How to deal with natural disasters

If you have experienced natural disasters (such as tornadoes or hurricanes), it is important to learn how to deal with the possible impact of these events.

Natural disasters may cause high levels of stress, anxiety and anger in the affected people. They are considered traumatic events and may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in survivors.

Unlike other traumatic events, natural disasters can cause huge damage to property and economic loss, further exacerbating stress levels and disrupting response efforts.

For example, tornadoes or hurricanes can destroy and disperse entire communities, hindering their attempts to connect with social support.

Ways to deal with natural disasters

Although the impact of natural disasters can be severe and far-reaching, you can take some measures to deal with it. Here are some ways to reduce the trauma of natural disasters.

  • Seek and contact social support. Studies have consistently found that early intervention, resources, and other people’s support can be the main factors that help people overcome the negative effects of traumatic events.Given that natural disasters affect the entire community, your support system may be weakened by natural disasters. However, even connecting with one person can have an impact.
  • Identify local support groups or crisis advisors available to talk to. After a natural disaster occurs, you may ask a crisis consultant to provide support and help you figure out how to deal with the impact of the natural disaster. Take advantage of these opportunities.
  • Try to make a schedule. For example, set time for eating, waking up in the morning, or talking with family and friends. Natural disasters can greatly disrupt your normal schedule and increase the level of confusion and loss of control in your life. Having a structured daily schedule can help you build predictability and a sense of control.
  • Talk about the impact of natural disasters. Share your feelings with others, or at least, find some way to express your emotions. Natural disasters can cause intense anger, anxiety, and sadness. These emotions need to be expressed. If you control them, they may become more intense.
  • Focus on self-care. Natural disasters will deplete your body and emotions. It is very important to take time to take care of yourself. Self-care is an indispensable part of physical and mental health. Taking care of your body, mind and spirit can improve your ability to cope with trauma. Make sure you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. Mindfulness practice has also been shown to help survivors cope with PTSD.
  • Practice healthy coping strategies. After a natural disaster, you will experience many strong negative emotions. Therefore, it is very important to determine a healthy way to manage these emotions. Alcohol or substance use, excessive sleep and seeking food comfort may be effective short-term strategies for managing emotional distress, but in the long run, these behaviors do not solve the underlying problem and often increase stress.
  • Try to limit other sources of stress in your life. Although you may not be able to control other sources of stress in your life, try to limit the extent to which you make major decisions or life changes. After a natural disaster, your most important task is to restore your life and emotions to normal. Therefore, it is important to put yourself in a place where it is easier to do this.
  • Find ways to help others. Helping others can provide you with a sense of agency, purpose, control, and empowerment.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

It is important to realize that PTSD-like symptoms are normal after a traumatic event.

You may experience intrusive thoughts or memories of traumatic events, feeling nervous or having difficulty falling asleep.In many ways, these symptoms are a natural response to the body’s exposure to (and surviving) a high-stress event.

Healthy coping strategies

For most people who have experienced traumatic events such as natural disasters, the symptoms will dissipate naturally over time. Responding in a healthy way will further increase the likelihood that these symptoms will improve.

However, adopting unhealthy coping strategies (for example, drinking alcohol or other avoidance methods) may increase the likelihood that these symptoms will persist and may become worse—and ultimately lead to a diagnosis of PTSD.

A healthy response strategy is the key to recovery from natural disasters.

Get help

If you find that your symptoms are not getting better and start to interfere with all aspects of your daily life, then it may be time to seek help.

If you decide to start treatment, finding a qualified mental health provider can be a difficult and stressful task. Fortunately, some websites offer free search tools that can help you find a therapist trained in PTSD treatment in your area.

Even if you don’t feel that your symptoms are interfering with your life, it is still beneficial to talk to someone. Qualified and compassionate mental health professionals can provide support and resources as you overcome the stress of the consequences of natural disasters.

The therapist can also help you develop problem-solving skills and help you return to a normal life after an incident, thereby reducing your stress. Additional support and tools can prevent the development of PTSD or other trauma-related diseases.