General Public

Coping Strategies

General Public Image

During the recovery phase following the disaster, people continue to experience stress, grief, and perhaps even some symptoms of depression and anxiety. During this period there are some helpful coping strategies to assist you in disaster recovery.

Helpful Coping Strategies

  • mobilize a support system to reach out and connect with others, especially those who may have shared the stressful event
  • talk about the traumatic experience with empathic listeners
  • cry
  • hard exercise like jogging, aerobics, bicycling, walking
  • relaxation exercise like yoga, stretching, massage
  • humor
  • prayer and/or meditation; listening to relaxing guided imagery; progressive deep muscle relaxation
  • hot baths
  • music and art
  • maintain balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible
  • avoid over-using stimulants like caffeine, sugar, or nicotine
  • commitment to something personally meaningful and important every day
  • hug those you love, pets included
  • eat warm turkey, boiled onions, baked potatoes, cream-based soups n these are tryptophan activators, which help you feel tired but good (like after Thanksgiving dinner)
  • proactive responses toward personal and community safety n organize or do something socially active
  • write about your experience n in detail, just for yourself or to share with others

People are usually surprised that reactions to trauma can last longer than they expected. It may take weeks, months, and in some cases, many years to fully regain equilibrium. Many people will get through this period with the help and support of family and friends. But sometimes friends and family may push people to "get over it" before they're ready. Let them know that such responses are not helpful for you right now, though you appreciate that they are trying to help. Many people find that individual, group, or family counseling is helpful. The key word is CONNECTION; ask for help, support, understanding, and opportunities to talk.
The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of two words -- danger and opportunity. People who fully engage in recovery from trauma discover unexpected benefits. As they gradually heal their wounds, survivors find that they are also developing inner strength, compassion for others, increasing self-awareness, and often the most surprising -- a greater ability to experience joy and serenity than ever before.
Coping Skills
What can we do to cope with stress in our lives? "Coping reflects thinking, feeling, or acting so as to preserve a satisfied psychological state when it is threatened. Coping is typically not a single response, but a series of responses, initiated and repeated as necessary to handling the remaining, continuing, or transformed nature of the stressor."
Practical Coping Skills


Problem-Focused

Environment-Directed

Emotion-Focused

Self-Directed

Know Your Enemy-What is causing the stress?

Work to make your home a safe place

Develop and continue friendships/relationships

Do things that help you relax-walk, hike, read a book

Develop a stress management plan

Reduce stress in the workplace

Have hope and optimism that things will get better

Breathe

Utilize community resources

Breathe clean air and avoid toxins

Keep a sense of humor

Go Outdoors

Communicate with your immediate family about what is stressing you

Recognize what you can and cannot change in the environment

Be kind to yourself, and have a positive attitude

Healthy Diet and Reduce sugar and fat

Develop a family plan to address the stressor

Accept help from others

Participate in spiritual/faith-based activities

Drink Water

Time management

Seek to have a sense of control of your environment

Make time for quiet time each day

Regular aerobic exercise

Money management

Communicate your values, goals and action plans

Exercise regularly to build your self-esteem and manage stress

Participate in spiritual activity - get a massage, meditate

Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress

Make a list of things that are important to you that affect your environment

Develop thinking and behavior strategies to deal with your feelings and control your emotions

Get enough sleep

Seek professional help

Talk to a close friend about your stress

Join a support group

Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants- avoid alcohol and drugs

Note: Many of the categories overlap and integrate

Stuart, M.E., adapted from Lazarus

 

Coping and Disaster Recovery
During the recovery phase following the disaster, people continue to experience stress, grief, and perhaps even some symptoms of depression and anxiety. During this recovery phase we may also experience some physical problems such as changes in sleep and appetite, digestive problems, more susceptibility to colds or other illnesses, and increased use of alcohol and other drugs. We may also have emotional responses such as fear, irritability, nightmares, difficulties concentrating, feelings of betrayal, and loss of interest in everyday activities.
What can we do to cope with these stresses as we journey toward recovery from disaster? Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Use grounding, a technique designed to keep your experience in the “here and now” and remind you that you are alive and present to life.
  • Take time every day to focus on your breathing as a calming and centering strategy.
  • Experiment with watching your thoughts to identify those that may be catastrophic or lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. A healthy outlook on life makes full recovery more achievable.
    • Challenge negative beliefs. Replace such thoughts as, "I always have bad luck...nothing will better from now on...everything is going wrong," with, "Is there any real reason to think that...maybe things will change for the better."
    • Adjust self-talk. Convert negative messages into positive ones, for example, replace "I’ll never get through this," with "I can do this, but it’s normal and okay to feel scared and overwhelmed."
    • Use previous ordeals that have been successfully overcome as a "power base."
    • Consider alternative outcomes for worst-case scenarios, for example, "I can still see my friends, I can enjoy the little things in life."
    • Imagine how this event will be viewed in the future, remembering how things do change over time.
  • Learn to manage anxiety through such strategies as guided imagery and relaxation.
  • Mobilize a support system or group to reach out and connect with others, especially those who may have shared the stressful event. Although there are professional resources to organize and facilitate disaster groups, there is a lot we can do on our own.
  • Talk about the traumatic experience with empathic listeners in your circle of friends, family, and spiritual community.
  • Cry if that works for you, or laugh or yell, but do something to express yourself emotionally. “Getting things out” helps.
  • Exercise can contribute to greater well-being following disaster.
  • Use prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices are helpful coping strategies.
  • Look for opportunities for service to others, that even in the midst of our own recovery can help us cope with our struggles in a kinder and clearer way.
  • Use creativity to fill your life with “food for your soul.”
  • Take planned breaks such as going to the movies or doing some light reading to remind yourself that you are recovering, that you are well.
  • Maintain relationships with your pets to give and be given coping gifts.
  • Nourish yourself through healthy eating and drinking, and avoid self-medication, alcohol, or other drugs.
  • Write about your experience in detail, just for yourself or to share with others.

Remember that people who engage fully in recovery from disaster discover unexpected benefits. As they gradually heal their wounds, survivors find that they are also developing inner strength, compassion for others, increasing self-awareness, and often the most surprising -- a greater ability to experience joy and serenity than ever before.

Additional Resources

Georgia’s Disaster & Emergency Website. If computer access is possible during a disaster, this should be the first place to go.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) coordinates & maintains disaster response facilities & procedures in the state. It offers up-to-the-minute disaster information.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers this website for emergency preparedness.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers disaster-related information for individuals here.

Ready.gov provides this section of their website to help individual Americans prepare, plan, and stay informed.

Prepare.org offers a very helpful & comprehensive overview of what to do to prepare for disasters and what to expect after a disaster.

The American Red Cross offers this site to help you prepare and get trained for a disaster.

The American Red Cross offers this site to help you get assistance after a disaster.

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers tips for managing traumatic stress in recovering from disasters and other traumatic events.

This Department of Veterans Affairs website details the phases of traumatic stress during and after a disaster as described by the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.