Dealing with Stress after a Disaster

Guest Blogger: Maggie Babyak, LCSW

They say that one of the top three stressors in life is moving. Your normal routines are disrupted, there are weeks of packing and planning to ensure that perfect move day. Then a furniture delivery is late and your carefully planned move day is disrupted. You become angry with the person on the phone who is just trying to help, you become snappy with your significant other and your stress level skyrockets. However, by the end of the day you are in your new home filled with your possessions, cozy in your beds and your family is safe and fast asleep.

Now imagine making eggs on the stove for the kids, rushing around packing their school bags, checking your work email, and getting the dog out the back door for one last run. Then you hear a beeping sound and turn around to see your kitchen on fire. Instead of scheduled moving trucks you have first responders running to your home to put out the fire. That night you and your family are sleeping in a motel or neighbor’s basement. You have nothing but the clothes on your back.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

How would you cope with a life change like this? Many people’s initial reaction is relief that their loved ones are safe combined with shock. As the weeks progress, common emotions consist of fear, hopelessness, self-blame and disbelief that this has happened to you. Your sense of security is gone.

Someone in this situation should understand that the emotional recovery process is just as important as the physical rebuilding. A disaster survivor should allow themselves to acknowledge the emotions they are feeling. Ignoring them will only hinder the recovery time. Reestablish a routine as soon as possible as this will help reduce anxiety and stress. It could be simple tasks such as meal times, play time with kids or exercising.

There are coping skills that one can use to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Find a relaxing activity such as meditation, yoga or listening to music. Set small daily goals so you don’t continue to be overwhelmed by the larger task. If your anxiety and stress continue to interfere with your daily functioning seek out professional interventions. Find your support system as there is no reason to go it alone.

~Maggie Babyak, LCSW

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