When people experience a natural disaster, it be very beneficial to talk with an empathic listener, so if you have the opportunity to speak with a crisis, grief, or other counselor, please seize it! Collaborating with a trained professional in therapy can decrease recovery time and increase the degree to which natural disaster victims recover. Even if you only meet once to help with the initial shock, please seek local counseling. Here are some ideas to complement that counseling or help to get you by until you can find a counselor.
It can be helpful to write these down, so if you have paper and pencil available, use to record your notes. If you don’t have paper and pencil, don’t worry – taking the time to think about these items will also be therapeutic.
- Pay attention to your thoughts. You may be telling yourself things which are actually making it more difficult for you to get through your day. You might be having thoughts such as, “I’ll never get through this,”, “It can’t get any worse,” or “It’s not fair!” While it’s understandable and normal to have these thoughts, they are only going to make it more difficult for you to do the work necessary to rebuild or relocate or do whatever is necessary. If you can catch yourself thinking like this, try to shift your focus to ways you have gotten through tough situations in the past. It is likely that you have more strength, endurance, and ideas than you realize! Over time, you will find you are having fewer negative thoughts which will free up your energy for empowering thoughts.
- Pay attention to your feelings. You may feel angry, discouraged, sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, or a myriad of other unpleasant emotions. Again, these are completely normal. However, getting stuck in any of these emotions will debilitate you and lower your ability to do the work necessary to recover from the storm. So, if you notice yourself feeling any of these, know that it is normal, allow yourself to feel it for a few minutes, then take some deep breaths where you focus on exhaling slowly, take a short walk, get a drink of water, and move forward on the task at hand. Over time, you will find you are having fewer negative emotions and that they last for less time, which frees up your energy for positive emotions that may now seem distant but are realistic to expect if you follow these steps.
- This leads to a third step in coping after a natural disaster. Pay attention to your behaviors. Your thoughts and emotions can cause you to do things, which outside of the current circumstances, you wouldn’t normally do. For example, if you find yourself yelling or being impatient, stop, realize which thought or emotion caused it, and change what you’re doing! Be intentional about what you do – someone who doesn’t know what you are trying to do should be able to identify your goal, even a short-term goal, by watching the way you behave in any given moment and over time.
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to recover from loss.