Manage Stressful Situations & Locate Resources

Counseling faculty offer short-term counseling to help students achieve success in college. Make an appointment with a counselor to talk about concerns such as discrimination, crisis, sadness, or worry. North Counseling faculty are not qualified to assess or treat medical conditions such as mental disorders/psychiatric conditions.  

At North, individual counseling features mutual discussion and problem-solving so that students may consider possible ways—including referral--to reach their goals.

Learn about mental health topics by visiting the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Web or by taking a brief, descriptive mental health self-assessment survey online. A video clip on Managing Mental Health Concerns can be viewed by clicking the image found at http://facweb.northseattle.edu/jmao/health06/health06.html   

Students can schedule individual appointments with counseling faculty for short term, goal-focused help with stress and time management, managing situations interfering with academic success, and assistance locating referral resources.

Managing Severe Sudden Stress: Accidents, Disasters and Sudden Losses

North Seattle College
Counseling Department
L.Y. Minatoya, Ph.D.

Severe sudden stress occurs in situations that directly happen to us—such as accidents, crimes and disasters—and also may occur when we learn shocking news about the lives and safety of family, friends and people with whom we identify. You may experience greater stress if you also have been impacted by previous disasters or have recently lost a loved one.

News of world disasters and national tragedies can also increase stress, and activities such as watching violent imagery and reading about violent events in the news are best avoided in the aftermath of an accident. However, a positive fact is that humans have evolved to be highly resilient, to recover from hardship, and to use loss to rededicate themselves to greater kindness and appreciation of life.

Accidents cause significant sudden stress. When we are in an accident, our bodies and brains immediately and involuntarily become re-directed—automatically responding to the impact of the situation and triggering biochemical reactions needed to manage injury and prevent further harm. Because our brains are fully engaged with sending messages that prioritize survival, forming and storing memories is less essential; and people may find that they cannot recall the accident in detail.

After an accident, our bodies prioritize recovery and gradually return to normalcy. Healing takes considerable energy. In addition, it takes time for our brains to absorb the experience and relax from high danger/high alert survival reactions of anger, fear and immobility (fight/flight/freeze).

Reactions common to the first couple of weeks following an accident or severe sudden stress—such as irritability, worry/anxiety, difficulty “getting moving” and efficiently completing tasks—are not symptoms that “something is wrong with you” but rather are evidence of the recovery process and your phasing-down from conditions of danger.

To help yourself and others during this period of gradual return to normal:

  • • Eat healthy foods and rest and sleep.
  • • Spend time with friends and family.
  • • Ask your instructors and college employees, if you need extra help.
  • • Be patient with yourself and others.
  • • Continue to do things that make you feel productive and involved—go to classes, participate in social activities—yet approach them in small steps so you don’t exhaust yourself.
  • • Share information about assistance and resources.
  • • Actively look for experiences of kindness, beauty, playfulness and humor that occur in each day and encourage yourself to recall them with gratitude.
  • • Look for opportunities to express generosity and kindness.
  •  

Because our bodies and brains are prioritizing recovery and return to normalcy, after sudden severe stress we naturally become re-engaged with school, friendships and the pleasures of engaging in daily life. Yet, sometimes, we may feel guilty for having avoided harm due to a random decision to alter our plans or for enjoying ourselves when others experienced greater losses. These feelings are natural and may be reduced by being generous to others, by honoring others’ dreams through striving to achieve your own, and by becoming more appreciative of life.

As part of normal, healthy recovery after sudden severe stress, we may sometimes find ourselves re-experiencing anxiety, fear or high alert, in situations that remind us of the accident (such as riding a bus or hearing an emergency vehicle siren), when alone, before falling asleep at night, or when waking during the night. If this happens, it may help to breathe slowly in and out through the nose, to a count of four, and tell yourself a soothing phrase such as, “I’m safe, I’m loved.” If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and read a relaxing book until you grow sleepy. Then, return to bed. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. It is also helpful to use the times when you tend to worry to actively look for things that are beautiful, fun or interesting or to think in detail about something you enjoyed, such as taking a study-break with friends.

Resources:

For more information, here are some helpful links

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx American Psychological Association provides information about building resilience—the ability to bounce back from hardship.

https://www.rickhanson.net/mind-full-good/ This site provides interesting and useful information about mindful resilience from a research/practitioner associated with UC Berkeley’s Science for the Greater Good Center

King County Referral & Crisis Resources

Seattle/King County provides extensive resource information about medical, mental health, dental, legal, housing, employment and other services. They can be reached at Community Resources Online at www.crisisclinic.org and by telephone at 2-1-1 or (206) 461-3200 or (800) 621-4636. For TTY dial 206 461-3610 or 7-1-1 Relay.

The King County Crisis Clinic provides a 24-hour crisis line at (206) 461-3222 or 866.4Crisis (427-4747). For TTY dial (206) 461-3219

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health provides information about dozens of topics.

Online Mental Health Screening

Complete a brief self-assessment and receive descriptive information about depression, bi-polar depression, generalized anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder using an online mental health screening. Screening results are informational, not diagnostic, and are not intended as a substitute for a visit with a medical professional.

Washington State University Coalition

Washington State University Coalition for HB 1079 Students provides information and resource referral  helping students who are or who may benefit from attending college through WA State House Bill 1079. House Bill (HB)1079, signed on May 7, 2003 by Washington Governor Locke, allows undocumented students to attend college and pay in-state tuition in the State of Washington.

Opportunity Center for Employment and Education

The Opportunity Center for Employment and Education (OCE&E) is located on the North Seattle College campus. The OCE&E  houses a team from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and related partner agencies  that aims to provide basic safety-net services necessary to pursue employment and education. These include psychiatric services, help for children and families, nursing and family planning, and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.