Selfhelp Tips after a Major Disaster

Margit Cathrine Moller

I just saw a news report about a small town in Japan which was thoroughly devastated by the tsunami but they decided to hold the graduation ceremonies of their children. The story was touching for its narrative of recovery and for its portrayal of the effects of disasters on the lives of people.

While the first round of news was about the destruction of properties, the second round focused more on the damage on people’s lives and the effect on their physical and emotional health. The victims of a disaster are not the only ones who will be psychologically affected. Their family and friends, rescue workers, nurses and doctors, and even those who live on the other side of the world can be affected just by absorbing those news and images.

Oftentimes, rehabilitation focuses on their basic survival needs like food, clothing, shelter, so it is important that those who are affected are equipped with their own skills to take care of their mental health. These simple, self-help tips can help anyone in the recovery process.

1. Initiate an informal support group

Gather together a few people and simple begin to talk about what you are feeling. Try also to listen to others as this will give you a feeling that you are not alone in this difficult times.

2. Slowly Return to Old and Familiar Routines

As much as possible, return to old and familiar stuff that you used to do. Doing them can be comforting and allows you to feel a certain sense of normalcy.

3. Allow the Grieving Process to Flow

There are several layers of losses during a disaster – death of a loved one or loved ones, loss of properties, etc. Trust yourself that you are strong enough to go through the stages of grieving – pain, anger, helplessness, and eventually hope and acceptance.

4. Organize Your Life a Bit by Setting Schedules and Small Goals

The task at hand can be overwhelming to a point when you might be paralyzed from doing anything productive. Obviously, it is difficult to know where to start. So, set small goals which give you a sense of achievement daily.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Make sure that you have the physical energy to go through the recovery process. Eat your food no matter how distasteful it might be to you, or even if you don’t have the appetite. Stretch your body. Do some exercises. Sleep well.

6. Reclaim Some of Your Comfort Zones

What simple comforts do you enjoy? Napping in the afternoon? Watching your favorite TV show? Cuddling with your pets? Reclaiming these will energize the body and prevent depression.

7 Join Recovery Efforts

If you have the time and the energy, do some volunteer work. Join the soup kitchen. Organize a communal day care to watch the kids. Anything that will perk you up by doing something positive.

The post-trauma stress syndrome goes often after a disaster. But arming the self in advance with these self-help tips is one of the best disaster preparedness measures you can do for yourself and your family.