Japan's catastrophic quake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown have people across the globe feeling great concern, sadness, and compassion for the people of Japan. Numerous organizations are helping out and many sites list how we can help.

The internet, facebook, twitter, television and radio provide constant updates that help families and friends stay connected, re-connect, or learn about the outcomes of their loved ones.

But with so much bad news, far beyond normal human experience, those of us on the west coast can  become overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Children, teens, and adults are all vulnerable to becoming anxious, depressed, or triggered by such wild and random destruction.

How do we maintain compassion and care and yet have balance to prevent overwhelm or anxiety?

The National Institute for Mental Health identifies a number of steps adults can take to care for their children and for themselves.

Among these, three stand out as most important.

First, for children and adults, limit the amount of exposure to the disaster images. Children, especially, do not yet have sufficient capacity to tolerate the visual and auditory recordings of people and animals in distress. It's important for adults, too, to be careful with the amount of these images being viewed. Our brains are designed to seek safety and survival, and are highly attuned to danger. For individuals and families who have previously endured sudden disasters, viewing of events such as this past week's quake and tsunami can be troubling and taxing to the brain and nervous system.

Second, involve yourself and your loved ones in positive activity. This can be anything from participation in raising funds to send to the international assistance organizations, to simply playing games together or going outside for walks in nature, getting creative in the kitchen or reading inspirational books. The important task here is to intentional involve your mind, body, and spirit with something that has positive value and requires your focused attention. Positive activities promote positive neurochemical activity in the brain and body and replenish stressed minds and bodies. The Dalai Lama frequently states that an important task for humans is to cultivate a positive mind in order to reduce stress. In other words, we must often be proactive creators of positive experience in order to access the benefits.

Third, stress, overwhelm and anxiety are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. Natural disasters may or may not impact everyone. But for those who do feel anxious, talk about it with someone you trust. The fears, concerns, grief, or anxiety may affect everyday activities and relationships, and can be alleviated for many through sharing feelings with a friend, a support group, family member, or therapist.

Take care,