Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Another reason to be an optimist

A friend who survived a helicopter crash once told me that until you’re in a crisis, you don’t know how you — or those around you — will react. The tough guy might panic, while the supposedly weaker one takes charge.

After yesterday’s earthquake, I started fishing around online to see what I could find about how people react in a crisis.

“Among the traits that help a person deal with a crisis is a strong sense of confidence or self efficacy,” said a 2008 story on “Optimists also tend to fare better in crises than pessimists, possibly because they have more flexible personalities and can adapt better to change.” has a long story — “Crisis! How Would You Respond?” — with experts’  insights and advice. Being a resilient, calm, decisive and pragmatic problem-solver seems to up the odds that you’ll handle a situation without panicking. What also matters: Having gotten through tough spots before.

“My 40-some years of research into the nature of life’s most resilient survivors shows that experience in coping with and surviving previous emergencies and tragedies is the best preparation for handling new ones,” Webmd quotes Dr. Al Siebert, a resiliency expert, as saying.

Being a live-in-the-moment person also helps, the site reports. “If you can accept the fact that nothing except your breath is under your control, you’ll be far less likely to panic during any situation in which control must be surrendered,” disaster expert  Anie Kalayjian is quoted as saying.

Another thing that can lessen the odds of panicking is being prepared — as prepared as possible. In that sense, today might be a good day to get your hurricane supplies ready, just in case.

Personally, I went from denial to calculation to fear yesterday, and then the earth stopped shaking — whew.

To read more about how people tend to react in a crisis, visit and