Disaster Response

Welcome. Thank you for taking the time to tend to your mental health and wellbeing. Responding to disaster in your local and neighboring communities while taking care of your own needs brings unique challenges as well as opportunities to connect with yourself, your colleagues, your family, and community.  We would like to share some resources and strategies that have been studied as effective responses to disaster. We have utilized this programming with healthcare and public health workers since 2020 and are hopeful that while we may not capture your unique experience specific to your geographic region and culture, that these modules provide a first step to give yourself what you need, and ultimately positively impact those you care for.

The first module is an introduction to the concepts of managing stress and traumatic reactions, specifically in response to wildfire and other disasters.  The remaining modules are existing modules as part of the Past the Pandemic program, which was developed for health care workers who acted as first responders to the disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, in Modules 2-6, you may hear some COVID-specific language. We believe that these resources continue to be beneficial in managing and mitigating chronic stress and burnout.  Each module also lists additional resources specific to its content, such as articles, books, websites and podcasts. Feel free to browse the topics below or reference these topics in our self-paced Toolkit.

If you prefer to review this content live with mental health professionals and connect with other healthcare workers across the U.S., you are encouraged to join the live sessions by registering here. All video modules with the exception of the first module below, are the same.


Module 1:

Managing Stress While Caring for Others

We curated this video for those who have experienced environmental disasters in their communities. Some of the content may be relevant to you, while other ideas may be overwhelming. If you’d like, take your time processing this information, practice self-care, and take breaks while watching this video and sharing it with others. As you listen, you may even consider writing down your reactions on how it applies to your situation.


Module 2:

How the Biology of Stress Informs Burnout Prevention

This module has two videos totaling 35 minutes. Part 1 reviews the components of the biology of stress, how stress can be both helpful and impairing, and what makes stress manageable.

Perhaps reflect on the specific types of stress impact and what makes your stressors tolerable, toxic, or positive.

Part 1 (23 minutes)

Part 2 (12 minutes)

Part 2, with Leslie Choi, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Mandy Doria, a Licensed Professional Counselor, will discuss the importance of regaining a sense of control following disaster or crisis through the use of a tool called the Individualized Resiliency Plan (IRP). The 5 evidence-based elements of the IRP will be referred to throughout the series.

You might consider writing down ideas for your own Individualized Resiliency Plan (IRP) that may help guide a personalized targeted response for you during this time. If you prefer an electronic copy, pages 28-30 in your TOOLKIT offers a blank IRP that you can fill in. We will be referring to this tool in other sessions as well and encourage you to keep it in an accessible place (along with your Stress Continuum and Battery Snapshot) where you can refer to it regularly and note how you are dealing with chronic stress in the wake of disaster.

Supplemental (Biology of Stress: 20 minutes)

Watch this version if you are more interested in the specifics on the biology as it relates to the stress response and the science behind learned helplessness.



Module 3

Grief and Finding Meaning

This session, led by Mandy Doria, LPC, RYT, and Julie Wolfe, MD will explore and validate the various themes of grief, loss, and trauma we collectively experienced since the pandemic and those that continue to emerge. We will distinguish the types of grief, the difference between grief and depression, and the role of traumatic grief. We will introduce suggested coping strategies and practices for bereavement.

The healthcare industry has experienced unprecedented chronic stress and impact due to the pandemic, including staffing shortage, lack of resources, and constant changes in policy, need, and demand for service. We acknowledge that many healthcare and public health workers continue to deal with chronic stress, tension, and pressure. You may consider how you were doing in recovery (or in chronic state of stress) from the pandemic before you were impacted by this community disaster. This layered impact makes grief very complex, however, it could still be helpful to name how this grief and trauma impacts us. We have found that naming and validating complex experiences can help us begin to understand what we might need to heal, in the short- and long-term future.

In the second video, additional resources are offered for those interested in learning or reading on more grief and loss.

Refer to pages 8-11 in your Toolkit for additional opportunities to personalize this material and increase reflection.


Additional Resources


  • Books
    • Finding Meaning - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
    • Man’s Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl
    • Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help Us Grow - Elizabeth Lesser
    • On Death and Dying - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.
    • On Grief and Grieving - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D. and David Kessler
    • When Things Fall Apart - Pema Chödrön


Module 4

Connection: Strengthening Relationships and Support

Chronic stress and challenges have brought complexity to our everyday connections and relationships. Mandy Doria, MS, LPC, NCC, RYT-200, and Justin Logue, MA, MSW will discuss the importance of social connectedness and themes that contribute, such as communication, authenticity, and self-compassion.

You may notice “Connection” as being one of the five evidence-based themes that are crucial to psychosocial resilience following a disaster. While this may look different for each individual, family, and community, there are some common themes discussed in this module that may lead to connection. You’re invited to bring awareness to the relationships that foster your growth and resilience, as well as the situations or environments that drain your battery. We hope that reflecting on these themes can help you hold compassion for yourself and others. Holding an internal awareness of where you are trending on the Stress Continuum, how that may impact your ability to connect and relate to others, and accepting and giving support where you can, may make a big difference in healing together in response to disaster, chronic stress or burnout.

Additional content with exercises related to these videos can be found in pages 12-18 of the Toolkit.

Part 1

Part 2

Please watch this 3-minute Video on Empathy vs. Sympathy:

Additional Resources for this Module:

  • Books
    • The 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman (Find “Learn Your Love Language” quizzes at 5lovelanguages.com)
    • The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work - John Gottman and Nan Silver
    • Getting the Love You Want: A Guide For Couples - Harville Hendrix, PhD
    • Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love - Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A. (Take the Attachment quiz on their website attachedthebook.com)
    • Freeing Your Child from Anxiety - Dr. Tamar Chansky


Module 5

Prioritizing Sleep and Other Calming Practices

Sleep and managing your stress are important foundations to take care of your “human machine,” strengthen it, and create space for more green choices. Part 1 with Leslie Choi, RN, MS, CPNP, PMHNP-BC will review helpful strategies, mindsets, and themes around the importance of sleep and the physiological relevance to prevent impact of stress.

It is normal to have difficulty sleeping in the weeks following a traumatic event or disaster, as your physical safety and sense of predictability may be upended. Your body and brain are likely creating a sense of vigilance since your safety has been compromised, as this is a survival mechanism.  Monitor this over time to note if it is getting better. Consider finding moments you feel “at rest” and focus on the times in your day where you feel calm, as this may help your body find better sleep.  Most importantly, prioritize time for sleep, which is a restorative and physiological protective factor to resilience and recovery.

For additional information and ways to improve your sleep see pages 19-20 in your Toolkit.

Part 1

Part 2

In this video, Mandy Doria MS, LPC, NCC, RYT-200 will offer some calming strategies to reduce stress and downregulate the parasympathetic nervous system throughout the day. These strategies may help improve sleep hygiene as well. This discussion includes a guided meditation for caregivers you’re invited to participate in.

Mindfulness is a general concept that when practiced, can offer great opportunities to observe how you are meeting areas of psychosocial resilience (safety, connection, efficacy, calm, and hope/sense of future), as well as gaps in those areas. Slowing down to notice how you are doing, and what you may need, may make your stress levels more tolerable. Hold compassion for yourself and those around you; traumatic events lead to varied impact and not everyone responds the same. Avoid the temptation to compare your situation to others, whether positively or negatively, as that often leads to disconnection and prevents repair and recovery. The “Loving Kindness Meditation” in this module is one way to practice compassion for self and others.


Additional Resources for this Module:


Module 6

Using Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Mindfulness has been shown to significantly reduce burnout, stress and anxiety.  This session will help participants better understand what mindfulness is and how to practice it.  In Part 1, Mandy Doria, MS, LPC, NCC, RYT-200 will discuss the foundations of mindfulness and offer tangible tools and strategies for how to be more present throughout the day. Part 2 with Emily Hemendinger, LCSW, MPH, CPH will discuss strategies of healthy behaviors, including mindful eating, mindful movement, and body gratitude. You will be able to participate in guided chair yoga and Emily will wrap up with a body scan.

Many find that this module offers the most interaction with guided activities and steps to take for improving self-care. We encourage committing to 3 action steps based on this module (and the whole series), and dedicating the next 2 weeks to initiating those goals for yourself.

For additional information and mindfulness and body gratitude exercises, refer to pages 21-27 from the Toolkit.

Part 1

Please watch this 3-minute Video on “Why Mindfulness is a Superpower”

Part 2


  • Books
    • Being Peace – Thich Nhat Nanh
    • The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff
    • Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn
    • The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World – Haemin Sunim
    • The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Nanh
    • The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
    • Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer
    • When Things Fall Apart // Comfortable with Uncertainty – Pema Chödrön
    • Tao te Ching – Lao Tzu translated by William Scott Wilson
    • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • Other/Apps
    • Waking Up from Sam Harris
    • Headspace
    • Insight Timer
    • 10 Percent Happier


  • Books
    • The Body is not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love – Sonya Renee Taylor
    • Intuitive Eating: An Anti-diet Revolutionary Approach - Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole


Thank you for all you do.  If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please reach out to us at pastthepandemic@cuanschutz.edu.