Thriving Together Series: Self-Care Strategies to Prepare for Emergencies

Thriving Together self-care emergency

This is the second in a three-part series by Mason students on the importance of emergency preparedness.

By: Charles Vanek, a Mason alumnus who majored in Communication

“Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.” – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto

Emergencies can and do happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. It’s vital for your well-being to prepare to manage emergencies well. Self-care strategies can help you do so.

Take a moment to do something that you might find psychologically uncomfortable or even difficult to do. Picture some of the people whom you love most in this world. Maybe you are a parent picturing your children. Maybe you are a husband envisioning your wife, or a wife imagining your husband. Maybe you are picturing a sibling, parent, grandparent, or dear friend. Now, reflect on the dangers of the world in which we live and how pervasive and non-discriminatory they are. Every day on this planet, catastrophes happen. Hurricanes tear through the tropics, sowing chaos and destruction. Earthquakes shake buildings right out of their foundations. Tornadoes make the mightiest structures look like something a child built out of blocks. Such events can happen to the people you love. Now, imagine whoever you pictured earlier facing a catastrophic emergency at some point in their lives. Finally, imagine that you could do something to help maximize their ability to deal with such a catastrophe. Would you do it?

Of course you would, because you love them and want the best for them. Perhaps you could buy them emergency supplies, such as food and water. Maybe you purchase them flashlights and battery packs. Perhaps you drill for various emergencies on a somewhat regular basis. Whatever form it may take, you will almost certainly do all in your power to help maximize your loved ones’ abilities to deal with catastrophe.

Now, ask yourself if you do all in your power to prepare yourself for an emergency.

A Tiny Buddha.com article discusses some of the reasons we might tend to care so much about other people, while neglecting our own selves. The piece points out that we might conflate self-care with selfishness. It suggests that we might confuse the concept of caring for someone with the idea that we must “rescue” other people from themselves or their bad habits. Perhaps we are even so used to not caring for ourselves that we come to expect other people to do it for us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a group of people who love and care for you. However, no one has more to lose than you do, if you fail to care for yourself. An Applied Psychology journal article discussing the connection between procrastination, empathy, and future image correlates affective empathy for yourself with your ability to consider long-term consequences when making short-term decisions. When considering whether or not you are prepared for emergencies, have a little empathy for yourself. You do it for others on a daily basis. Do it for yourself, too.

How to Prepare Yourself Well for Emergencies

You can prepare yourself for emergencies in many of the same ways you might help those you love to prepare. Practice self-empathy. Would you purchase non-perishable foods for a loved one? Or at least recommend that they purchase such items themselves? Do it yourself. Would you encourage your loved ones to keep bugout bags or emergency power packs? Keep them yourself. Do you encourage your loved ones to be aware of the potential dangers they face in their particular area? Familiarize yourself, too. Practically anything you can do to help your loved ones be ready when disaster strikes, you can do yourself to ensure that you are prepared for emergencies.

Further, when thinking about preparedness, consider your own importance to the people you love. You might take all the right actions to help a child or sibling prepare for catastrophe, but how much will that effort really matter if they lose you, because you yourself were unprepared? Perhaps you struggle with this conceptualization, and understandably so. It sounds selfish to consider yourself so important. But you are important, to at least one person. Chances are that you are important to a lot more than just one person. Beyond that, the chances are good that you are indispensable to at least one person. Maybe it is a spouse with whom you planned to be with for decades. Perhaps it is a sibling who believed they would always have you at their side. Maybe it is a child who needs the wisdom and love of their parent so they can make their own mark on the world. The next time a disaster strikes nearby, think about these people. Think about what would happen to the people to whom you are indispensable if the disaster struck you, ill-prepared as you are. Their prosperity is important to you, and you are important to their prosperity. Therefore, you are important to you. Act like it.

There is a lot you can do to be well-prepared for emergencies.

Additional Resources

This Greater Good Science Center article explains research on why taking care of your own well-being helps others.

Visit your local government’s emergency awareness website for tips on how to prepare. The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management website offers valuable guidance.

The American Red Cross’ Emergency Resource Library can help you prepare for a variety of different types of emergencies.

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