Natural disasters are devastating physically, but they also create a significant amount of emotional damage. While there are processes and procedures in place to help communities recover from the physical damage, it can be harder to figure out how to take care of your feelings.
In this article, we take a look at mental health tips that can help you and your family cope with a natural disaster.
Take Things One Step at a Time
Life will naturally feel out of control in the wake of a disaster. There are many things you will not be able to do for yourself and your family. While one may feel naturally inclined to linger in thoughts of what is out of your control it is more productive to find things that you can do.
By taking life one step at a time, you regain a sense of control while finding ways to be productive in the face of disaster.
Avoid Harmful Coping Mechanisms
Drugs and alcohol may provide tempting relief from the external stresses that follow disaster situations. While both can provide relaxation in sensible, restrained doses, it is unwise to indulge in either immediately following your disaster experience.
While drugs and alcohol can provide an experience of euphoria, they are both downers. In other words, you will come out the other end feeling worse than you did when you started.
Look for healthier ways to self-care. Eat healthy foods when they are available to you. Exercise and enjoy the dopamine release. Try to get as much sleep as you can.
Look for healthy ways to make yourself feel better.
Try to Take Pleasure in Things You Enjoy
It may seem impossible to find pleasure in the moments immediately following a natural disaster. However, if you stretch yourself, you may be able to find simple activities that can fill your time with joy. Do you like to read, dance, or jog?
Maybe you take pleasure in singing your favorite songs or engaging in a long conversation with people you care about.
You may not be able to stretch out on the couch with The Queen’s Gambit playing on Netflix, but if you use your imagination you may be able to find activities that make your life better.
Of course, this is an essential goal of surviving a disaster. Victims understand intuitively that they cannot linger among the wreckage and expect safety. However, it is important to keep in mind that exposure can take place even when you are physically clear of the location where you experienced trauma.
This is particularly true for city dwellers. For example, an airborne crisis, like environmental pollution, can permeate throughout an entire city posing health risks to the vulnerable even if they are safely sheltered.
When clearing yourself of the disaster zone, it is important to understand what threat factors are still active in your community, and how you can safely distance yourself from them.
Note that disaster exposure can also be mental and emotional. Once you have reached safety, make sensible choices about how you experience coverage of the event that displaced you. It may be tempting to monitor the situation around the clock, but doing so will most likely be unproductive, and exposure to graphic images may deepen your trauma.
Find a way to receive updates through a medium that is informative but not retraumatizing. Your local government or disaster relief organizations should provide resources through which you can access necessary information without experiencing them through the often exploitative news cycle.
Talk About It
Finally, make a point of talking about your feelings as much as possible. It can be difficult to process complex feelings on your own. By talking about what is going on, you not only give your emotions some breathing room, but you also open yourself up to the perspective of others.
Your friends and family members may be able to provide valuable context or information that makes it easier to process what is going on. Even if they can’t, it helps to have someone available who knows what is going on in your life.
There is no perfect way to handle a natural disaster. It’s a traumatizing experience no matter what you do, and time will be the ultimate healing factor. However, by focusing on your mental health from day one, you can speed up your emotional recovery, and remain productive even in the midst of a very difficult situation.
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