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How to Cope with Disaster-Related Stress



Every part of the world is at risk of experiencing a natural disaster, or multiple, at any given time. Different areas won’t always be at risk of the same natural disaster, but the emotional effects of living through one can be traumatizing all the same. Whether it’s an earthquake, wildfire, tsunami, or hurricane, millions of people can be and have been scarred by natural disasters and left to deal with the emotional damage.


Even if the physical environment has already been cleaned up and mended, many individuals still struggle with the emotional strain left behind. One effect individuals can experience is disaster-related stress. Some symptoms of this include [1]:


● Difficulty with any of the following:

○ Sleeping

○ Communicating thoughts

○ Maintaining balance in life

○ Concentrating

● Depression

● Feelings of hopelessness

● Mood swings, which can lead to getting easily frustrated or instances of crying

● Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone


There are many more signs of disaster-related stress, but these are just some of what individuals can experience after a natural disaster. Counseling can be available from “local faith-based organizations, voluntary agencies, or professional counselors,” and “FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance” [1]. However, these agencies and organizations can be intimidating, especially for those who have just gone through such a traumatizing event. Other ways to help ease disaster-related stress include [1]:


● Talking about your feelings with someone you trust to make communicating a bit easier

● Spending time with your family and friends

● Trying to get back to and maintain a normal routine to organize your priorities and responsibilities

● Taking time for yourself to do something that helps promote relaxation, such as exercising, meditating, reading, etc.

● Reminding yourself that you should not feel guilty or responsible for the damage incurred and that there are many others in your community experiencing the same thing, so you are not alone


If seeking counseling at a religious organization or professional agency after a natural disaster is more appealing to you, they can provide you with specific coping mechanisms to help with your individual needs. However, if going to an organization or agency sounds like a bit too much to handle at the moment, the list above is definitely a more accessible way to start your healing in a way that is ideal for you since you can adjust things based on your comfort level and progress. What’s important is to make sure you’re listening to yourself and celebrating any progress you make, no matter how little these successes may seem.


Remember, you are not alone in this.



References:

1. Coping with Disaster. Coping with Disaster | Ready.gov. (2022, August 4). https://www.ready.gov/coping-disaster



 

Contributors:

Author: Lauryn Agron

Editor: Kayjah Taylor

Health scientist: Catherine Sarwat


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