Injury, illness, and death are real possibilities in an emergency situation one may have to face. Perhaps nothing is more stressful than being alone in an unfamiliar environment where you could die from hostile activity, an accident, or from eating something deadly. Illness and injury can also add to stress by limiting your ability to move, get drink or food, find shelter, or defend yourself. Even if illness and injury don’t lead to death, they add to stress through the pain and discomfort they generate. It is only by controlling the stress associated with the vulnerability to injury, illness, and death that a person can have the courage to take the risks associated with tasks needed in an emergency situation .
Some people have trouble operating in settings where everything is not clear cut. The only guarantee in a emergency situation is that nothing is guaranteed. It can be extremely stressful operating on limited information in a setting where you have limited control of your surroundings. This uncertainty and lack of control also add to the stress of being ill, or injured.
Even under the most ideal circumstances, nature is quite formidable. In an emergency , a person will have to contend with the stressors of weather, terrain, and the variety of creatures inhabiting an area. Heat, cold, rain, winds, mountains, swamps, deserts, insects, dangerous reptiles, and other animals are just a few of the challenges awaiting the person striving to survive the emergency situation. Depending on how a person handles the stress of their environment, their surroundings can be either a source of important resources such as food and protection or can be a cause of extreme discomfort leading to injury, illness, or death.
Without water and food, a person will weaken and eventually die. Thus, getting and preserving water and food takes on increasing importance as the length of time in a emergency situation increases. For a person used to having their groceries available at a store, foraging can be a big source of stress. Forcing yourself to continue living is not as easy as you grow more tired. It is possible to become so fatigued that the act of just staying awake is stressful in itself.
There are some advantages to facing adversity with others. As Individuals we learn different skills, but as part of a society we actually learn (sometimes unknowingly) to function as part of a team. Although we, as individuals sometimes may complain about authority and government, we become used to the information and guidance it provides, especially during times of confusion. Being in contact with others also provides a greater sense of security and a feeling that someone is available to help if problems occur. A significant stressor in emergency situations is that often a person or family has to rely solely on its own resources.
The stressors mentioned in this post are by no means the only ones you may face. Remember, what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Your experiences, training, personal outlook on life, physical and mental conditioning, and level of self-confidence contribute to what you will find stressful in a emergency environment. The object is not to avoid stress, but rather to manage the stressors you face and make them work for you.
We now have a general knowledge of stress and the stressors common to emergencies ; the next step is to examine our reactions to the stressors we may face.
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