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From: When disaster strikes – Footsteps 18

How churches and communities can prepare for disasters, including training in First Aid

by Mike Wall.

‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace the God we serve is able to save us.’(Daniel 3:17). People involved in disaster situations have to cope with high levels of stress, so it helps to understand what stress is and learn how to deal with it.

Three types of stress

Many everyday situations cause us stress. We feel healthy, necessary anxiety when faced with new situations – such as starting a new job, playing sport, meeting new groups of people. This kind of stress actually helps us to respond and deal with these new situations well. We can call this type of stress productive stress. 

However, as the amount of this kind of stress increases, we feel more and more pressured. As time goes on we get more and more worried. Eventually we reach a point where we no longer cope very well with these very difficult situations. All our energy becomes taken up with our own survival. This could be called non-productive stress.

If levels of stress continue to build, there is a further level of stress which we can call paralytic stress. The person is now at the point of collapse and quite unable to work at all. This extreme state needs specialist help.

The simple diagram below shows these three types of stress. Between points A and B the worker is able to work to the best of his or her ability. However, once point B is passed, the worker is able to work less and less effectively. In real life there are no sudden changes to tell that someone has passed into non-productive stress. Instead there are a number of warning signs.

Stress warning signs

Physical signs…

Mental signs…

Spiritual signs…

Other people may not notice any of these signs for a long time. The person may have a mixture of any of the above signs, but they would not have been typical of the person before they began to cope with a stressful situation.

How to deal with stress…

Develop ways of coping with the stress…

Mike Wall is in charge of the Disaster Response Unit, Tear Fund UK.

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