Stress Warning Signs & Stress Management After Disaster Strikes (Part 2)
Stress Warning Signs & Stress Management After Disaster Strikes (Part 2) avatar

Stress Management After A Disaster

Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, your body releases a burst of hormones to fuel your fight-or-flight response. When the emergency need to survive is gone, your body returns to normal.

Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of a survival event means your alarm system won’t want to shut off, therefore staying on “red alert.” Having a stress management plan in place before a disaster strikes can lessen your feelings of distress, help those around you and prevent serious health problems as a result of extreme stress.

Below are options that can help you and those around you cope with extreme stress:

  • Take care of yourself: Many people want to help their families and friends after a disaster; however you will be less helpful to others if you are tired and stressed. Do the following to the best of your ability. Eat healthful foods, get plenty of rest, take some time to relax each day and know your personal limits. You also may find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques, meditation and controlled breathing.
  • Seek support: Reaching out to people allows you to talk with others about the experience. Seek out individuals you trust, and spend time with family and friends. When seeking support, remember that those people with whom you’re close also may be distressed about the disaster. Because of this, some of them may be unable to provide the help you need. If this is the case, seek out other sources of support possibly from a local church or support group.
  • Maintain routines: If possible, stick with your normal routine. This can help provide a sense of normalcy as well as help you maintain your usual social contacts at school, work or other places you usually go every day. Try to maintain as many of your home routines as possible (e.g., meals and family time.)
  • Be physically active: This will not only help man­age stress, but also ease pressure from the problems that the disaster created.
  • Limit exposure to news coverage of the event: It is normal to want to stay updated on the events surrounding a disaster. However, you may be able to lessen your feelings of distress by limiting the amount of time you spend watching or listening to media coverage of an event.
  • Seek trusted sources of information: Educating yourself may make you feel like you have some control over the situation.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol: Such substanc­es only provide a temporary “numbing” of feelings from distress and can lead to additional problems. Using them as a coping mechanism can cause dif­ficulties in family relationships, job performance and recovery from the disaster.
  • Consider participating in recovery efforts: Helping others can be a great source of stress relief for some people. You can help by volunteer­ing in recovery efforts, such as cleaning up debris, delivering food to families or raising disaster re­covery funds. You may want to provide support by listening to other people’s disaster experiences. However, to avoid feeling “burned out” from being too involved, you must recognize your own limits. Seek adequate time and support for yourself if you wish to help others. If you find that participating in recovery efforts increases your stress, do not be afraid to decrease your activity level.
  • Be understanding of yourself and others: Re­member that it is normal for people to be more distressed in the initial period after a disaster. You may need to be more patient than usual with co-workers, family members or children. Give them opportunities to talk about their experiences and encourage them to take extra time for themselves. You also need to understand that it may take you longer than others to recover from the disaster. If you feel strained, try to avoid taking on extra re­sponsibilities. Disaster recovery is an individual process.
  • Seek extra help: You may benefit from getting additional help if you still feel exceptionally upset for more than a month after a disaster. This is particularly im­portant if this stress seems to interfere with your daily activities, such as work, school or family responsi­bilities. Help is available from many sources: your pastor or a clergy member, a mental health profes­sional, a community mental health center or your doctor. All of these people can refer you to an ap­propriate source of help. In addition to family and friends, other sources of help might include sup­port groups at work or in the community. Because most disasters are big events that significantly im­pact many people, coming together is an important part of rebuilding a community.

Remember, you need to help and support yourself to be able to help and support others around you. There is no shame in being challenged by dealing with stress whether it results from a loss of employment, natural disaster, survival situation, or the loss of a loved one.

Recognize the warning signs and begin to move forward in a positive direction- it will benefit you greatly and those around you as well. The more severe the situation you find yourself in, the greater your need is for a stress management plan. This is a crucial survival skill that shouldn’t be overlooked.


Excerpts taken from information publications provided by the Texas A&M University and The Mayo Clinic

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