Stress blog

Coping with stress after natural disasters

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. September 13, 2011

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Each one of us, either directly or indirectly, is touched by the nightmare of natural disasters. We here in the Midwest struggle with the unpredictability of tornadoes and flooding, while those on the coasts deal with hurricanes and earthquakes. These are devastating events, but you can plan for how to deal with disasters and their aftermath.

Governmental agencies and relief services have documented some clear signs of disaster-induced stress. The list is hardly comprehensive, but here are some common reactions:

  • A sense of confusion
  • Disordered thinking
  • Eating and sleeping patterns that are far out of our normal range
  • Physical ailments such as headache, stomachache and overwhelming fatigue
  • Feelings of anger and frustration

These experiences are normal. They don't mean you're going crazy. Almost always these feelings get better with time.

So what are some suggestions from experts on dealing with these unpredictable events?

  • Talk with someone about your feelings — anger, sorrow and other emotions — even though it may be difficult. If possible, seek help from counselors trained to deal with post-disaster stress.
  • Look out for your physical and emotional needs. Be sure to get plenty of rest, eat a healthy diet and get some exercise.
  • Don't hold yourself responsible for the disaster. Acknowledge that you have no control over the path of a hurricane or tornado, or the direction of a flood.

And of course, you'll be better positioned to deal with nature's random acts if you have a plan. Be proactive and prepare for these events by having a disaster kit and non-perishable food stuffs, drinking water and medications on hand. Check the Federal Emergency Management Agency website for supply lists and other preparedness resources.

If you've been affected by recent hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters, please share your story.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

1 Comments Posted

Sep. 13, 2011