Coping with Disaster

After experiencing or witnessing a disaster, it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or stressed out.  After a traumatic incident, your feelings of stress or anxiousness are probably quicker to surface than they were before.  While these are normal reactions, the reactions themselves can lead to further anxiety or stress as you wonder if you are ever going to feel like yourself again or if you can eventually get back to the life you had before the disaster occurred.

Common Reactions To Witnessing A Disaster

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some of the normal reactions to have following a traumatic incident or a disaster include:

  • Emotional numbness or extreme emotional reactions
  • Crying easily
  • Feeling tense, nervous, and anxious
  • Excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol
  • Difficulty focusing or trouble with your memory
  • Isolating yourself from social situations
  • Fatigue and insomnia

Signs That You Should Seek Help For Coping With Disaster

Although it may be completely normal to have feelings of stress and anxiety at a time of or following disaster or trauma, it also may get to a point when you need to seek some additional assistance for coping with them.  Some people experience some of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder when coping with disaster.  This is not something that will go away on its own so professional help may be needed to overcome some of the obstacles.  There are some signs that you may need to seek help from outside sources.

  1. You find that you are exhibiting symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, a heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch, unreasonable fear or suspiciousness of others, dramatic appetite or sleep changes, or a feeling of being disconnected from yourself.
  2. You begin to abuse drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with your overwhelming feelings about the event.
  3. Your concerned for the safety of those around you or in your care and for your own well-being or you have thoughts about hurting yourself or others.
  4. You cannot get back into a normal routine. You are unable to begin to function normally and work toward finding a safe space.
  5. You have feelings of extreme sadness or depression that continue without interruption for more than two weeks.

Things You Can Do On Your Own

If you do not believe that you need to or are ready to look for professional help, there are some things that you can do to try to set your life back to right and help yourself feel a bit better.

  • If this traumatic event or disaster is something that will be covered by many news sources, stop watching. If you find that you are anxiously awaiting every news cast or you are constantly searching the internet for more information, you are simply feeding into your feelings of anxiety and stress.  Step away from the media and focus on you and your family.
  • Take care of yourself and your loved ones. It may be difficult, but try to cook and eat food that is good for you even though what you may be craving is comfort food.  Try to get some exercise and get a good night’s sleep so that your brain has time to refresh itself and your thinking will stay clear.
  • Try to get back to a routine as quickly as possible. It may not be the routine you had before, but anything will help you feel like you are “normal” again.  Go to work, take your children to dance classes, and talk about projects and homework.  Getting back into a routine will speed up your recovery and help you feel better.
  • Do not let your feelings fester inside of you. If other people know what you have been through, they may be better equipped to help you.  Talk to your friends or your family.  Talk to other members of your community about how you are feeling and how they are feeling.  You may be able to find ways of coping together that will make things easier for all involved.
  • Do not dwell on the negatives about your situation. Getting caught up in all of the bad things is not going to be helpful to you or your loved ones.  It is normal to feel overwhelmed in the face of a disaster or a traumatic event, but if you take stock in the things that are good about your life and you remember that there are good things yet to come, you will be better off in the long run.