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How to Cope With Disaster: Tips for Adults

Image for increased anxiety article Each person's response to a traumatic event is different; people experience stress and anxiety in their own way. Responses to disaster can appear right away or months later. Most importantly though, know you are not alone in your pain and that there is help.

Responses to Disaster

The following are some common responses to disaster:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Emotional numbness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling powerless
  • Extreme hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Crying without cause
  • Headaches and stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive drinking or drug use

What You Can Do

Some tips to help deal with the stress, pain, and anxiety associated with coping with disasters:

  • Talk about it. Not expressing your feelings will keep you from being able to work through what happened. By talking with others, you will relieve stress, realize that other people share your feelings, and know you are not alone.
  • Take good care of your physical health. Get plenty of rest and exercise. Remember to eat well. Avoid excessive drinking and risk-taking activities.
  • Take good care of your mental health. Do things that you find relaxing and soothing. Give yourself the time to grieve. Recall other times you have experienced strong emotions and how they were resolved.
  • Spend time with your family and friends. If you have children, encourage them to discuss their concerns and feelings with you.
  • Try to resume your normal activities. As soon as it feels comfortable, go back to your usual routine.
  • Do something positive that will help you gain a greater sense of control. Examples of this include giving blood, taking a first aid class, or donating food or clothing.
  • Ask for help. If you feel overwhelmed by the disaster, it is not a sign of weakness.

Seek professional help if you are troubled by feelings that will not go away for more than 4-6 weeks. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek help right away.

  • National Institute of Mental Health

  • Mental Health America

  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

  • Canadian Psychological Association

  • Coping with disaster. Federal Emergency Management Agency website. Available at: Updated January 31, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2015.

  • Coping with disaster. National Mental Health Association website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2015.

  • Coping with a disaster or a traumatic event. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated August 1, 2014. Accessed 31, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.