How to Cope With Disaster: Tips for Adults
The tragic events on September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on all Americans. It can be hard to understand and cope with the range of emotions. In order to heal from the tragedy, it is important to understand how you are grieving.
Each person's response to a traumatic event is different; people experience stress and anxiety in their own way. Responses to disaster can appear immediately or even months later. Most importantly though, know you are not alone in your pain and that there is help.
Responses to Disaster
The following are some common responses to disaster:
- Disbelief and shock
- Fear and anxiety
- Apathy, or an emotional numbing
- Irritability and anger
- Sadness and depression
- Feeling powerless
- Extreme hunger or lack of appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
- Crying for "no apparent reason"
- Headaches and stomach problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive drinking or drug use
What You Can Do
On their Web site, the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) provides some tips to help deal with the stress, pain, and anxiety associated with coping with disasters.
- Talk about it. Not expressing your feelings will keep you from being able to work through what happened. By talking with others, you will relieve stress, realize that other people share your feelings, and know you are not alone.
- Take good care of your physical health. Get plenty of rest and exercise. Remember to eat well. Avoid excessive drinking and risk-taking activities.
- Take good care of your mental health. Do things that you find relaxing and soothing. Give yourself the time to grieve. Recall other times you have experienced strong emotions and how they were resolved.
- Spend time with your family and friends. If you have children, encourage them to discuss their concerns and feelings with you.
- Try to resume your normal activities. As soon as it feels comfortable, go back to your usual routine.
- Do something positive that will help you gain a greater sense of control. Examples of this include giving blood, taking a first aid class, or donating food or clothing.
- Ask for help. If you feel overwhelmed by the disaster, it is not a sign of weakness.
The NMHA advises seeking professional help if you are troubled by strong feelings that will not go away for more than four to six weeks.
American Counseling Association
National Institute of Mental Health
National Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Coping with disaster: tips for adults. National Mental Health Association website. Available at: http://www.nmha.org.
Last reviewed February 2008 by Ryan Estévez, MD, PhD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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