Natural disasters can lead to many losses — loss of your home, property, sense of safety and even the tragic loss of a loved one. All of these losses can cause you to experience grief, a complex emotional state that can last for days, months or even years.
While it’s easy to forget your emotional health when you’re dealing with the logistical (and maybe even legal) issues that sometimes come with loss, we encourage you to make time for your emotional health and use these steps to work through grief at your own pace.
Notice Your Emotional Health
You may be so busy you don’t recognize that you’re experiencing emotional problems. However, you may be showing more signs of grief and loss than you think. You may:
- Become frustrated easily, even at small setbacks or difficulties
- Cry suddenly and, seemingly, without reason
- Experience headaches or stomachaches
- Feel tired, both physically and mentally
- Get mad at friends and family over small things
- Have trouble eating or sleeping
- Notice a lack of concentration or focus
- Struggle to make decisions
If you notice that you or a loved one are experiencing these issues, you’ll need to be patient and take time to invest in emotional recovery.
Avoid Images or Videos of the Disaster
You’ll likely be faced with reminders of the disaster every day as you try to find a safe place to stay, fill out insurance paperwork, begin cleanup and complete other important tasks. Don’t add to your stress by watching the news or going online to learn more about the disaster.
These images and stories can trigger stress responses in your body. You don’t need to know any more about the disaster than you’re already living. Children should also avoid seeing these images, which can bring back traumatic memories.
Lean on Your Support Network
Your family and friends may or may not also be impacted by a disaster or loss. Lean on them for support and let them lean on you, too. Be patient with each other and understand you may all have very different reactions to loss.
Make Time for Your Physical Health
Your emotional and physical health are closely related. When possible, try to eat healthy meals that will keep your body strong and well. Also, try to get eight hours of sleep each night so that you feel rested and ready to tackle a new day.
If possible, you should also make time for yourself when you need it. Go on short walks, take a long bath or shower, or participate in other activities you find relaxing. These little breaks can make a big difference for your emotional health.
Seek Professional Help
In the days after a disaster, counselors or other mental health professionals may be easy to find. Keep their information or information about other resources in your area. If you’re understandably still struggling weeks later, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a mental health professional.
Set Small Goals You Can Achieve
Whether it has been days or weeks after a loss, you may still be struggling emotionally. Focus on completing small tasks, one at a time, to keep yourself moving forward. Whenever you complete a task, congratulate yourself and feel good about what you’ve accomplished.
Feeling Whole Is a Journey
While things may seem bleak, and the tasks ahead daunting, set your eyes on the better days ahead. And if you find you need a little extra help or support, we’re committed to helping you feel whole again in body, mind and spirit. Learn more about our mission to provide whole-person health care.