Common reactions to a major traumatic event include feelings of fear, sadness, anger or numbness; replaying of the event in your mind; an inability to concentrate; and having trouble sleeping.
These reactions can be strong and are often at their worst in the first week.
They are not signs of weakness but rather are common reactions to an extraordinary situation.
After a disaster, it is important to find ways to regain a sense of safety and control.
There are steps you can take to make the situation more manageable for you and your loved ones such as:
- Spend time with family and friends – ensure you have regular contact with people you trust and ask for help when you need it.
- Try to get back to a routine – try to find ways to return to some of your pre-disaster routine as soon as possible.
- Try to be healthy – eat a balanced diet and get some regular exercise.
- Take time out – make it a priority to still do things that you enjoy.
- Express your feelings – talk with people you trust or find other ways to express yourself.
- Realise you are not alone – connect with people in the community and don’t be afraid to accept offers of assistance.
- Plan for the future – get ready for future challenges, such as anniversaries of your disaster or a future emergency event.
The vast majority of people involved in a disaster recover by drawing on personal strengths and the love and support of family, friends, neighbours and the wider community.
Indeed often there can be a positive outcome despite the initial trauma, as many people who have lived through a disaster develop new skills, develop closer bonds with their community and feel a sense of pride in their recovery.
For more information on coping after a disaster from the Red Cross click here
This article was first published in The Land's 2013 Glove Box Guide to Mental Health. To read more from the guide, click here.