If you have picked up a newspaper, searched the web, or turned on the TV recently you have likely come across news about one or more natural disasters and the severity of the devastation caused by them. Reasonable reactions to hearing of these events likely brings forth feelings of:
- Disbelief and shock
- Fear and anxiety about the future
- Feeling “numb” emotionally
- Feeling powerless
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
- Somatic symptoms ie. headaches and stomach problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive drinking or drug use
Most of these reactions should decrease as time passes which should allow you to focus your attention on daily activities. However, because everyone experiences stress differently, don’t compare your progress with others around you or judge other people’s reactions and emotions.
Try instead to:
- Talk about it – not expressing your feelings will keep you from being able to work through what happened. By talking with others, you will have the opportunity to relieve stress and may realize that other people share your same feelings and worries.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Try to exercise.
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat well.
- Avoid alcohol and drug abuse.
- Spend time with your family – if you have any children, encourage them to discuss their concerns and feelings with you.
- When it feels comfortable, go back to your usual routine.
- Do things that you find relaxing/comforting.
- If you feel overwhelmed by the disaster, ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. Talk with a trusted relative, friend, social worker, or clergy member.
If you have strong feelings that won’t go away or if you are struggling for longer than several weeks or months consider seeking professional help. People who have existing mental health problems and those who have survived past trauma may also want to check in with a mental health care professional. Being unable to healthily manage your responses to the disaster and resume your regular activities may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a real and treatable illness. Help is available. For information and resources please visit the links below.