Recover, Restore, Revitalize
We have all been touched by the intense events of this year, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic, and then the destruction caused by the CZU Lightning Fire Complex. The emotional toll of disaster is often as devastating as the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business, or personal property.
While the impacts of both COVID and the fires are still with us, we can also look to ways to recover and find peace.
Tips for General Health
- Pace yourself and set priorities. Don’t try to do too much at once.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Remember to drink enough water.
- Eat well.
- Take breaks and make time to unwind. Participate in activities you enjoy.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
- Move your body as much as possible.
Catching Our Breath
Since breathing is usually an automatic function, we tend to take it for granted, unless something like illness or poor air quality makes us think about it. As it turns out, we can consciously engage with our breath to significantly increase our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Deep breathing is a powerful tool to lower stress. Things that happen when we are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, high blood pressure, and feelings of anxiety, can decrease as we breathe deeply to relax.
There are many types of breathing exercises, and they are easy to learn. Many take only a short time and can be done almost anywhere. Here are a few you may want to try.
Easy and relaxing. Try this for 3 to 10 breaths any time you want to relieve stress. Take your time.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose. Let your belly push your hand out, while keeping your chest still.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as though whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to gently push all the air out.
- Notice how you feel afterwards.
A variation on belly breathing. Repeat 3 to 7 times, or until you feel calm.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
- Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep, slow breath into your belly; count to 4 as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
- Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
- Notice how you feel afterwards.
Use this for instant relaxation whenever you need it! Helps you to develop full use of your lungs and to focus on the rhythm of your breathing. You can do roll breathing in any position, but when learning it is best to lie on your back with your knees bent. With regular practice you will be able to it anywhere.
- Put your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest. Notice how your hands move as you breathe in and out.
- Practice filling your lower lungs by breathing so that your "belly" (left) hand goes up when you inhale and your "chest" (right) hand remains still. Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Do this 8 to 10 times.
- When you have filled and emptied your lower lungs 8 to 10 times, add the second step to your breathing: inhale first into your lower lungs as before, and then continue inhaling into your upper chest. Breathe slowly and regularly. As you do so, your right hand will rise and your left hand will fall a little as your belly falls.
- As you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet, whooshing sound as first your left hand and then your right hand fall. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body as you become more and more relaxed.
- Practice breathing in and out in this way for 3 to 5 minutes. Notice that the movement of your belly and chest rises and falls like the motion of rolling waves.
- Notice how you feel afterwards.
Note: Some people get dizzy the first few times they try roll breathing. If you begin to breathe too fast or feel lightheaded, slow your breathing. Get up slowly.
- Connect with others
Share your concerns and feelings. Talking to others who accept and understand your feelings can be very helpful. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or faith leader and talk about how you are doing.
- Move your body
Most any kind of movement is a great way to relieve stress. Try deep breathing (see above), gentle stretching, and walking. Getting out in nature can be especially healing as conditions allow. There are many online options available (and many are free) for yoga, home workouts, strength training, and other physical activities.
This simple practice, which is available to all, can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity, and promote happiness. Learning how is straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly. Many free resources are available to learn a variety of practices that provide significant benefits for physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
- Seek help when needed
If distress impacts your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a counselor or therapist, clergy member, or doctor, or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 800-985-5990.
Children of all ages may have strong emotions after a disaster. The combination of the cumulative restrictions on all aspects of our lives from COVID-19 precautions, and the destruction from wildfire in our County, can affect all members of our families.
Some families are able to return to normal routines quickly, while others are dealing with loss and damage to home and possessions, finding new housing, and financial hardships.
After a disaster, children look to the adults around them to see how they should feel and react. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Try to stay calm and provide comfort
- Answer questions honestly at the appropriate developmental level
- Be patient with changes in behavior
- Provide reassurance and a daily routine
The tips above on breathing, meditation, and other ways to care for yourself can help you with your own wellbeing and coping, and may also be useful for kids as appropriate.
Here for Each Other is a comprehensive family guide produced by Sesame Street in Communities to provide support for children impacted by emergencies. You will find ideas on how to to to create a calm environment for your child, how to recognize persisting signs of stress, and comforting ways to answer common questions. The guide also provides ideas for activities such as drawing, games, and singing.
Breathing Exercises from the University of Michigan
YMCA 360: Online classes featuring a variety of activities including yoga, strength training, dance fitness, youth sports, and art and cooking classes. Features classes for all ages from kids to older adults.
How to Meditate: New York Times Guide
Meditation Information from UCLA Health: Extensive meditation information, instructions, and free guided meditations in English and Spanish
COVID-19 Mindfulness Resources from UCLA Health: Webinar, Workshop, and Tools
Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Helping Children Cope from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in English and Spanish
Here for Each Other: Videos for kids and bilingual resources (English and Spanish) from Sesame Street with tips, ideas, and activities to help adults and children cope with emergencies
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Comprehensive resources to help prepare for and cope with natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, and floods, as well as extreme weather events. Includes activities for children and adolescents.
Disaster Distress Hotline: Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-SAMHSA)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Free, 24/7 confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
Join Us for the Great California Shakeout on October 15!
The Great California ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to be safer during big earthquakes: "Drop, Cover and Hold On." The ShakeOut is organized to encourage you, your community, your school, or your organization to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries. ShakeOut is also a reminder for Californians to be prepared financially, such as by exploring earthquake insurance. The not-for-profit California Earthquake Authority offers earthquake insurance throughout California for homeowners, renters, mobile home owners and condo-unit owners.
Click here to be included in the 2020 Great California Shakeout!
- Learn how you, your family, and your co-workers can be better prepared to survive and recover quickly from our next big earthquake
- Help motivate others to participate and prepare
- Be counted
- Be listed with other participants in our County (optional)
Join with us on October 15 when individuals, as well as schools, colleges and universities, healthcare facilities, senior facilities, and other organizations in Santa Cruz County will practice the Drop, Cover, and Hold On method of self-protection during Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills.
Prepared, Not Scared!
More important than ever! Learn how to prepare yourself and your family, and protect your home and property. This handy guide from the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County includes critical checklists and features an emergency evacuation guide with info on what to take, where to go, and how to stay in communication. Click here to download!
Get Ready for Public Safety Power Shutoffs
Under extreme weather or wildfire conditions, energy companies (PG&E for most of Santa Cruz County) may need to turn off power. We went through several of these Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) last fall, and can expect them again, especially during the fall.
We should all have personal and family emergency plans in place and updated, and we urge everyone to include preparations for power shutoffs, whether implemented as a public safety measure, or caused by other events.
PG&E is working to reduce the impact of shutoffs by finding ways to make these events smaller in size and shorter in length, as well as to harden and improve the electric system, and perform enhanced vegetation management.
Click here for more information from PG&E about what to expect and how to prepare.
Have a topic you’d like to see featured? Write to us with feedback and suggestions—we love to hear from you.
Resources and More Information
How Will You Get Emergency Alerts and Warnings?
CodeRed: SCR 9-1-1 encourages all of Santa Cruz and San Benito county residents to register their cell phones and VOIP phones with CodeRED. CodeRED is the alerting system used for public safety events in both counties. If you need to be told to evacuate, shelter in place, or prepare for an event, CodeRED is how the message is delivered.
Step 1: Go to www.scr911.org to register. Once completed add 866-419-5000 to your contacts so you know when SCR9-1-1 is calling you.
Step 2: Download the CodeRED app to your smart phone. If an event occurs in proximity to your smart phone, you will be notified through the app. Be sure to "always allow" your location to be known for this app.
And now available as an app for your phone!
The CodeRED Mobile Alert app provides advanced, real-time, location-specific alerts to keep residents and visitors informed and safe as they travel across the United States and Canada. Messages can include text and audio and feature a map with the location of the warning area.
Click here to download the CodeRED Mobile Alert app for either iOS or Android.
Nixle is a free notification service that keeps you up-to-date about emergency weather events, road closings, public safety advisories, disasters, and other relevant information from public safety departments and schools. Click here to sign up for alerts from local agencies. If you live or work in different counties, or if you have relatives or friends in other areas from which you want to receive information, you can sign up for alerts in other areas.
READY, SET, GO Campaign
CAL FIRE has developed a communications program called “Ready, Set, Go!” that breaks down the actions needed to be ready for wildfire or any emergency.
Download the app and you can create a plan right from your phone or computer
Click the images below for resources and information.