Looking after yourself and your family
Many families going through a kidnapping experience sleep problems. When the body is overstimulated, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, making it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. The neurochemicals remain present in the brain and can interrupt your normal sleep cycle. The can result in insomnia, bad dreams and daytime fatigue caused by sleep disturbance. This is normal given the crisis you are facing.
Lack of sleep can lead to a number of side effects that make it even more difficult for you to manage the kidnapping. For example, it can reduce your performance and alertness and impair your memory and ability to process information. This can make staying on top of information about the case more and more difficult over time.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep patterns, such a avoiding activities that will stimulate your brain before bedtime, having a regular time for bed, and avoiding alcohol which can interrupt your sleep further.
Nutrition and health
When you are under stress, it is important that your body gets the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly. Making a point of eating healthy nutritious food is one of the simplest ways to alleviate stress. It can’t remove it entirely, but it can help to reduce its impact on you.
There are some foods that can be helpful. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Fish is a memory booster, and fish such as mackerel contains omega fatty acids that are good for your heart. Yoghurts provide minerals including calcium, essential to maintain well-functioning nerve impulses. Calcium also contains lactobacillus, which is essential for maintaining effective gut flora (micro organisms that help you to digest food properly). Herbal items such as Dandelion, Chamomile, and Passion flower to name but a few, will relax both the body and mind.
To keep stress to a minimum, design a meal plan for the day that incorporates a proper breakfast in the morning, something relatively light for lunch and another light meal not too late in the evening.
Certain foods and drinks can aggravate stress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid some of them completely, just consume them in moderation.
Foods and drinks that can trigger and aggravate stress include tea, coffee, cocoa and energy drinks; fast foods and takeaways; butter and cheese; meat and shellfish; carbonated soft drinks; sugar; alcohol; almonds, macadamias and other nuts.
Exercise and keeping fit
Exercise can help to reduce stress levels. It can reduce fatigue, improve alertness and concentration, and enhance your overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, and also meditation or yoga can decrease tension, stabilise your mood, and improve your sleep.
Routine and social support
While your loved one is being held hostage, you might feel like your life is on hold. Some aspects of your normal routine might be affected, and you might not feel like doing some of the things you would normally enjoy. It is important to maintain a routine as it will bring structure to your life at this difficult time. It is also important to maintain friendships so you have social support structures around you. You should talk to whoever is managing the kidnapping case about how much you can tell your friends and wider family, but it will be important to have some kind of circle of trust.
Supporting your children
Your children will be looking to you, other adult family members and their teachers for help to deal with their emotions. You might be unsure how to communicate with your children. You might worry about scaring them. Even very young children can pick up that something is happening.
Aureen Wagner, PhD, Director of The Anxiety Wellness Center, has offered this advice for parents:
“Remain as calm as possible; watch and listen to your child to understand how upset he or she is. Explain a traumatic event as accurately as possible, but don’t give graphic details. It’s best not to give more information than your child asks for. Let your child know that it is normal to feel upset, scared or angry. If older children or teenagers want to watch television or read news online about a traumatic event, be available to them, especially to discuss what they are seeing and reading.”
The following tips might be useful and you build you relationship with your children during the kidnapping. Reassure them that you’ll do everything you can to keep them and their loved ones safe. Encourage them to talk and ask questions. Let them know that they can be open about their feelings. Answer questions honestly. Protect them from what they don’t need to know. Avoid discussing worst-case scenarios. Limit excessive watching and listening to graphic replays of the traumatic event. And stick to your daily routine as much as possible.
Most children and teenagers will recover from their fear. If you are worried that your child is not coping well or you would like guidance on how best to support them, Hostage International can help you.