(Emotional) Disaster Preparedness

By UB’s Rebecca Wolf, LCSW, PCGC

A friend of mine was recently telling me about a program he watched in which people shared their detailed plans in preparation for a disaster, like a meteor hitting the earth, for example. I had heard of this concept before – preparing for the worst. It makes sense really.

While I may not be meticulously prepared for a physical disaster, I do however, feel very much prepared for an emotional disaster, or more commonly, a rough day. As a therapist, I frequently talk to clients and coach them on things to have on hand at home to keep them comfortable and make them feel better when things aren’t going so well. I call this a Comfort List. I think it is incredibly important that everyone knows what can make them feel better, and have these things available in case of emergency. It is easiest to consider things that are comforting to each of your five senses.

Comforting Sounds

Is there a sound that immediately puts you at ease or brings a smile to your face? Clients have told me a specific song or band can always make them smile. Maybe the sound of the ocean or sounds of nature are your thing. Whatever your preference, be prepared by having this sound accessible to improve your mood whenever you need a boost.

Comforting Smells

Is there a scent that immediately calms you? Perhaps you love the smell of freshly baked cookies or the smell of the ocean. You may be able to buy a candle with the scent that improves your mood. One of my personal favorite scents is the smell of clean laundry. No candle required there! It can be helpful to recognize if there is a scent that improves your mood, and then have access to that scent at home.

Comforting Sight

Have you ever been in a taxi and noticed a beach postcard above the visor? It might be there to remind the driver of a happier more peaceful time or place. Visual cues can change our mood. Maybe there is a photo or a piece of art that improves your mood. Or perhaps even watching a specific tv show or movie. For me, the thing that I find myself viewing when I’m having a bad day is the movie Pitch Perfect. It is a permanent fixture on my DVR. My husband knows it is NOT to be deleted because if I’m having a rough day, watching some (or all) of this movie has the power to transform my mood. It may be beneficial to figure out what visual cues bring you joy and make sure you have access to them from your home.

Comforting Touch

Is there something tactile that is comforting to you? Possibly an old sweatshirt or a stuffed animal or a soft blanket? It may sound juvenile, but the truth is, sometimes touching something comforting can help improve your mood. It is useful to identify items that feel comforting to you and keep them around to help you feel better on a rough day.

Comforting Tastes

Everyone has heard of comfort food. We all have them – foods that can transform our emotional state from bad to good. Whatever your comfort foods are, have some, in moderation, on hand at home to use in conjunction with other comfort tools to alleviate a bad mood and help you to feel better.

I encourage you to create your own Comfort List and keep said items on hand at home. Arming myself with things to comfort each of my senses is sure to improve my mood when I’m having a rough day. This is my version of emotional disaster preparedness. As for the other kind of disaster preparedness I mentioned earlier, I’m going to cross my fingers that some bottled water, canned goods, and the first aid kit in my car will get me through.



On July 30th, our current electronic health system will transition to a new and advanced system to better serve you: Athena. Prior to the transition date, you will be sent a registration link to create a new patient account in Athena. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your therapist, or call our office to speak to a staff member.