Our daily lives take on a familiarity that provides us with a sense of stability and security. Even those who travel frequently have familiarities, such as airports and hotel rooms.
So when our familiar life is disrupted by a disaster, we naturally experience a strong stress-reaction to the unwanted change and increased uncertainty.
Whether you have recently experienced a disaster or know people who have, it is important to realize which responses are normal considering the circumstances. It is also useful to know that recovery from disasters can take months or years; people do not wake up one day magically recovered from a traumatic experience.
10 Normal Responses to Disaster
- intense feelings: anxiety, grief, anger, depression
- survival worries
- financial worries related to rebuilding and retirement
- difficulty trusting, being suspicious or wary
- feeling isolated, alone, or cut off
- disturbing visual memories
- trouble sleeping and appetite changes
- irritability or apathy, mood swings
- frustration about paperwork for relief or insurance services
Although a person’s most intense reactions may be during the year following a disaster, full adjustment can take two to seven years. Even after coming to terms with what happened, some people will forever think of time in terms of before the disaster, and after.
Post trauma, children can revert to old behaviors such as sucking their thumb as a way of managing their feelings. They may fear leaving their parent’s side and be very disturbed by the loss of family routine.
Senior adults may have strong feelings over losing personal items that connected them to their past, and like children, they are sensitive to the loss of their usual routine. Adults of all ages may experience an increase of symptoms from medical conditions owed to the added stress.
Six Suggestions for Reducing Disaster Anxiety
- Establish some routine quickly. Even if you are relocated, a bedtime routine can be comforting, particularly to children.
- Breathe slowly and deeply, mouth closed, completely filling the bottom of your lungs as you inhale.
- You will need to talk about your experience and feelings, but it will not help to dwell on what happened. Keep your mind in the present with practical activities, being with friends and family and grabbing any opportunity to have fun.
- Be patient with yourself; you will be more functional some days than others. Disasters require us to be resilient and strong, but it may cause an emotional disaster if you attempt to deny your feelings. If you spend today in tears, it will allow you to adjust and feel stronger tomorrow.
- Although loss is not funny, life never ceases to be humorous. Laugh when you can.
- If you are experiencing anxiety from hearing about a disaster in the media and cannot stop worrying about it, follow the same suggestions.
Never hesitate to seek professional help if your anxiety or despair become unmanageable.
Source: Eye of the Storm