not when our focus should be on other important things, like our jobs and our families.

Fear: Feelings of anxiety and fear are also common whenever our safety or the safety of those we love is threatened. The loss of property or the threat of losing a job can also produce tremendous anxiety. One of the responses to fear is to become irritable, angry and overly controlling. This provides a false sense of security for the anxious person but also can make friends, family and co-workers anxious, annoyed or irritated.

Coping with your emotions

Everyone experiences strong emotions during times of stress. The challenge is to manage and express our emotions in constructive ways. Here are some suggestions.

  • Re-establish daily routines as soon as possible. Re-establishing familiar habits can be very comforting and helps make life more manageable again.
  • Identify your thoughts and feelings. Understand that your emotions are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
  • Talk to others for support. Talk to your family, friends or co-workers, especially if they share the same experience. It doesn’t have to be an expert, just someone who will listen and not judge.
  • Take time to grieve. Disasters always bring loss, big or small. Let yourself feel the sorrow for the situation, for yourself and for others.
  • Get enough sleep and rest, eat healthily and enjoy your leisure time. Spend more time with your family and other loved ones.
  • Don’t get preoccupied and worry about the things you cannot control. Life happens and life goes on.
  • Limit exposure to media coverage if hearing about the disaster overwhelms you. Too much information can increase your anxiety.
  • Associate with positive people and avoid negative people as much as possible. Although disasters can bring out the worst in people it can also bring out the best. Be aware that negativity can drag you down and reduce your productivity.
  • Be part of the solution by getting involved. Doing something can help alleviate stress and worry. Join community efforts to respond to the disaster.
  • If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try stress-reducing exercises. These can include relaxation and breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, working out, listening to music, or taking a walk—whatever works best for you.
  • Get professional help if you feel overwhelmed by worry, sadness or stress. Call the toll-free number on this site for assistance and referrals.
By Drew W. Edwards, EdD
Source: Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress; Uniformed Services University School of Medicine; Federal Emergency Management Agency

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