Author Archives: Monika

About Monika

@MonikaAlMufti, co-founder |originally Swiss, forever exploring our glorious planet, loving nature and the diversity of cultures; oh - and obviously passionate about Resilience - Emergency and Disaster Preparedness

Heatwave – how to stay cool

Wow. It’s 7.45 am and the thermometer in my office is already at 28°C/83°F.
No doubt we will get to live the predicted #HeatWave in a big way today.

Listening to BBC radio two over breakfast earlier made me chuckle at some of the suggestions on how to stay cool. Putting your shoes in the freezer may not be the best way to go about it.

But what do you do, especially if you’re either running around in a scorching city as I’ll have to later or stuck in a hot office as I am now? And no, no air conditioning here in case you’re wondering. Not because our building is old. Rather it’s part of a new and ‘green’ development designed with good insulation and air flow, the balance of which today will not meet my personal sense of comfortable environment.

Well to begin with, ’running’ around is certainly out. So, dropping the usually fast city pace will be the first thing to remember and do …. starting with typing slower 😉 – keeps my sanity and that of others.

Then there are the usual heatwave preparedness tips like

  • stay in the shade
  • drink plenty of water
  • wear light and loose fitting clothes, a sun hat and apply sun protection
  • move to the coolest room and open windows only when the outside temperature is cooler than inside

However, there is one additional tip I’d like to share with you, pinched a couple of years ago from some savvy New Yorkers during one of their severe heatwaves.

Get a watertight ziploc bag and partially fill it with crushed ice

source: fits in your handbag or satchel and can be emptied/refilled as needed without much hassle. For instant cool, put it on your neck or chest, even under your feet and the crooks of your elbows.

Back when in New York that worked pretty well as lots of Deli’s have crushed ice machines. I guess I will find out just how well that method works today in London. I might pack a small rolling pin just case 😉

Oh, and if you’re at home, frozen peas work great too and you can refreeze them. Just don’t eat them!!

And finally, what am I doing at 07.45h at the office? Lots of very exciting things are in development here for Emergency Preparedness as we have just started a collaboration with the largest county in the United Kingdom.

I can’t wait to tell you more about their pilot project. I hugely look forward to showing you the amazing work they are doing for community resilience which may serve as an excellent model for all of us. But more later, I’ve got to run  – or rather NOT!

Wishing you a COOL day!

Keep an eye on your thermometer and weather app. Enjoy your ice teas and ice creams!


Also of interest: Heatwave – beyond Heat Health Watch to Personal Preparedness

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Fitness & Resilience – just how physically fit are you and why does it matter?

source: a glorious weekend after the violent thunderstorms on Friday. I wish I could be out there with friends and family rock climbing near Portland. Instead, in support of our daughter sitting A-level exams next week, I am home bound, exercising …. well, this is precisely where I want to begin today’s resilience blog post.
Exerting my imagination, dissolving this grey-white WordPress screen into majestic sea cliffs, my fingers racking up miles typing at speed while trying to come up with a way to bridge the massive gap in my initial post on what is resilience – none of this, of course, counts as fitness. And that is, obviously, not only essential for health but also a core capacity in resilience, one glaringly omitted in my earlier post. Psychology focussed approaches to resilience by their very nature tend to ‘get stuck’ in aspects of mental fitness/health and thus only perpetuate the already pervasive mind-body dualisms. Resilience on the other hand addresses and integrates much wider and diverse topics and, naturally, must include physical fitness. But why exactly and what is the evidence?

Mastering Physical Challenges builds Strength and Resilience

Physical training – exercise –  is good for your health. Yes, that’s nothing new and you’ve heard it all before but there is a crucial qualifier: if done right – but that’s not all. source:’s rather tricky actually and quite a bit of a paradox for you have to challenge and tax yourself yet not overly so, remaining sensitive to personal limits. It’s no easy task to continually hit your personal Goldilocks’ sweet spot of ‘just right’ especailly as it changes over time and with context.

The evidence in favor of exercise is of course pretty strong:  numerous studies have repeatedly shown that physical fitness enhances general health, may prevent or reduce the debilitating effects of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and a plethora of other chronic disorders. In addition, mastering physical challenges can improve mood, cognition and emotional resilience.

To illustrate, let’s go a bit extreme and take a closer look at Philpott’s (2002) study of the Vietnam War veteran Jim Thompson, America’s longest-held prisoner of war.

Resilience + Physical Fitness Case Study: Extreme Survival in Captivity with the ‘Daily Dozen’

The story starts with Lew Meyer, a civilian firefighter working for the military in South Vietnam. He was captured in 1968 along with twelve others and, after a five month long arduous march, imprisoned in solitary confinement in a dark 8-by-4 foot cell. Meyer exercised whenever possible even when feeling tired or weak, jogging in tiny circles around his cell or doing isometric exercises (see Often Forgotten Isometric Excerices). He continued his routines even when shackled in leg locks, substituting sit-ups for squat jumps and jumping jacks. When he was transferred to a larger cell with roommates, Meyer increased his routines and included his cellmates. At the height of his training Meyer could do 64 one-arm push-ups! One year into captivity they received another cellmate: Jim Thompson, a Green Beret, starved and tortured for five years, weighed less than 100 pounds.

“This guy is dead, I thought… I didn’t know how he stood up, how he breathed, how he did anything…. It took him half an hour to stand… talk about a gutsy guy” (Meyer in Philpott, 2002).

On their first morning together, Thompson tried to join Meyer but was too weak. He could not do a single push-up. Meyer adapted his routine and gradually coached Thompson back to health. Initially, Thompson could only tolerate deep breathing exercises. Then some bending and stretching. Within six month, Thompson completed the daily dozen and that was just the beginning. In time, the two men devised an escape plan. They planned and trained for over a year, making their exercise routine more and more challenging. Stacking their beds on top of each another, they ran laps around their tiny cell. As a group, they held ‘Iron Man’ type contests, one cellmate winning with a count of 501 push-ups, another with 1615 sit-ups. Strenuous exercise was not just a hobby or a way to pass time for these POW’s. It was a necessity. They felt better and slept better; it provided structure and purpose to their days which enhanced confidence. It saved their lives. Meyer describes how other prisoners who did not make any physical effort “all ended up dying within a few years after release.”
This story is undoubtedly extraordinary and quite outside normal life.  However….

Physical Exercise builds Resilience in Civilians too

You do not need to be faced with severely stressful circumstances to benefit from exercise. The Mayo Clinic lists 7 benefits of regular physical excercicse  which shows that exercising be fun but it boosts your energy, improves mood, helps manage weight, combats chronic disease, promotes better sleep and it even may improve your sex life.
As if that was not incentive enough, there is even more to consider about…

Exercise, Resilience and Neurogenesis in the Brain

Aerobic exercises can have stress-protective, anti-depressive and anxiety-reducing effects in two ways through neurobiological and hormonal pathways. First, exercise increasource: the concentrations of neurotransmitters in the brain such as endorphins that improve mood and serotonin and dopamine that lessen depression. It can also enhance neurogenesis, the making of new brain cells by turning on relevant genes. Second, regular exercise can protect against hormonal effects of chronic stress by dampening the HPA axis and lowering cortisol production which means that the brain is less exposed to this this neuron damaging stress hormone. However, not all studies agree and some have reported negative effects which may point towards the complexities of individual differences, flagging up my earlier point about the importance of tailored ‘sensible’ exercise, finding what is ‘just right’ for you and staying sensitive to that this may change over time. So you will be asking at this stage…

How can I use Exercise to increase my Resilience?

I have some tough but also plenty of encouraging news and, importantly, plenty of practical resources for you as is the norm of this blog. Building resilience typically means that you have to go beyond simply ‘routine maintenance’ exercises to fully tap the ‘good stressor’ effect of physical exercise. You have to challenge yourself – but sensibly so. First, I suggest you check out MindTools Stress Management including the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale as tools to gain a better insight into good/bad and hidden stress you may never have even thought about. Next, have a look at the NHS’s How Fit Are You self-test or another good resource is the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Fitness Calculator.  Of course these are no substitutes for getting professional advice from health care and fitness professionals, but it’s a start. One strategy to tap your optimal physical stress level is known simply as “stress inoculation” – first studied by Lyons&Parker (2007). It involves continually pushing the healthy limits of physical strength and endurance. Don’t confuse this with Stress Innoculation Training (SIT) which is a highly successful psychological method of cognitive restructuring (a form of CBT) to deal with mental stress which I will address in a later post. For the moment I want to stay at the physical level and one way of measuring fitness/stress is via your heart rate.

Your heart rate as indicator and how to calculate ceiling and floor for effective exercise

One commonly used way is to first calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. According to the Center for Disease Control, at 50-70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) lies what is called the moderate intensity heart zone so you calculate

MHR x 0.50  and MHR x 0.70 = floor/ceiling  moderate intensity heart zone

The resulting number represents your optimal heart rate range for moderate intensity exercise such as a brisk walk, water aerobics, doubles tennis, dancing or gardening.
To reach the vigorous intensity heart zone you will have to exercise at 70-85% MHR; so take

MHR x 0.70  and MHR x 0.85 = floor/ceiling vigorous intensity heart zone

Exceeding 85% MHR will not provide any additional benefits and may place an unhealthy amount of strain on your body.

Also, please note that these calculations are only estimates and may vary considerably from person to person also with ethnicity and especially if you are on certain medication or suffer from heart related conditions. Always seek medical advice before embarking on a rigorous physical training programme.
In addition, keep in mind that the above is rather simplistic. Other methods (i.e. see TopEndSports) not only consider your MHR or HRmax, but also monitor your resting heart rate HRrest which gets lower as a result of your heart becoming a more efficient pump through regular exercise. Also, sport organizations such as British Cycling have more sophisticated measures that do not simply start from a ‘generic’ maximum heart rate calculation but more accurately use an individual’s performance as a baseline to calculate several distinct training zones. Do some research and talk to sports professionals that can advise and find out what makes sense for you.

Pysical Exercise and Resilience – other considerations and useful tips

Naturally, this topic is a losource: more complex than can be crammed into a single blog post. You must consider other important questions related to physical fitness such as:  is it best for you to exercise alone or with others (or a bit of both), should you hire a trainer so that you can learn proper exercise technique and what about cross-training, combining exercises of multiple disciplines?

There are many excellent books on these topics and information is also available online from reputable sources. However, don’t get stuck and buried in literature. Much more important is to go and just do –  explore fitness actively. Although building physical fitness and personal resilience takes planning, consistency, perseverance and the willingness to live with discomfort it also based on simple drive and desire.
And so, before I go for a long and brisk walk myself now, enjoying familiar views of Fulham and Putney along the Thames rather than the more spectacular cliffs of Portland which will have to wait for another time, I leave you with some final tips on how to start your new exercise regimen, on how to build and expand your personal resilience:

  • learn as much about your body and physical fitness as you can to improve your understanding and find new ways of well being
  • check and discuss with your health professional before starting an exercise program
  • try as many different exercises as you can and consider the benefits of cross-training
  • set realistic goals and stick to them flexibly. Log your workouts to track your progress and celebrate success
  • if a 150 minute/week workout is too challenging, start small and break it down; i.e. British Heart Foundation “Time to get moving” or see videos like Dr Dave’s Daily Dozen Exercises Isometric Arms you can do while sitting at your desk
  • consider working with an experienced trainer as you build and expand your fitness
  • gradually increase the intensity of your cardiovascular and strength training but sensibly so
  • allow for proper recovery between sessions
  • practise healthy eating and sleeping habits
  • find friends and family to support and join
  • notice and focus on the positive feelings and greater sense of capacity and self-esteem you are building through exercise and try to reach a point where physical fitness simply becomes part of who you are

Have a great weekend.


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Cited resources and additional references:

  • British Army Fitness App / MOD: Get fit for the army (PDF)
  • British Heart Foundation: How your heart works
  • Lyons, D.M. & Parker, K.J. (2007) Stress inoculation-induced indications of resilience in monkeys. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20, 423-433
  • Philpott, T. (2002) Glory denied: The saga of Vietnman veteran Jim Thompson, America’s longest held prisoner of war. New York, NY: Plume Books
  • Stress Management Toolkit for Employers PDF (+ more from HSE Gov UK)
  • The official British Army fitness programme (Guardian article and links)
    US Army Physical Fitness Manual FM21-20; PDF accessed 5/6/15
  • Whitfield, B.e. (2013) A Historical Review and Analysis of Army Physical Readiness Training and Assessment. Combat Studies Institute Press, US Army Combined Arms Center Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (PDF accessed 5/6/15)


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Disaster Preparedness – what Disaster? Why Preparedness?

updated 05/2017

It’s midweek and I am meeting some people.
“…. what do you do?” The question is innocent enough at any social gathering. What happens next however is always quite interesting for me. When I say “I am in Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, we create Preparedness Kits for  individuals, business, organizations and local government” I either get a blank stare and the topic moves swiftly on or it gets engaging:

What do you mean by Preparedness? What Disaster? Where?

Now, that is a very good question. There is a quite a bit of confusion and a considerable gap between theory and practice – that is the difference between disaster theory and actual disaster risk reduction (DRR) and, more recently, preparedness. Thankfully, clarity has improved and the gap is closing for Disaster Preparedness concerns us all – and not just philosophically:

“Live moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds”      —  Paul Coelho


As imagery of that quote I particularly like the 12th century ‘Ladder of Divine Ascent’ at  Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai which, to me, is a good visual analogy of the precariousness of life as we strive for (ultimate) peace and security.

Predicting the future is no easy task, even with today’s amazing tech and science to help us understand and manage the risks associated with globalisation, urbanisation, climate change, population growth, dwindling resources, etc.

New technologies combine with existing ones, changing old and well understood hazards, and creating new ones in the process. People and communities worldwide – including the UK – become more vulnerable as a result of these new hazards in ways that we may not have encountered before – ways even that are hard to imagine.

‘Natural’ disaster data – perhaps not as straightforward as you may think…

source So called ‘natural disaster’ data is readily available nowadays but the term is actually a bit of an oxymoron. Natural events trigger a range of ‘disasters’, the resulting damage is largely the result of lack of planning and poor development which ends up putting property and people at risk.

Another issue is that most disaster data, like the following graphs, are biased.  The one by the insurer MunichRe is skewed towards the developed world, as opposed to, for example the EM-DAT based Oxfam report Time’s Bitter Flood which focuses on developing countries. There are other subtleties that may get ‘lost’ in how data is entered into international databases such as the one by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters CRED. Often not being considered (but thankfully that is also changing) are issues of geographical or time scale (no difference between 10 deaths in 1 min or 6 months) or that gross rather than normalized data is emphasized, yet there can be significant differences between total damage and per capita damage. Despite these limitations the various data nevertheless show a clear trend:

A clear trend: Natural Disasters / Catastrophes are increasing

Source: Source: now, another ‘bad’ El Nino seems a certainty:

Impacts from disasters are complex and wide-reaching but more importantly, they affect us all in a myriad of direct and indirect ways even on the ‘other’ side of the world. Disasters do not respect boundaries, whether geographical, social, economic or political5. For a historic insight into disasters located in the UK, Wiki has a couple of interesting lists: List of disasters in Great Britain and Ireland by death toll and List of natural disasters in Great Britain and Ireland .

So, what then is a disaster?

Actually, that’s another excellent question for the term has been used in many different ways1. Operational definitions are important since they trigger political decisions and a flow of resources.

Disasters are more than ‘just’ large emergencies and catastrophes are more than ‘just’ large disasters.

How we talk about and define ‘disaster’ has implications for what kind of research is undertaken and what strategies and resources are used to manage them. Disaster is an intellectually complex and emotionally loaded word that should be used with care. Theory is important as it underpins good practise. For example, in creating hazard maps, different concepts of ‘disaster’ need to be considered not just rapid onset well-defined events like an earthquake or  a volcanic eruption but also  slow onset diffuse events like droughts which only recently are being considered as disaster events1  (also see the current California Mega Drought or Wiki Historic Examples of Drought directly affecting India, Russia, China, USA, Australia and many countries in Africa but having much wider impacts).

‘Dis-aster’ (Latin) literally means ill-favoured star


Jupiter, the king of the gods and the god of sky and thunder

That is one way of revealing its origins in a classical and fatalistic worldview that saw calamities as coming from the heavens (or as in my later example above the daemonic nether regions).

Most traditional interpretations tend to revolve around agent descriptions, physical damage, social disruption and negative evaluation while more modern approaches favour social constructionism and the disruptions during and after a natural disaster event2.

A disaster is more than one thing (object, event, feeling) to different people and so while theorists may argue for a single, concise definition there is value in diversity.

What ‘disaster’ means to people is subjective, first and foremost and thus not so easily definable. People across the world interpret disasters differently, depending on their goals, cultural views and values.

Defining ‘disaster’ is complex and challenging

Disaster taxonomies exist similar to the ones used in biology3 and one commonly used typology is based on frequency, duration, area, onset speed, spatial dispersion and time spacing4. Other, rather coarse and overly simplistic categorizations use the labels ‘natural’ versus ‘technological/man-made’ or ‘rapid’ versus ‘slow onset’ as mentioned earlier.

Getting to grips with better taxonomies is important for both research and operations. Emergencies, disasters and catastrophes all show different characteristics both quantitative and qualitative which necessitate different management and planning strategies. Now, all this, while interesting, is also quite ‘academic’.

Preparedness, on the other hand, is intensely practical. Even in research…

Preparedness refers to concrete sets of actions taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters

This includes information and training as well as the physical preparations of adapting infrastructure and readying emergency supplies. In our current climate of dwindling public services and resources, business and individuals increasingly have to take on their own Emergency and Disaster Preparedness responsibilities. Naturally, this varies widely depending on the particular circumstances. However the necessity and utility of a good dose of self-sufficiency is, in my view, self-evident.

Being stronger and better prepared individually not only helps you to survive and bounce back, but automatically makes for stronger and better prepared communities.


Preparedness is empowering.

Preparedness is a diverse, practical toolkit that can make a huge difference. Start with our FREE resources. As an individual begin by making your own Emergency Plan. As a Business, especially if you are an SME, look into Business Preparedness and practical Business Continuity. And if you can’t find the practical resources and kit you want then give us a shout. Our specialty is, after all, custom-made kits and we’re always happy to help.

Until next time – I wish you lots of motivation to tackle your own Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and bring it into your wider communities.


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References / Resources

  • 1 Etkin, D. (2015) Disaster Theory – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Concepts and Causes. Butterworth-Heinemann (Elsevier) Oxford, UK
  • 2Quarantelli, E.L (1998) What is a disaster? New Answers to Old Questions, ed. Perry and Quarantelli (USA, Xlibrib Corp) / (2000) Emergencies, Disasters and Catastrophes are different phenomena. University of Delaware DRC Preliminary Paper#304,6) / (2005) A Social Science Research Agenda for the Disasters of the 21st Century in What is a disaster? New Answers to Old Questions, ed. Perry and Quarantelli (USA, Xlibrib Corp)
  • 3 Krebs, G.A. (1989) Description, Taxonomy and Explanation in Diaster Research. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 7, no 3; p277-280
  • 4 Burton et al. (1993) The Environment as Hazard. Guilford Press
  • 5 Hannigan, J (2012) Disasters without borders. Polity Press. Cambridge, UK

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Resilience and the importance of Role Models in providing road maps

My last post briefly looked at how older people – I like the term ‘elders’ rather than the usual descriptor ‘the elderly – are not simply a passive risk group but should be viewed and treated as active agents and potential assets in Emergency Preparedness. I mentioned how their decades-long experiences can contribute to being able to find and build on optimism and today I’d like to expand on this by looking at the importance of role models in resilience. Traditionally, role models tend to be seen as older people one looks up (often relatives) to but of course this is only a limited view. Nowadays it is easier than ever to find positive role models of all ages and backgrounds across a many diverse areas.

Everybody needs resilient, positive role models – not just children

Last January when this blog started, I introduced you to Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith who ran one of the first longitudinal resilience studies (see the Resilience – Nature or Nurture post ). They reported what has been confirmed many times since:

resilient individuals have role models whose beliefs, attitudes and behaviours inspire them

Research in teens repeatedly shows that those with role models have a better attitude towards school, better grades and attendance, greater maturity and better mental health with less depression and anxiety (Southwick et al, 2006) . Surely it’s no stretch to claim the same is true for adults of all ages. From where I stand, I see it as only natural that we can all benefit from encouragement from mentors and role models whose behaviour – words and action – motivate and inspire us to continue to learn, adapt and grow. Where children initially learn right and wrong as a foundations of morality, as teens and adults we continue to hone our skills to control impulses, delay gratification and find as well as create healing for ourselves and others.

Your Role Models – who inspires you and why?

some role modelsHow about you? Where do you draw your role models from?

You’ll laugh when I tell you that, personally, I can think back to a long string of personal heroes beginning with – unsurprisingly for my era – Wonder Woman. Yes – ‘oh dear’ indeed! I am no closer to being like her now than back then nor would I ever want to be – and not simply because of  body image and wardrobe issues.

However, Wonder Woman along with many of my real world heroes (i.e. in no particular order Henry Dunant, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Shunmyo Masuno, May Sarton, Malala Yousafzai) continue to inspire me to connect, never lose interest, courage and the ability to question but also accept.

Role Models do not have to be older, wiser or perfect

Role models do not have to be perfect – actually quite the opposite holds, I believe. Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses which, unlike flawless fiction super heroes, make them authentic and human and therefore much more valuable in that they are real and accessible. Have you heard of the Well Child Awards and the Pride of Britain Awards? Well, you probably have but for me, as a Swiss, this was certainly new. What a brilliant way to honour and highlight how everyday people do astonishing deeds to inspire us all, irrespective of age or background.

How role modelling works – more than just imitation

Imagination and imitation are powerful forms of learning and shape human behaviour. Throughout our lives we learn by imitating the patterns of thought and behaviour of those around us. Often we are completely unaware that we are doing such observational learning. It is not taught. Rather we simply pick it up merely by being exposed to others and the need to belong and fit in.

Matters are more complex, however, for example Bandura’s social learning theory (1977, 1986) holds that modelling involves more than simply mimicry, imitation or observational learning. He suggested that each person is able to integrate thoughts, values, behaviours and emotional reactions that resemble those of a role model but that it could be adapted to fit the particular personality and circumstances of the learner. Suppose, for example, that you know someone who always seems to handle complex and stressful situations with relative ease. You admire this resilient person and wonder how she or he does it. You intentionally begin to observe their behaviour over time and may notice patterns:

  • actively reaching out to others for help, support and assistance
  • adjusting personal pace to build in additional rest and recharge periods
  • upping diet with extra nutrition and taking additional exercise

This observed pattern you can now turn into a rule or model that you can modify for yourself for use during a variety of stressful situations. Doing so and keeping sensitive to what works best for you, you will develop and enhance your own personal resilience.

 What are the most effective ways of learning from Role Models?

Most people benefit from role models without being fully aware of the processes involved. You don’t need to make it into a science yourself but I believe that by taking a more active and conscious role will have benefits in that you learn quicker, can adapt and modify faster to what works best for you.

Like any new skill you start, begin by breaking it into smaller, more manageable chunks until you become better and more fluid at it:

  • observe the role model behaviour in a variety of settings over time
  • practise yourself in between observations for example by first imagining you possess a desired behaviour, attitude and personality style and then by role play (real life enactment is eventually required for successful imitation)
  • get feedback from someone you trust and that has a good eye. Such a person can point out similarities and differences between your behaviour and the behaviour you are attempting to model and may provide suggestion
  • patience! Don’t give up. Changing your behaviour to fall in line with what you consciously desire rather being driven on automatic takes perseverance

That it’s worth the effort is clear for you will gain immensely in realistic self-assurance and suffer considerably less from the inevitable anxieties that life throws us all.

Curiosity is key – acts of observing, listening, questioning, wondering and modelling. When you stay curious with an open mind and heart about your and other people’s worlds and our responses to shared experiences, then we can truly become role models for each another, building understanding and resilience for all of us.

Wishing you resilience building week full of illuminating observations.


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  • -Southwick, S.M., Morgan, C.A., Vythilingam, M. & Charney, D. S. (2006). Mentors enhance resilience in at-risk children and adolescents. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 26 (4), 577-584.
  • Bandura, A. (1977) Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
  • Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

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Resilience – Preparedness and older People

this blog entry is also accessed via | updated 13June2017

Another very busy week again here for us at, making sure your orders go out without delay while we’re stocking and organizing the new premises all at the same time. We’re also hiring again and so I’ve read close to one hundred CV’s of young people wanting to come work with us just these last two days. Being confronted with so many youthful stories of diversity and resilience I suddenly remembered my notes on Emergency Preparedness for older adults – the higher end of the age spectrum which so often remains under-represented. Needless to say, this afternoon I took this inner prompt to heart straight away for this is too important a topic to get buried yet again in my never diminishing pile of interesting resilience and emergency preparedness topics.

And so, without futher delay – did you know?

26 million older people are affected by natural disasters every year

Resilience for Life – UNISDR

.. and that’s just counting natural disasters, not conflict or war.

By 2050, the number of people over 60 will triple from 650 million (11% of the world population) to two billion (22%). A global ageing population means more and more will be affected.

Older people are deemed a ‘high-risk’ group in that they may be less agile, less mobile, may suffer cognitive impairments and are more susceptible to heat and cold exposure. However, older people can also be a real asset in a crisis. Most of those that have lived past six or seven decades have experienced more than one type of emergency or disaster. Their stories and insights not only may support those that are frightened and depressed but can also bring real wisdom and hope.

The topic of ageing and resilience is a complex yet one thing is clear:

Emergency Preparedness helps build resilience for older people

  • it brings a sense of self-efficacy, the ability to handle one’s own problems
  • it promotes flexibility and adaptability
  • it provides a focus and sense of purpose through meaningful activities and planning
  • it taps into often existing coping styles and optimism such as the ability to see silver linings and to look positively to the future

These factors, according to researchers, are more important to obtaining happiness in aging than perfect health. Isn’t that simply brilliant?

Of course, there is a lot more… I’ve just added four books to my reading list on ageing and resilience. It will be interesting!

I hope you will enjoy and share our new page on practical Emergency Preparedness for older adults with all the elders in your circle of friends and family. You may also enjoy reading Resilience and the importance of Role Models. I wish you a good week.



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Preparedness for Power Cuts, Brownouts and Blackouts

updated 09/10/2017

Power failures are common in the wake of storms (BBC) and disasters, man-made or natural; for example floods (Telegraph) and drought (Brazil dries up and blacks out, 2015, Bloomberg) even UK mini heatwaves (Ashbourne News Telegraph). Also see South Australia’s Blackout explained (09/2016 black start)

Power outages can also occur without warning because of faults or accidents.

You may need to shelter-in-place and wait it out or you may have to evacuate (Feb 2015: Liverpool One John Lewis evacuated after power cut as restaurants unable to serve food, Liverpool Echo)


Power cuts are predicted to become more frequent, not only causing damage to the economy ($180 billion in the USA) but also affect transport, security and health (Lincoln University). Concerns and discussions on the UK energy safety gap are ongoing (Guardian).

2003 – a memorable year for spectacular power cuts

Looking back, 2003 was a particularly eventful year. In the US and Canada 55 million people were affected during the Great Northeast Blackout, 14th August 2003:   Fortunately, most power cuts last only minutes, but even such short durations can have a substantial impact on you personally as well as business. The London Blackout (28 August 2003) lasted just 34 minutes (BBC) during which  

        • 400 calls were taken by the London Fire Brigade
        • 100 rescues were made
        • all main rail services stopped in London and the South East
        • 60% of London Underground was affected

 If not stranded in lifts or underground, thousands of Londoners and visitors either took to the rain soaked streets or found shelter in candle lit pubs and restaurants. Outages not only happen in summer. They happen every day (DNO live twitter list) and can affect everyone. Most spectacularly and recently again London:


What is a Brownout? What to do during a Brownout

source:, the opposite of a power surge, refer to a drop in voltage that can last for minutes or hours. Brownouts  commonly occur either by accident or intentional, for example, when used for emergency load reduction to avert a full blown a blackout.     Common signs of a brownout are      

                • flickering lights
                • rapid switching on/off of appliances
                • sudden computer and internet failure

 Usually harmless, brownouts nevertheless can damage your equipment so when you notice rapidly flickering lights, act immediately and unplug your computers, routers, TV, devices being charged, all appliances etc. During a Brownout, as soon as you notice fluctuations (i.e. when the lights start flickering badly)  

            • switch off and unplug computers, TVs, printers, routers, mobile phones, tablets or any other devices that are plugged in and/or charging
            • reduce your power consumption: switch off anything you do not need
            • be ready for a blackout in case your supply fails to stabilise source:


Preparedness for a Power Cut – follow these 10 top tips

Know your supplier and how to contact them. Suppliers often host a live power outage map and provide information and support also on twitter. The new emergency number for power cuts is 105 see guidance from your supplier; i.e. UK Power Networks’ Domestic and Business

          • make a checklist/map of all your electrical items that need turning OFF in case of a power cut
          • if you use crucial medical equipment requiring electricity, put yourself on your suppliers priority register
          • alternative communications: keep a plug-in cord telephone for emergencies that does not need electricity; stock spare batteries and power packs for mobile devices
          • alternative power: ranges from power generators to UPS devices (~ 1 hour), batteries and hand-crank or solar operated devices; more see generators


What to do during a Power Cut – NEW! CALL 105*

Is it just you? Check your fuse box to see if any have tripped – there could be a problem with your property’s wiring and you may need to call an electrician. If your neighbor is also affected, then call your local distribution company to find out if it’s a network problem. Normally, power cuts are locally or regionally based

          • switch OFF all appliances and equipment that may have been in use before the interrupt
          • leave one light switched on to know when the power is restored
          • secure your property; bells and alarms may not work during the outage (manual warning)


What to do when Power is restored

          • check all your equipment and appliances
          • only gradually turn your equipment and appliances back on, keeping an eye on possible fluctuations
          • check and and reset all timer switches; i.e. water heating, gas or oil central heating systems, electric clocks

Additional useful resources to understand what happens, the consequences of power cuts and what you must plan and prepare for and how to prepare for and cope with power outages:

      • list of major power outages wiki
      • electric safety HSE
      • will your landline work during a power cut? Ofcom

 Be prepared, not scared. Have a good week.

Monika | @MonikaAlMufti 

This page is also accessed by   thank you for sharing and helping raise awareness for Emergency Preparedness!


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…meanwile… February is here and the UK is finally experiencing winter

.. and this blog is (slowly) kicking back into life. My apologies for the long intermission but as I try to walk my talk as much as possible I had to take care of business and my own personal resilience first. Too many things came together over this winter period so this blog sadly had to wait: my degree course was drawing to a close, so long and tough exams had to be sat, we moved house with the family and are now doing so also for the business which needs much larger premises – all running alongside regular operations. Just after New Year I finally got away for a week to recharge my own batteries.

Resilience top-up

If you wonder what a ‘resilience-top-up’ looks like for me, here is my ‘quick-fix’ recipe:


    • one week away alone at a nice but not extravagant place no longer than 5 hours travel away
    • long medidative walks, three to four hours every day no matter what the weather
    • eat good food (lots of seafood in my case)
    • read good books – for a deeper perspective I chose Stephen Bachelor’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist and as a counterpoint that would make me laugh by comparing experiences I took along Notes from a small Island by Byll Bryson (can highly recommend both)
    • daily steam, sauna (I plug in good music)
    • lots of nettle tea (you may laugh but I swear by it)
    • … and for the rest just quiet and lots of naps and sleep

Boring? I agree, I could not stand it myself for more than 10 days tops but a week is bliss and anything less than 5 days simply does not do the trick. I came back feeling detangled, clear and fresh again, with lots of positive energy to take forward. It is much needed as major changes are afoot for all of us.

2014 has been confirmed by the Met Office as the warmest year on record which undoubtedly will impact this island nation in many ways – and then there is Taleb’s concept of Black Swan events.

Resilience, Emergency- and Disaster Preparedness as well as Business Continuity are no longer simply buzz words or abstract concepts.

They are being embraced in a very practical way by more and more people – one of many reasons why we are moving to larger premises in west London. Everybody at evaQ8 is hugely looking forward to operating out of much bigger and brighter office and warehouse space that enables us to provide even better services and products for preparedness and businesscontinuity. If you follow us on twitter or facebook you’ll be the first to see updates and pictures. For now, please heed the Met Office alerts, stay warm and keep supplied.

Take care and have a safe week. Enjoy the snow and crisp winter air.


I’ll be back shortly with more on preparedness and powercuts and how the right kinds of role models are hugely important for resilience, both personal and business.


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Resilience – Disaster Preparedness and Ebola

What a head-spinning ‘disaster summer’ this has been!

We’ve been incredibly busy here at EVAQ8, putting together disaster preparedness solutions for people, businesses and, most recently, aid organisations. Only now do I find a moment to sit back and reflect on this summer’s long list of disasters and their unprecedented cost to humanity. Continuity Central provides excellent, sobering and thought provoking monthly summaries on the global impact of natural disasters.

Widespread flooding through Europe affected Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Croatia. In Asia, Super Typhoon Rammasun and Typhoon Matmo raged in addition to excessive seasonal rains affecting vast regions.

On the other hand, drought conditions worsened in China and the Washington Carlton Complex Fire became the largest wildfire in state history.


Iceland’s Volcano Bardarbunga stirred. Earthquakes struck around the world, for example 6.0 San Francisco, 6.1 Yunnan Province Chine, 5.1 near Quito Ecuador, 6.9 southern Peru, 5.6 in Algeria and 5.4 in South Africa. Severe weather events and floods submerged the Italian village of Refrontolo and inundated Denmark and southwestern Sweden – comparatively ‘mild’ impacts compared to Africa with widespread flooding across the Niger region and heavy losses throughout Asia. And then there was Super Typhoon Halong in Japan, hurricane Iselle making landfall on Hawaii’s Big Island and multiple tornado touchdowns in the US. In contrast, drought hit Sri Lanka and Guatemala impacting agriculture.

Massive flood damage continued through large areas of Asia especially India and Pakistan while remnants of Hurricane Norbert and Tropical Storm Dolly generated flash floods in Arizona, Nevada and California. Hurricane Odile impacted Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Typhoon Kalmaegi made separate landfalls in the Philippines, China, and Vietnam and Tropical Storm Fung-Wong brought torrential rains to the Philippines, Taiwan, and China. Wildfires burnt across northern California and in Japan, Mount Ontake erupted.

Disasters do not Respect Borders – no one is immune

… and if all these severe weather events and natural disasters were not enough,
there is also Ebola – according to the WHO

“Ebola – the most severe acute health emergency of modern times”

This is not scare mongering. It won’t be long until we have the first Ebola case(s) here in the UK. The warnings are stern and from reliable sources: “Ebola Crisis – disease will be in Britain by Christmas, warns Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt” writes The Telegraph while New Scientist says that Ebola deaths will peak before there is a vaccine, with a possible 1 million cases projected.

Thankfully, the UK is in a much better position to deal with Ebola than most nations.

There is no reason for panic – but there is
every reason to be aware and informed – every reason to be prepared and equipped


What does it mean to be prepared for Ebola?

be informed – stay up-to-date – and remain critical of your information sources

UNICEF on the importance of being equipped

UNICEF on the importance of being equipped

There is a lot of information out there, too much almost and it’s difficult to make sense of it all. Official channels such as the WHO, UK Gov, the NHS and the CDC are a good place to start and come back to as they are updated on a regular basis. To lift your perspective also read up on stories of Ebola survivors, for example British Red Cross Blog What is it like to survive Ebola? While a very serious threat, Ebola does not kill everybody that is infected, especially if caught and treated early.

Emergency and Disaster Planning for Ebola is similar to planning for pandemics. Guidance is readily available and can be adapted to your particular situation. For example see the UK Gov guidance on pandemic flu or US sources ( such as information for Employees and Employers with regards to Pandemic Emergency Planning in the Workplace or in a more wider sense Pandemic Preparedness for Communities, Schools, Transportation and Health Professionals.

Reliable Diagnosis of Ebola

It takes upwards of three weeks for infected patients to begin showing signs of Ebola. Just because someone has a fever and is feeling ill does not mean they are infected with Ebola. There are a lot of misconceptions out there so be aware and help break the cycle of panic. Reliable diagnosis is by blood test. Researchers are working furiously to perfect rapid diagnostic tests for Ebola which may become more widely available. The NHS 111 helpline number now screens for Ebola (Guardian) but there may be problems with accuracy as pointed out by the GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul (GP online). New methods are being trialled everyday, for example today the Guardian reports that Skype is being used to consult with patients in Manchester.

Hygiene and Infection Control – limit the spread of Ebola

UN: Hygiene as a vital Ebola Response Tool

Hand and surface disinfection is crucial.

There are a number of reliable products available to everybody, for example Clinell (also see their Ebola statement).

In addition, there are practical solutions for Infection Control.

Finally, keep your Emergency Go Bag and 72-hour Emergency Kit stocked and up-to-date. For more information on that aspect please visit our Disaster Preparedness Information portal Emergency Plan.

If you also need to consider Business solutions, visit our page for Business Continuity.

Ebola and natural disasters affect us all, indirectly at the very least.

Don’t lose time, be informed and get equipped today. Talk to your friends, collegues and neighbours and help raise awareness for disaster preparedness. Help dispel myths and get the right information and attitude across no matter how young or old you are. Social support is absolutely crucial in Disaster Preparedness and Resilience – something I will address again in my next post.

Have a good week. Stay safe. Be prepared.


thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency & Disaster Preparedness!

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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Business Resilience – Business Continuity – What does it mean?

Resilient Business, Business Continuity, Risk Management – all are big buzzwords reverberating around cyberspace with renewed vigour these last weeks. Interestingly, the more I read the more I realize just how fragmented the discussions are and how these terms seem to mean very different things to different people. No wonder it is all quite confusing.

Risk Management versus Business Continuity Management, what’s the difference?

Source: Continuity Management or BCM is often treated as a subset of risk management. Up to a point this holds, for in Risk Management (ISO 31000) risk identification is the first key step in risk assessment that leads to the selection of appropriate risk treatments based on the best available information. Problems arise here, however, when ‘best available information’ is not good enough or absent. This is often the case in today’s world of complex and often hidden or fast developing threats both man-made and natural disasters.

Being able to select risk treatments for unpredictable incidents and disasters is the great strength of Business Continuity Management.

Simply identifying risks and producing a plan – Risk Management – is not enough – not for Resilient Business

The original definition of Business Continuity Management recognizes that BCM is more than just writing a Business Continuity Plan:

A ‘holistic’ management process that identifies potential threats to an organization and the impacts to business operations that those threats, if realized, might cause and which provides a framework for building organization resilience with the capability for an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities.’

I concur with Andrew Hiles (The definitive Handbook of Business Continuity, 2010) in that this 53 word definition, while appearing comprehensive is rather long and difficult to understand, lacking clarity in what exactly is meant by ‘holistic’ and ‘organization resilience’.

However, Hiles’ own attempt at a more user-friendly reductionist definition of BCM as ‘Preparing an organization to deal with incidents that might otherwise prevent it from achieving its operational objectives’ has in my view been stripped entirely of meaning which is perhaps why he finds it necessary to add two explanatory notes neither of which seems to add more practical insight. He qualifies first, that it is a management process that identifies the potential impacts of disruptions and provides the means for coping with their consequences and second, that preparing includes taking measures to reduce the likelihood and impact of incidents.

Business Continuity Definitions, while important, are limiting by their very nature

Rather than getting embroiled in minutiae or distracted by exactly where Business Continuity Management belongs – some recent authors seem to think BCM only encompasses aspects of IT issues such as cyber threats, I take the practical connectionist stance that Business and therefore Business Continuity cannot be seen in isolation. This brings my viewpoint back to interpreting the ‘holistic’ and ‘resilience’ aspect of the original definition. However, rather than going off on some metaphysical discourse as you might expect at this point let me emphatically state that in its essence ‘holistic’ ought to be intensely simple and practical. In Business, as elsewhere, ‘resilience’ is not a lofty metaphysical concept but is firmly grounded in daily life, in the skills, resources and connections of people. Resilient people bounce forward.


Today I came across an article on ‘Employer’s Focus on employees’ mental wellbeing‘.

Jennifer Paterson mentions diverse organizations such as Anglian Water, law firm Browne Jacobson , Microsoft and Marks and Spencer implementing staff well-being initiatives which made me smile and think ‘this is a huge step in the right direction’.

People are physical, mental and emotional beings, all aspects that holistically integrate into making personal resilience.

Resilient People = Resilient Business.

They are inseparable.

Perhaps there is hope that

  • A holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organization’ will gradually come to mean ‘a mindful management that recognizes and furthers the individual resources of its people’

After all

  • ‘Effective responses that safeguard the interests of key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities’ can only be delivered by (obviously well spoken – tongue in cheek) people that are resilient which is a complex mix of many factors as I have explored (and will continue to explore) in this blog.

… but back to Business Continuity Management…

Of course there needs to be management, Business Continuity is too vital an element of resilience at all levels (local to international) to simply be left to chance. While BS ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management System certainly is a valuable framework, it is also perhaps overly complex and bogged down with jargon thus putting it out of reach for many otherwise astute Businesses. On the other side of the spectrum is the well-meaning but rather unfortunately titled book by the Cabinet Office ‘Business Continuity for Dummies’ (2012) with its overly ‘soft’ approach. There’s also a short video:

However, Business people by their very nature are anything but dummies. Is there nothing else, no nuanced approach?

Active Programmes are better than Passive Guidelines

Rather than more books and guidelines, perhaps a more practical approach can be taken in line with another recent innovation that made me smile today (Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service): the Prince’s Trust ‘Get Started Programme’ aimed at helping young people experience and practice Emergency Preparedness.

Now just imagine that but as an active BCM training programme for small and medium size Business that includes simplified and flexible planning and – of course – Business Continuity Kits. Apologies for the shameless plug but there is real and practical resilience in what we do so do have a look around while you’re here. You will find a large range of real value-for-money ready-made Emergency, Disaster and Business Continuity Kits or – if you’re a fan of the Goldilocks Principle ‘just right’ like us – see our Custom-Made section for tailor made practical Business Continuity Solutions.

Wishing you a resilience-building week and thank you for stopping by and don’t miss our resources on Business Preparedness.


For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE business resources head over to our Business Preparedness page. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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Resilience – drawing on Faith for Strength

June marks the beginning of increased emergency preparedness in many parts of the world. Here in the UK and Europe we move to level 1 summer preparedness for heat waves while in the US the Atlantic Hurricane season starts. In addition this year there seems to be a very high chance of another El Nino which will have wide-reaching effects across the globe. See today’s article in The Guardian: How El Nino will change the weather in 2014. It is no wonder then that the web is full of campaigns that aim to raise public awareness for Disaster Preparedness and Resilience. What struck me particularly, however, is a report by Dana Bartholomew from the Los Angeles Daily News.

Faith-based Community Organization to host Disaster Preparedness Events

Source week, she reports that the LA County Office of Emergency Management launches a campaign asking faith-based community organizations to host disaster-preparedness events. US Churches, synagogues and mosques may soon help residents to prepare for what they call ‘the big one’ – an earthquake, tsunami or other major incidents.

I was impressed for it seems that now things are developing in new and promising ways. The relationship between religious or spiritual faith and resilience is supported by scientific research as well as by countless personal stories of amazing perseverance that attest how such practises can provide strength. Now, before I go any further let me state that I’m not religious. Rather, my point of view is humanistic and as such this new and much more open, preventative approach to community resilience by faith based organizations is a brilliant step in the right direction. Rather than being confined to provide support in the aftermath of a disaster there now is the possibility of a real shift in…

  • moving from Faith and Recovery to Faith and Preparedness

This constitutes a tangible power shift that can benefit millions. It has the potential to open the disaster preparedness conversation to a much wider audience, broadening and bridging social understandings. Done sensitively it can inform, support and enable individuals to acquire the understandings, tools and skills necessary to be better prepared for disasters at all levels: as individuals, as families, in their neighbourhoods and wider communities.

Generosity; source

The word ‘religion’ comes from Latin ‘religare’ meaning to bind. One aspect of the relationship between resilience and religion lies in exactly that quality – the particular strength-giving cohesion of a special social group with a particular outlook. The nature and quality of that outlook, however, is crucial. Religious coping is not automatically associated with well-being or resilience and researchers distinguish between positive and negative patterns1. People who see God as punitive and judgemental may feel they ‘deserve’ their troubles, that their fate is controlled by an unsympathetic all-powerful being. This can leave some people with a limited sense of control – a form of learnt helplessness that is difficult to overcome. On the other hand, the associations of faith with positive physical and mental health as well as resilience are well documented 2, particularly in patients suffering from medical conditions. Yet, interestingly, the reasons why this should be so are much less clear. There are a number of factors to consider:

  • regular attendance may foster resilience factors, i.e. optimism, altruism and a search for meaning and purpose
  • interaction with positive and resilient role models that encourage adopting meaningful social roles
  • experience of generosity and tolerance which may trigger reciprocity
  • protection against destructive habits

But of course it’s much more complex than that. The support that practitioners receive may come from their beliefs as well as from their fellow human companions. Most formal religions focus on the practitioner’s personal relationship with a supreme being who, on the positive side, provides guidance, strength and protection. For some people, this relationship boosts their own feelings of inner strength and self-efficacy and helps them to realize what Dante Allighieri described as “Be bold and the mighty shall protect you”– believing that God is at your side may give you the confidence to tackle challenges that otherwise may seem too daunting.

What if you are not religious?

Non-believers like me can and should reclaim the most useful bits of religion that, according to Alain de Botton, have been annexed by the godly. I really recommend his book ‘Religion for Atheists’ (not that I would categorize myself as one) that takes as a starting point the assumption that God is a human creation. See Philosophy now for a book review. The 26th March 2014 issue of New Scientist also has a number of very interesting articles on the topic. On the more practical side, any kind of regular practice that is positively empowering is beneficial. Examples include yoga, t’ai chi ch’uan, qigong, aikido, tantric rituals, sufi mysticism, sadhana, native healing traditions etc. Research testing the effectiveness of these approaches for trauma and survivors is expanding rapidly.

Albert Bandura (Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University): “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life”



Wishing you a great week.


For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

Thank you for sharing, raising awareness. Find EVAQ8 on social media, like and follow us!

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  • 1Pargament et al, 1998; Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37 (4), 710-724
  • 2McCullough et al, 2000; Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychlogy; 19 (3), 211-222
  • 3Streeter et al, 2010; Effects of Yoga versus Walking on mood anxiety and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16 (11), 1145-1152
  • De Botton, Alain, 2012, Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, Pantheon Books
  • Lawton, Graham, 2014, Religion without God – and other related articles in New Scientist Magazine issue 9900
  • Cheema, A.R., Scheyvens, R., Glavovic, B., Imran, M. (2014) Unnoticed but important: revealing the hidden contribution of community-based religious institutions of the mosque in disasters. Natural Hazards, 71(3), 2207-229