How To Cope When A Natural Disaster Hit

Natural disasters can significantly impact the mental health of many including those directly impacted, first responders, survivors of previous natural disasters, and those watching the coverage.


Mental Health America (2017) identifies the following common reactions to natural disasters.

  • 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

The following coping skills can be employed to assist anyone experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Have the Courage to Ask for Help

Most of us have a sense of independence.  Having faced hardships in the past we feel a natural disaster is something to fight and overcome.  We have operated for years under click bait news coverage and weather channels trying to hold your attention for just a few more minutes.  In doing so, we have become a bit immune to the exaggerations of the news.  When a true disaster occurs, it can leave us in awe.  Hurricane Harvey is a prime example of such an event.  The key to surviving a disaster of this magnitude is to ask for help when you need it.  If you are responsible for more than yourself, being able to ask for help is all that more important.  Sounds simple but for some, it takes great strength, and can be the difference between life and death.

Escape the Stress

A natural disaster is the poster child of stress.  Make time for yourself.  Talk with others and try and enjoy activities you normally do.  It won’t be the same, but a little dip into a normal life can help your cope and deal with stress.  It gives you a break.  If you love football, you may not be able to play it, but the simple act of talking about it or thinking about it can help reduce your stress and level your head.  Any break from there disaster around you can help you overcome and give you strength.  If you are able to perform activities that you enjoy it’s vital you do.

Avoid reading and watching the disaster.  Studies have shown increased level of stress with prolonged exposure to the obsessed media trying to capitalize on your fear and stress.  It’s important to touch base with news for updates but avoid prolonged exposure.

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is critical for overall health on an ongoing basis. Self-care may consist of reading, engaging in an enjoyable activity, connecting with your spirituality, or spending time with others. Click the link below for a Free Self-Care E-Book.

Self-Care EBook


If you are currently in an area impacted by a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey, contact your local Red Cross or the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI).

For anyone in NC, SC, or GA Destination Greatness will offer you discount therapy via telephone or online. Please visit our at or email

Shanna A. Jefferson, MSW, LCSW, LISW-CPS is a Life Coach, Psychotherapist, and Author. (2)

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