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Saturday, December 09, 2023

Coping with the Emotional Effects of a Disaster

By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff

Anyone who has gone through a disaster, no matter what type, will feel an overwhelming mixture of emotions. A survivor will feel relieved and thankful to be alive and at the same time feel terribly sad for those who were not as fortunate. A survivor is also likely to have feelings of tremendous guilt if he or she lost a loved one in the same disaster.

This rollercoaster of emotions is not in any way a sign of weakness, but is a normal human reaction. A disaster by its own definition is an extremely terrible event that will always have an emotional impact. Simply hearing the news of a catastrophe, whether it's massive flood damage, a major earthquake or some other tragedy, brings great sadness. What if you and your family experience a disaster firsthand?

Acknowledging the emotional effects of a disaster is an important step towards recovery. It is also important to realize that people cope with stress in different ways and some may recover quicker than others. The emotional reaction to stress can last days or weeks. However, there are cases when a disaster creates a long-term emotional effect that may already require treatment, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

When to Seek Crisis Counseling

It is recommended to speak with a crisis counselor if you or a loved one experience feelings of guilt, hopelessness and depression following a disaster. Being afraid to go out and be in the company of strangers or having fears of being alone are also signs that you need professional help in managing stress.

When a survivor begins to lose sleep, finds it hard to concentrate, has difficulty expressing thoughts, gets distracted easily, gets frustrated quickly, becomes suddenly disoriented or confused, and becomes quick to tears in a way that is not characteristic of the person, these are signs of severe post-disaster stress.

Such stress can also manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, muffled hearing, tunnel vision, and colds. Needless to say, if a survivor suddenly starts drinking more than usual and his or her performance at work and personal relationships are deteriorating as a result of disaster-related emotional stress, then that person should seek help right away.

Reducing Disaster-Related Emotional Stress

One of the best ways to ease emotional stress after a disaster is talking about what happened and how you feel. It may be difficult to relive the day or put your emotions into words, but expressing and sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone you trust will help lessen the burden.

Attending memorials can also help, but it is very important to let go of your guilt. Blaming yourself for something that you had no control over is destructive. Instead, focus your thoughts on the positive things in your life. Spend as much time as you can with the people dear to you. Continue your normal daily routine at home and at work.

Improve your emotional well-being by taking care of your physical health. Get adequate rest, exercise and eat healthy. Do activities that you find enjoyable or relaxing. Spend some quiet time in meditation everyday. Do not hesitate to seek advice from a spiritual counselor or a professional counselor who deals with disaster-related stress.

Recommended Reading
Helping Kids Cope with the Emotional Effects of a Disaster

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