Protecting Your Mental Health in a Natural Disaster, Part 2

Cope with stress and find meaning after a natural disaster

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When a natural disaster strikes, such as a wildfire, hurricane, winter storm, or tornado, protecting our physical well-being, and that of our loved ones, is our immediate concern. But once we’re safe, we’re left to assess the damage, pick up the pieces, and deal with the emotional impact. Both in the moment and after a natural disaster, we often don’t consider how our mental health is affected. This activity can help you manage the stress. 

Though we can't always prepare for natural disasters, we can manage our responses and create a plan of action. These tips can help:

1. Avoid the news

Though it can be tempting to stay glued to the news for up-to-date information, doing so can actually overwhelm you and decrease your ability to make good decisions. Instead, try setting a time limit to allow yourself to check in on news periodically, while ensuring that you're spending most of your time away from news and social media.

2. Let it all out

Feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear sometimes don’t respond to attempts of self-soothing, such as grounding or breathing exercises. If you notice you need a release, try some of the following:

  • Use a worry chair. Designate a chair or specific spot in your home where you can sit and worry. Set a timer for 10 minutes so you can allow yourself to deeply experience anxious thoughts and feelings. You might want to write them down. Then, when the timer goes off, it's time to move on! It can help to have an activity planned for afterwards that will engage your attention.
  • Talk about your feelings. Talk to a friend, a loved one, or a Ginger coach or other professional.
  • Do some judgement-free journaling. Write about your feelings without judging what or how you’re writing.
  • Express your feelings through a creative outlet, like drawing, making a collage, or painting.

3. Give back

If you are worried about others but not sure what to do, try to find a way to support those who are struggling. Donate your time at a shelter or donate resources, such as food, blood, or money. Anything and everything helps during a natural disaster. Here are some great ideas to get you started: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/us/how-to-help-storm-relief-texas-oklahoma-louisiana.html

4. Gratitude

Even in the darkest of times, we have things to be grateful for: family, friends, a roof (even if it is a temporary one). What do you have to hold onto right now to help you remember that it won’t always be this way? For ideas on how to express gratitude, ask your coach to assign you these activity cards: