Natural Disaster Recovery Guide-Part 1

Strategies to Rebuild your Life, Home & Business


By Dwight Bain

Storms can be deadly. That's why emergency weather management facilities send out such serious warnings ahead of time to protect the lives of our children, homes and communities. We know to stay inside during severe weather and to unplug our televisions and computers because we know that in bad weather bad things can happen. We know to prepare ahead of time by keeping a watchful eye on tracking the storm and stocking up on the resources needed to get through it safely, like flashlight batteries, bottled water, first aid kits and other essential survival supplies. However, what we usually don’t know is how to deal with the devastating emotions that come after a terrible storm hits. Emotions like stress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety and panic are common in our busy world but can build up to dangerous levels after a critical incident, which often can lead to disastrous results.


Natural disasters can destroy entire communities in just a few moments, while the recovery process to rebuild from a major critical incident may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive after the storm, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track. Since natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods are among the biggest and most destructive forces that impact people living in the United States; what can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major storm before or after it makes landfall?


The most important thing to focus on is this:

“DON'T MAKE A BAD SITUATION WORSE!”

Keep this single thought in mind as you begin to sort through the process of stabilizing yourself and those you care about who have been impacted by the storm. During the storm the goal is to be safe while surviving whatever nature throws your way; blistering heat, the ground quaking under your feet or your house being gale force winds and rain. After the disaster is over and the storm passes, the goal is to quickly rebuild the normal life routines that you had in your personal and professional life before the storm hit. If you get focused on rebuilding, you will be able to spend your energy in positive ways instead of being in a mental fog of confusion, mingled with panic or regret.


Dealing directly with your emotions will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major disaster, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your marriage partner or a volunteer at a water station will only make a difficult situation worse. It’s not their fault, and it’s not yours. Natural disasters are a terrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the storm.


To best survive the storm, you need a strong combination of three key elements

- healthy coping skills

- healthy supports and a

- healthy perspective

of how to rebuild after a natural disaster. While things will never be the same as they were before the storm; the following guidelines will give you the key elements needed to get past the overwhelming stress and to find even greater strength on the other side.


What are the dangerous warning signs of “Storm Stress Syndrome”? Stress from the storm affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health if it goes on for an extended period of time. Storm Stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of the psychological condition called, ‘Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder’, (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers. In natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes, I refer to the rapid build up of these symptoms as “Storm Stress Syndrome”. These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since natural disasters are a terribly stressful time for everyone, both during and after the storm and often remain stressful for some time to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who you care about safe.


Storm Stress Warning Signs
These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur-the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.


It’s normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a natural disaster like a hurricane; however there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home, especially if these symptoms weren’t present before the storm.


Physical Symptoms: Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.

Emotional Symptoms: Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.

Cognitive Symptoms:Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.

Behavioral Symptoms:Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.


If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you recover during a time of crisis. You do not have to go through this alone.


Take action now to prevent stress after the storm from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don't know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief it's important to make the call for assistance now to learn how to get past the pressure to begin to feel ‘okay’ again.


How can I help my family get back to “normal” after a major disaster?Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods and earthquakes are often the most destructive events that a person can experience in a lifetime. These types of storms are also among the most expensive disasters to recover from financially because of being out of work or not having enough insurance coverage to replace what the storm destroyed. It may take months to perhaps even a year for everyone to feel that things are back to “normal.” The actual psychological impact of the storm will vary widely between people based on factors like- age, their previous experiences with storm recovery and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the storm. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the storms, the longer it takes to recover, and with the additional stress of daily life coupled with the rise in gasoline prices the stress levels have dramatically increased on everyone affected by these storms.

Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster like these hurricanes.


1) Reconnect in relationships -
You can't get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in a while. Just checking in to see if they are okay will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Simply talk about what each of you experienced through the disaster and how you got through the storm. Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to call you-their phone may not work! Go find them and then reconnect the relationship while helping each other rebuild.


2) Rebuild your routines-
This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bed time, dinner time, getting up to go to school, or work, or church or the gym to work out. To regain strength quickly identify what your normal routines were before the storm-and then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.


3) Reach out for faith-
In times of crisis everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after the storm will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them. Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the storm. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you make it through the rest of your day. Many churches and houses of faith have disaster and recovery teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being “too nice” to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this storm as well as the ones to come.


4) Retell your story-
Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived what will likely be the worst natural disaster they will ever experience. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.

----------------------------------

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Popular posts from this blog

Understanding Schizotypal Personality Disorder

The Curse of the Overly Responsible Person