Staying Emotionally Healthy When Disaster Strikes
DHS shares coping tips for people affected by recent floods and severe storms
As parts of the state continue to face new and extended flooding conditions, it is important to remember to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Storms and floods not only damage property, they can affect your emotional well-being. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) offers these tips to help people cope with the stress and unexpected changes natural disasters can create:
- Talk with others who understand how you feel. Don’t isolate yourself.
- Exercise. Even something simple like stretching or a walk can help reduce stress.
- Get enough sleep.
- Establish and maintain a routine. For example, try to have meals at regular times.
- Avoid excessive exposure to disaster coverage on television or online. The constant replay of a disaster can increase stress.
- If you have property loss or damage, seek out appropriate resources for recovery and cleanup. Plan for the future.
- Get involved. If your community is impacted, volunteer your time or efforts.
There is no right or wrong way to feel when disaster strikes, but people who are affected should pay attention to any of these signs of emotional distress in yourself or others:
- Eating or sleeping too much
- Pulling away from people and things
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb, like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches or pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking or using drugs
- Feeling unusually confused or forgetful; on edge, angry, or upset; worried and scared
- Fighting with family and friends
- Unable to get rid of troubling thoughts and memories
- Unable to perform daily tasks like taking care of kids or getting to work or school
SAMHSA, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, provides year-round and immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to a disaster. The Disaster Distress Helpline is toll-free, multilingual, and confidential, and can be reached by calling 800-985-5990 or by texting TalkWithUs to 66746.
If you need to help a child cope with a natural disaster, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information geared to all ages.
First responders, like police, fire, and EMTs, also may need help coping due to the long hours and devastation they encounter. DHS has a Self-Care Pocket Reference Guide to help them deal with the stress.
In addition, your local health department or health and human services agency can help you find resources in your area to cope with recent disasters.