Natural disasters can drastically change the way we live our lives. Our once “normal” day-to-day routines are suddenly disturbed and we must find an alternative way to continue with our daily lives. Whether it is a weather phenomenon such as a flood, tornado, or hurricane, or it is a pandemic such as the one we are currently living through – change is imminent.
We recently wrote about the impact of self-isolation during the current pandemic. We included the importance of emotional well-being and how to create a self-care plan. In this blog we will discuss coping strategies on how to deal with natural disasters, and the anxiety associated with the unexpected and sudden changes in our lives.
STRESS FROM EXTERNAL INFLUENCES
Many of us are creatures of habit so when we are suddenly expected to change our whole routine, it can be a very stressful occurrence. When it comes to a natural disaster or pandemic, our power to control what happens when we step outside our door is decreased in ways we never thought possible.
With the current pandemic, there is an added factor of contracting Covid-19 and becoming so ill that we risk our long-term health. Younger and healthier individuals may fear carrying Covid-19, not showing any symptoms, and spreading it to another individual who may not be able to cope with the disease. First Responders are dealing with the added stress of having to continue to care for those in need and who are at a higher risk of getting the disease. This pandemic has shown us that our once secure job may not be so secure, that our financial situation isn’t as stable as we once thought. It makes us question whether we are really as healthy as we thought. No matter what worries we have, we must take a moment to remember that these worries increase our stress and it does not help the situation we find ourselves in.
With the added stress from these sudden changes, our bodies react both mentally and physically. Something as simple as our sleep or eating patterns can change, which affects our cognitive abilities. With less sleep and less fuel for our bodies, we become more confused, scattered, and lack energy. This may in turn worsen chronic health problems or mental health conditions. For individuals in recovery, it could mean a relapse or an increase in substance use. Every single person reacts differently to stress but the overall consensus is that it is not good for our bodies or our minds. Here are a few ways to ensure we don’t let stress take over our already rapidly changing lives.
Stress affects everyone in different ways so when it comes to coping strategies to deal with that stress, there is no one size fits all approach. So what will work for you? Here are some ways to unwind, take your mind off the current situation, and destress your body and mind.
Structure can provide individuals with a way to take stress away from the equation. If someone is anxious over not being able to control their day, an alternative could be to take time to schedule the coming day, week, or month. Our normal routines may be affected but that doesn’t mean we can’t create a new personalized routine. You may not be able to control the full situation but you can control how you handle your situation during this time.
Take time to brainstorm ways that you would normally relax in your everyday life. Perhaps it is reading a book, going for a bike ride on a quiet trail, or soaking in a warm bubble bath with relaxing music. These activities hold more power over our mental health than one might think. Although small, these calming activities provide our body and minds for a space to relax, destress and take our mind off current issues. Removing yourself from a situation where you are constantly reminded of the current natural disaster is an important factor when relaxing.
Speaking with others who are feeling similar to you may help you cope with stress. Human interaction, even if it is through video chat or a phone call, can be truly healing for individuals who thrive in social settings. Knowing that you are not alone in feeling the way you do can help you create a closer bond to friends and family.
Another way you may be able to cope with your stress is to give back to the community. Receiving help can be super beneficial to our well-being but so can giving. During this pandemic many businesses are struggling and that includes non-profits and support communities. You could find out what non-profit is in your area that is seeking assistance and reach out to them. Putting energy into improving your community can increase your endorphins and provide a positive way to spend your time and take your mind off the current pandemic.
If you find that you have tried many different types of coping strategies and they aren’t working, there is professional help available. Talking to someone who is trained in dealing with anxiety, stress, and mental health can help you create a plan for yourself.
No matter the situation, if you are feeling stressed, these coping strategies may help you in the short and long-term. The key is to find what works best for you to ensure your mental state remains stress free. If you would like to discuss stress during natural disasters, coping strategies, or would like to talk to a professional, please contact us HERE.