It is no surprise that those affected by disasters experience stress. This is largely due to the fact that most disasters cannot be anticipated. It isn’t just those that are directly affected that may experience stress but also those with prolonged exposure to the horrifying images of the aftermath shown by the media. These can leave you feeling hopeless and helpless.
Traumatic stress is a normal reaction whether you are a survivor, a witness, or you experienced the stress in the aftermath. This can affect the way we feel, think, and behave. We want to take a look at how you can calm your nervous system and regain your emotional balance.
Signs of Traumatic Stress
People react in different ways to traumatic events but there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for. We can break these down in to three sections; physical, thinking, and emotional.
Defeating Stress After a Disaster
In most cases, the stress of a traumatic event will start to disappear as your life gets back to normal. Follow the tips below to better help you defeat stress after a disaster.
Minimize Media Exposure
Constant reminders of the event can be further traumatizing. With social media as well as news sites, there will be videos posted constantly of the event and the aftermath but these need to be avoided as much as possible. Don’t watch the news or check social media just before bed, and refrain from repeatedly viewing disturbing footage. If you want to keep up-to-date with the event, do so by reading the newspaper instead of viewing clips. If you become overwhelmed, completely avoid the news altogether until your symptoms ease up.
Accept Your Feelings
Understand that these emotions are normal reactions to the loss of safety and security (as well as life, limb, and property) that comes in the wake of a disaster. Accepting these feelings and allowing yourself to feel what you feel, is necessary for healing.
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Positive action can help you overcome feelings of fear, helplessness, and hopelessness—and even small acts can make a big difference. Volunteer your time, give blood, donate to a favorite charity, or comfort others. If you feel like volunteering sounds like too much of a commitment, remember that simply being helpful and friendly to others can deliver stress-reducing pleasure and challenge your sense of helplessness.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind when experiencing stress but this can burn off adrenaline and release feel-good endorphins to boost your mood.
When experiencing stress, you may be tempted to withdraw from friends and social activities, but connecting face to face with other people is vital to recovery. The simple act of talking face to face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve traumatic stress.
Reaching out to others doesn’t necessarily mean talking about the traumatic event. Comfort comes from feeling connected and involved with others you trust. Talk about and do “normal” things with friends and loved ones, things that have nothing to do with the event that triggered your traumatic stress.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Lack of sleep places considerable stress on your mind and body and makes it more difficult to maintain your emotional balance. To ensure you get the 7 to 9 hours of refreshing sleep you need each night, establish a relaxing bedtime routine, avoid screens an hour before bed, and make your bedroom as dark, quiet, and comfortable as possible.
The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with traumatic stress. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. Conversely, eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with the ups and downs that follow a tragic event.