Disaster Stress Tips for Survivors

Disasters hurt not just the environment and its victims but also all the disaster survivors. Here are a few stress tips for survivors that managed to escape or live through a disaster.

First Step: Take Action

  1. Create a plan. As soon as you can, come up with a plan for yourself, your family, and your office or company. Even if your future is uncertain, plan to walk, read, sleep or pray on a schedule and you will have a sense of control over your life.
  2. One person can change everything. One person in control can save another life or hundreds of other lives. There are countless examples of brave souls taking action during the disasters of 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, and Japan. Be aware of your surroundings as you look and listen carefully. Can you help another person or family in need?
  3. Be mindful of your kids. Children mirror their parent’s stress. Your children could develop PTSD in the future, so your response to this stress is essential to their mental health.
  4. Beware of stress. Stress creates loss of memory, aggression, and anger. You do not think clearly. Your immune system gets depressed and you can get sick.

Final Step: Find a Solution

S.E.L.F. Care is an easy acronym that is easy to remember. Remembering S.E.L.F. Care will help you create a sense of control and deal with the stress after a disaster. There are many ways you can de-stress in a minute. Try the S.E.L.F. process which is S=Serenity, E=Exercise, L=Love, F=Food.

S= Stress/Serenity
  • Your breath. Take deep cleansing breaths, as you close your eyes, and blowout stress and fear. Inhale to the count of 4: 1-2-3-4, exhale to the count of 4: 1-2-3-4. Continue this slow, relaxing, cleansing breathing.
  • Mini meditation. Take a deep breath and repeat a short affirmation (a short phrase) over and over again with the breath. Use affirmations of “I am strong” or “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” Whatever scripture or inspirational saying that calms you. Research shows when you memorize a short positive reassuring statement, you produce less cortisol (the stress hormone) when stressed.
  • Prayers and meditation. Studies show this really works. Meditation lowers blood pressure and heart rate and gives you an immune boost.
  • Hold onto something (momento or physical tool). Put something you love in your pocket, around your neck, on your wrist. A picture, cross or medallion on your neck or wrist, beads, rosary, mala beads and or prayer beads. Keep a sacred book with you; a bible, Koran or inspirational book. When you get stressed and overwhelmed: STOP! TOUCH THE OBJECT AND BREATHE. SAY A WORD OR PHRASE THAT COMFORTS YOU. This is incredibly calming.
  • Guided imagery. Imagine you are in a safe place in your mind. What memory or moment from your past gives you the most peace and serenity? Breathe and close your eyes and imagine you are at this place. Immerse yourself in every smell, sound, visual, touch, and taste of this place. Create an anchor image. In the cave of your heart create a safe calm reassuring place to retreat.
  • Music. Listen to soothing music. If there is no music available hum, chant, or sing. This Increases serotonin in the body which is a healing chemical that helps with anxiety and depression.
E= Exercise
  • Walk. Take a walk. Create endorphins in your body. A Duke University study shows us simple exercise, walking, relieves major depression. Exercise helps you sleep. Exercise stimulates your body to produce healing calming chemicals in your body. Exercise helps you focus and helps your memory. You will be less anxious and depressed.
L= Love
  • Find a friend. Stay connected with others. Ask for help when you need it. Talking about it reduces the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness and helplessness. Love and community give you strength, courage, and support. Contact at least one person–have an agreement that you will call, email or contact them when you need to release. There are many feelings you may experience in this process–fear, sadness, anger, or grief. To handle these feelings, create a community wherever you are because this is your immediate family.
F= Food

Food is medicine. Try o keep your family’s diet as nourishing as possible under the circumstances.

  • Eat breakfast. A morning meal increases metabolism by 25 percent. It helps you focus and your memory. It centers and grounds you and your family. It helps you start the day.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish capsules have nutrients that can help with anxiety and depression. They coat the stressed brain with the fat that it needs during stressful times.
  • Vitamin B and vitamin B6. Vitamin B affects the brain and neurological system of the body, so consider taking a B supplement. Vitamin B6 creates serotonin in the body. You can find this nutrient in sweet potatoes, whole grains, rice, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, bananas, and mangos.
  • Hot peppers and spices. Add more of these spices to your meal because they create endorphins in the body.
  • Vitamin C. Try eating more oranges and strawberries. They are packed with vitamin C and studies show that this vitamin can help reduce stress hormone levels.
  • Protein. Proteins are the building blocks necessary for your body to function. Amino acids are critical for the brain to function. To reduce stress be sure that your diet has a good source of protein.