Natural disasters disrupt lives in significant ways
Anticipating the arrival of a hurricane, or any severe storm strikes fear and anxiety in the people in its path for good reason. Natural disasters disrupt lives in significant ways, including creating physical and mental health problems and major economic challenges. And the never-ending news about a storm’s arrival may increase your anxiety, stress, and fear. Here are some tips to help you take care of your own mental health, as well as your family’s before and after a storm.
It’s only natural to feel scared, anxious, and nervous. Recognize your emotions and try these tips to alleviate your anxiety.
Create a plan — A well-prepared plan for your family can help reduce anxiety and chaos before, during, and afterward. Make an evacuation plan and compile preparedness kits. Get tips from the Red Cross.
Be informed — Stay up-to-date on weather information and warnings. If you’re aware of the latest information, you may gain a sense of control over the situation.
Talk it out — Share your fears with family members, friends, a counselor, or others who can offer emotional support.
Accept what you can’t control — Nobody can control the path of a storm or its damage. And excessive worrying that one may hit you will not change anything except your emotional well-being.
After the Storm
Many survivors of severe storms will experience emotional and physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, and nausea for days or even weeks afterward. If you are having difficulty coping, consider the following:
Do something positive: Donate blood, prepare care packages, or volunteer to help others, all of which can provide a sense of purpose in a situation that feels out of your control.
Follow your usual daily routine as much as possible.
Limit your exposure to repeated news stories, which usually increases stress.
Rest, get exercise, and eat properly. Seek out leisure and recreational activities that involve both mind and body.
Spend time with trusted loved ones for support.
Talk with others and seek support from those who have been exposed to the same or similar trauma.
Recognize that you cannot control everything.
Talk with a relative, friend, doctor, or spiritual advisor about getting help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness.
Contact a mental health professional if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks and interfere in your carrying out your daily activities.
Prolonged Anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
If after several weeks your anxiety symptoms persist, it may be an indication of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD:
Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However, symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later.