Learn To Cope With Stresses That Always Follow Disaster

Diane Sasser  |  6/11/2005 1:34:48 AM

News Release Distributed 09/03/04

If you and your family experience stress after a storm, flood or other disaster, you aren't alone. Many people experience mental pain and stress after a disaster, according to LSU AgCenter family life specialist Dr. Diane Sasser.

"Research indicates that about one-third of those who experience severe flooding continue to suffer the emotional after-effects for four or five years," Sasser says, adding that similar effects can be seen after other natural disasters, such as storms. "The most striking evidence of disturbance is related to sleeping – either getting to sleep or staying asleep."

Stress is brought on by fatigue, financial worry, changes in routine and feeling helpless as you wait for the water to recede or other effects to go away, for the insurance adjuster or repair check, stand in line for assistance, wait for repairmen and contractors or for your house and furnishings to dry. Chances are that the greater the disaster is in your community, the longer the delays.

"There's a natural desire to make things normal immediately, which is impossible," Sasser says. "It takes time to clean up, to make the necessary contacts and to get the house and furnishings thoroughly back to normal."

In the meantime, the LSU AgCenter expert says these steps might help you cope with the inevitable stress after the disaster:

  • Reach out to family members, neighbors and friends. In time of disaster, there’s an instinct or need to unite with others who experience the same or similar losses.
  • Talk about your troubles. Sometimes a good talk can help you relieve stress. But know when to stop. Dwelling on your difficulties and complaining about your situation may make those around you miserable.
  • Anger, hurt and shock are normal reactions during disasters. Don't blame yourself or others. Deal with your feelings in positive ways. And try to maintain a sense of humor, if possible.
  • Accept offers of help if they come your way. Some people have difficulty accepting help without feeling guilty. Explain your situation to your creditors, employer and bankers, and seek reasonable adjustments. People often feel so trapped and pressured that they may not realize they have choices.
  • Don't try to do everything at once. It's easy to become confused and find yourself starting one thing and then another. Make a list of the jobs to be done and, if possible, concentrate on one job at a time.
  • Build family strength and support by letting your family know you care and need them. Families can and often do become stronger after a crisis if they concentrate on each other and not on their physical surroundings.
  • Be sensitive to the needs of young children. Inform teachers and childcare workers of your situation, so that they, too, can be sensitive to your child's circumstances.

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Contact: Diane Sasser at (225) 578-6701 or dsasser@agcenter.lsu.edu

 

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