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Coping with the Stress of Natural Disasters

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- As the hundreds of thousands San Diegans flee the flames, they're trying to make sense of what happened and deal with the stress of the situation. These wildfires have created a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety for those directly and indirectly affected. In the days and weeks to come, many may begin to have some of these common reactions:

Common Reactions

-- Disbelief and shock

-- Fear and anxiety about the future

-- Disorientation; difficulty making decisions or concentrating

-- Apathy and emotional numbing

-- Nightmares and reoccurring thoughts about the event

-- Irritability and anger

-- Sadness and depression

-- Feeling powerless

-- Changes in eating patterns; loss of appetite or overeating

-- Crying for "no apparent reason"

-- Headaches, back pains and stomach problems

-- Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep

-- Increased use of alcohol and drugs

Tips for Coping

Mental Health America wants those affected to know it is 'normal' to have difficulty managing their feelings after major traumatic events. However, if they don't deal with the stress, it can be harmful to their mental and physical health. Here are some tips for coping during this difficult time:

-- Talk about it. By talking with others about the disaster, you can

relieve stress and realize that others share your feelings.

-- Spend time with friends and family. They can help you through this

tough time. If your family lives outside the area, stay in touch by

phone. If you have any children, encourage them to share their concerns

and feelings about the disaster with you.

-- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and exercise, and eat

properly. If you smoke or drink coffee, try to limit your intake, since

nicotine and caffeine can also add to your stress.

-- Limit exposure to images of the disaster. Watching or reading news

about the event over and over again will only increase your stress.

-- Find time for activities you enjoy. Read a book, go for a walk, catch a

movie or do something else you find enjoyable. These healthy activities

can help you get your mind off the disaster and keep the stress in


-- Take one thing at a time. For people under stress, an ordinary workload

can sometimes seem unbearable. Pick one urgent task and work on it.

Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. "Checking off"

tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment and make things feel less


-- Do something positive. Give blood, prepare "care packages" for people

who have lost relatives or their homes or jobs, or volunteer in a

rebuilding effort. Helping other people can give you a sense of purpose

in a situation that feels 'out of your control.'

-- Avoid drugs and excessive drinking. Drugs and alcohol may temporarily

seem to remove stress, but in the long run they generally create

additional problems that compound the stress you were already feeling.

-- Ask for help when you need it. If your feelings do not go away or are

so intense that they interfere with your ability to function in daily

life, talk with a trusted relative, friend, doctor or spiritual advisor

about getting help. Make an appointment with a mental health

professional to discuss how well you are coping with the recent events.

You could also join a support group. Don't try to cope alone. Asking

for help is not a sign of weakness.

Local Resources:

Access and Crisis Line: 800-479-3339

2-1-1 San Diego: 211

Mental Health America: 619-543-0412

NAMI: 619-543-1434 or 800-523-5933

SOURCE Mental Health America of San Diego County
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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