Recovering after a natural disaster
Natural disasters like bushfires, floods, cyclones, drought and other traumatic ‘natural’ events are extremely challenging for the people directly affected. The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to ‘burnout’ and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Some people will be able to manage the stress but for others it may be difficult to cope. Most people eventually heal and recover and go on to rebuild their lives.
The impacts of a natural disaster
- Feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted or confused
- Feeling sad, overwhelmed or angry
- Shock, feeling ‘numb’
- Uncertainty about the future
- Feeling lonely, isolated or withdrawn
- Feeling unwell – headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating, weight loss/gain
- Resentment or blaming others
- Increased substance use
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
Strategies to help you cope after a natural disaster
Recovery takes time. It is important to allow yourself time to process your circumstances and regain a sense of normalcy. There are things you can do to heal and rebuild.
- Recognise when it’s getting too much - watch out for signs of stress and get extra support when things become overwhelming. Allow yourself extra time to get things done.
- Talk - release your emotions and tension by talking to someone you trust. This can help put things into perspective. It’s likely others in your community are experiencing similar feelings so this gives everyone an opportunity to release negative feelings and discuss practical ways to deal with the situation.
- Develop an action plan - decide who’s going to do what and when. Summarise your financial situation and discuss your options with your bank to alleviate stress of any financial concerns. Having a plan will help you feel you are making progress.
- Take care of yourself - eat well, exercise and sleep. Try to get back to your normal routine when you feel ready. Wherever possible, schedule extra time for things you enjoy or that you find relaxing.
- Get help - lean on family and friends. Strong support networks can provide emotional or practical support. Explain your needs and tell them exactly how they can help. Make a list of places to go to for help e.g. financial assistance, emotional support, your GP a helpline Like Lifeline.
- Consider professional help - If you don’t feel some return to normal after four weeks, seek professional help (earlier if needed).
Helping children cope after a natural disaster
- Give your children extra attention and reassurance. Let them know they are not responsible for what has happened.
- Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let your children know its ok to share their own feelings.
- Include your children in plans for the future.
- Try to get back to a normal routine as quickly as possible. This provides a sense of security.
- If you don’t see an improvement in 4 weeks, or you’re concerned seek professional help (earlier if needed).
Where to go for help
- Your GP
- Kids Helpline
- For financial assistance contact: Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Department of Human Services.
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- Australian Government Disaster Assist
- Crisis payments information
- Kids Helpline
- 1800 55 1800