Aug 31 , 2023

Coping with Long-Term Disasters: Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health

Facing a traumatic event can lead to stress and anxiety, which takes a toll on our mental well-being. Natural disasters, such as severe rains, storms, or tornadoes, create immense mental stress and trauma. The destruction they cause brings about high levels of stress, anger, and anxiety. Losing lives and property weighs heavily on us, leaving us emotionally drained and financially strained. This combination can significantly impact our mental health. Even during a disaster, we might experience these emotions. For instance, if we lack emergency survival food kits, the worry of feeding our families can lead to despair and anger.
Surviving a natural disaster can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), commonly seen in survivors. How can we navigate these feelings and safeguard our mental health? Below, we explore some practical strategies. But first, let's understand the signs of PTSD that often emerge after surviving a disaster:

  • Anxiety and Apprehension about the Future: The uncertainty that follows a disaster can lead to anxiety and fear about what lies ahead. The fear of another disaster striking or the challenges of rebuilding can contribute to ongoing stress.
  • Shock and Disbelief: The initial shock of a disaster can leave us feeling disoriented and in disbelief. The suddenness and severity of the event can be overwhelming, affecting our ability to comprehend what has happened.
  • Disorientation and Difficulty Concentrating: Traumatic events can leave us disoriented, making it challenging to focus or make decisions. This can further contribute to feelings of helplessness and confusion.
  • Emotional Numbness or Apathy: Survivors might experience emotional numbness or apathy, feeling disconnected from their emotions or having a reduced ability to experience joy or pleasure.
  • Recurring Thoughts about the Event: Intrusive thoughts about the disaster can plague survivors, causing distress and anxiety. Reminders or even seemingly unrelated events might trigger these thoughts.
  • Irritability: Survivors of disasters might find themselves more irritable or short-tempered. The stress and emotional toll of the event can lead to heightened emotional sensitivity.
  • Depression and Sadness: The loss of lives and property and the upheaval caused by a disaster can contribute to sadness and depression. Coping with these emotions becomes crucial.
  • Physical Symptoms: The toll of a disaster isn't just emotional; it can manifest physically, too. Survivors might experience symptoms like back pain, headaches, stomach troubles, and other stress-related ailments.
  • Increased Dependency on Drugs and Alcohol: Coping with the aftermath of a disaster can sometimes lead individuals to turn to drugs or alcohol to manage their emotions. However, this coping mechanism can have detrimental effects on mental health.

Here are ways to cope and protect your mental well-being:

  • Stock Up on Food: When natural disasters strike, ensuring you have a food supply is crucial. Emergency food supply kits can prevent feelings of anger and frustration from inadequate sustenance. Opt for non-perishable food items that don't require refrigeration. Brands like Heaven Harvest offer a variety of emergency food kits, including organic and protein-rich options, ensuring you have a nutritious and balanced diet throughout the disaster and its aftermath.

  • Stay Connected with Family: During a crisis, staying in touch with the family provides essential support. Knowing your loved ones are safe can alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of disasters. If you feel scared or anxious afterward, contact friends and family. Seeking help from a therapist might also be beneficial if your feelings worsen.

  • Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to manage anger and stress. Poor sleep and idleness can intensify negative thoughts. Focus on repairing physical damage and maintaining well-being through exercise and proper sleep. Engaging in activities you enjoy can serve as a positive distraction.

  • Limit Negative News Exposure: Absorbing news about the disaster can worsen long-term effects. Restrict exposure to such news to prevent increased stress and potential mental or physical illness. Consuming an excessive amount of distressing information can overwhelm your emotional well-being.

  • Avoid Substance Use: Alcohol and drugs may temporarily relieve but contribute to long-term stress. Avoid consuming them during or after a disaster; they can hinder your mental strength and worsen things. Substance use can magnify negative emotions and delay the healing process.

  • Establish a Routine: A natural disaster disrupts routines, so re-establishing structure is essential. Set regular meal times, connect with friends, and create a sense of normalcy in your daily life. Having a routine provides a sense of stability during uncertain times.

  • Extend Help: Assisting others empowers you, giving you a sense of purpose and control. Start by rebuilding your community and gradually move on to supporting those who suffered losses. Volunteering and offering assistance not only helps others but also strengthens your resilience.

Surviving requires mental strength. Preparing for disasters by having emergency survival essentials like food, water, batteries, and first aid kits is crucial. After the disaster, coping with emotions and moving forward are equally important. Employing the strategies mentioned above can help you navigate negative feelings and embark on a path to recovery. Remember that seeking professional support, if needed, is a sign of strength and self-care.