In an already extraordinarily stressful time, wildfires that began over Labor Day weekend have further impacted us all. Dozens of our members have had to evacuate or prepare to do so, or host evacuated friends and relatives. The hazardous air quality has affected everyone, and particularly people with pre-existing health challenges. Under such conditions, everyone feels the effects of these traumatic events. You, your family, and your friends may have logistical, emotional, or medical needs. At a minimum, all of us need extra kindness, support, and understanding right now.
While the air has begun to clear, the trauma we feel may not have lifted. Two helpful videos and two handouts were shared by PBOT that could help all of us right now. You can use these to help yourself, your City colleagues, and your loved ones cope with these stressors.
The City’s Employee Assistance Program, Cascade Centers, which you all have access to as benefits-eligible employees, has recorded a sixteen minute video called “Wildfires and Trauma Response” about common reactions to trauma, self-care measures to counteract trauma, and a brief overview of their services. The speaker is mental health counselor Rick Baumgartle.
Additionally, Cascade has provided two handouts that might be helpful, and they are linked here as well:
Prior to the fires, PBOT worked with a firm called Lumos Transforms to provide a series of webinars called “Anchoring Resilience in Turbulent Times.” One of those sessions is now available to view on You Tube. (About the first four and a half minutes of the video are set up time as the webinar got started, so go ahead and just skip to the 4:40 mark to reach the content.) In the approximately 50 minute session, speaker Nkem Ndefo explains the central nervous system’s natural response to stressful circumstances and how you can understand and work with it to experience relief from excessive levels of stress. She shares several short exercises you can use (or teach a loved one to use) to calm your nervous system in a tough moment.
September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, but we know the stressors of life are felt year round. Cascade Centers has counselors available 24/7 to discuss any need or topic on your mind. If something feels overwhelming to you, call them at 1-800-433-2320 or text them at 1-800-850-7721. It is free, confidential, and will NEVER be reported to your employer.
Remember, you are experiencing normal reactions to an abnormal situation. The people around you want to help, so please reach out to myself or your HR Business Partner at the City if we can support you during this very tough time.