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10.23.19 – Managing Stress After a Natural Disaster

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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Managing Stress After a Natural Disaster

In the aftermath of the tornado and severe storms that ripped through Dallas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, we need to address the emotional distress that follows.  As many people took shelter, enduring the sounds of a natural disaster, there is no question of the fear that was elevated.

Feelings such as overwhelming anxiety, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms are common responses to these types of disasters.  Other signs of emotional distress related to tornadoes or severe storms include:

  • Worrying a lot of feeling guilty but not sure why
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Thinking that something is going to happen when forecasts for any storm are issued
  • Constant disagreements or being short with family and friends
  • Having nightmares or thoughts and memories related to the storm

Symptoms of distress may appear before, during, and after a tornado or severe storm and may manifest in the hours, days, weeks, months, or even years after the storms occur.
People who are at risk for emotional distress because of tornadoes and severe storms include:

Tornado survivors.  People living in impacted areas, particularly children and teens, previously exposed to traumatic life-threatening situations during a tornado or severe storm are vulnerable to distress.

Friends and loved ones. It’s normal for friends and family members located outside the impacted area to feel anxious about people who are in direct proximity to a tornado or severe storm

First responders and recovery workers.  These individuals may experience prolonged separation from loved ones (depending on the severity of the tornado or storm) and show signs of mental fatigue.

Most people who experience disasters can recover quickly, but others may need additional support to move forward.  Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery.

There are a few steps you can take to help restore emotional well being and a sense of control following a natural disaster:

  • Give yourself time to adjust.  Anticipate that this will be a difficult time in your life.  Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced.  Try to be patient with the changes in your emotional state.
  • Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. Keep in mind that your typical support system may be weakened if those who are close to you also have experienced or witnessed the trauma.
  • Talk about your experience.  Whatever feels comfortable to you, such as talking with family or friends or even keeping a diary.
  • Find local support groups or organizations to help others in need. These can be especially helpful for people with limited support systems.  Group discussions can help people realize that other people in the same circumstances often have similar reactions and emotions.
  • Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program.  This can be especially important when the normal routines of daily life are disrupted.  Establishing routines can bring comfort.
  • Help those you can.  Helping others, even during your own time of distress, can give you a sense of control and make you feel better about yourself.
  • Avoid major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs.  Activities such as these tend to be highly stressful.

Feel free to reach out to Optum EAP for therapists in your area at (800) 363-7190.
Telephonic counseling is completely free, and employees have the option to meet with a counselor for up to four free in-person counseling sessions.

You may also reach out to the APFA EAP Department at (817) 540-0108 extension 8701 or email us at:  eap@apfa.orgPlease leave us a message and one of our national APFA EAP reps will return your call.

In Unity,

Abby Alconcher – Heidi Sakacs – Susie Wallace – Bill Ibarra – Joe Stanko – Sharon Dunn

1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

Phone: (817) 540-0108
Fax: (817) 540-2077


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