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Responding when things get tough

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Several years ago I was eating in a cafeteria when a man started choking. One other man and I noticed this and rushed to him. I gave him a couple tries with the Heimlich maneuver and he spit out a piece of his sandwich. He was grateful and people even clapped. That was nice, but what I remember most is how focused I was in the moment. I had taken a lot of first aid training over the years and it kicked in when I needed it – just as I had been trained to do.

Stuff happens. Medical, financial, relationship, career and other setbacks happen to everyone, rarely as part of a plan. We often rely on hope that things will go well, but as is often said, hope is not a strategy.

In prior posts, I outlined mitigation and preparedness. These are steps you take for risks that either are likely enough, or potentially impactful enough, so that it makes sense to try and do something about them. A little bit of thinking, planning, and training are keys to these steps. These can help you be ready to respond when an emergency happens, like with me and first aid training.

In the emergency management field, response to incidents is based on a “local response” strategy. The expectation, even the plan, is that disasters will be responded to at the lowest level – starting with individuals. Even when there are other first responders – police, fire, and medical help – the intent is that individuals also take steps too. Are you ready to respond? If not, what can you do today to improve your readiness?

In addition to training, one of the things that can help you in times of emergency is a clear goal. Even if things seem overwhelming, taking a step and then another puts you in the response mode. It can help you feel in control, even when things are out of control. Focus on one thing you can do, no matter how minor it seems. We live in a world where information is easily available and we are connected to others. If you have time to reach out for help, do so.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

One of the things individuals face when responding to a challenge or emergency is stress. Even with training and a clear focus, things can seem overwhelming. Take care of what needs immediate attention if you can, and then make sure you focus on your own needs. Rest when you need it, ask for help, and just take on one thing at a time. Know that no matter how bad things may look at the moment, you can get through it. Deal with things the way they are, not the way you wish they were.

All of this means something to me -- for anyone paying attention, it's been a while since I have blogged. I spent November doing National Novel Writing Month, writing a novel over 50,000 words long. And then I was beat. Between the holidays and kicking off some other personal growth activities, I just could not get around to blogging. It was not an emergency situation, just life. Maybe you can relate. I stayed resilient though, jotting down notes as I went about my days. The next blog, wrapping up this set of topics, will be on the recovery step.

Now, go make it happen.

Tom