How to Deal with Stress of Natural Disasters

I write this sad and dispirited as news of another friend losing their home. I can only watch as the current lava flows in a residential area, dangerous gases are released and explosive events at the summit spewing ash all over the island. First, I want to say, the island has amazing people! True Aloha! The evacuations have been tough on many families but, so many volunteers stepped up to the call… people taking in strangers, livestock, farm animals, horses, pets and even a place to  store your motorcycles. Volunteers taking the risk to go in with trucks to help evacuees. Amazing people staffing shelters, providing food and daily needs we take for granted. We have even taken in a couple dozen chickens, I feel it is a very small contribution but also know it takes countless drops of water to fill an ocean.

I was also reminded by a client yesterday, that as a person who suffers from depression, this has been an exceptionally difficult time. The impact of natural disasters on our emotional and mental health is felt by all.  Here are some tips to help our mental health during these traumatic times.

Crisis Line of Hawai‘i

Hawai’i crisis line available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, toll free 800-753-6879.

Hawai’i State Department of Health (DOH) has a team of live, local representative trained and experienced professionals who are able to help in during mental health crisis. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed and overwhelmed someone is available. They offer short term confidential counseling and direct you to other available resources.


Tips to Help

  • Minimize media coverage of the disaster. Know that the international media will embellish and sensationalize to get ratings and advertising. Dept. of Civil Defense, USGS and HVO have routine status reports of lava flow and ash hazards. I follow several local groups on Facebook for the most up to date road closures and air quality reports.
  • Talk to Others for Support. Allow yourself to have and express feelings. Trying to bury them only slows the process or leads to your own “melt down”.
  • Nourish Your Body. Avoid the convenient processed foods, alcohol and super sugary or energy drinks that cause a roller coaster of clarity and energy. Eat fresh fruits and veggies, clean proteins and plenty of healthy fats to give you steady supply to focus  with clear mind and lots of long lasting energy. Also be sure to get fresh air and breathe deep whenever possible.
  • Making Positive Actions – Volunteer. Getting involved helping others gives of a sense of power – changing that helpless feeling victorious rebuilding and rebirth. Join  Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), become a part of a positive response to natural disasters.
  • Keep Active. Be sure to exercise daily. Move, walk, run, play a game of hide a seek with the children, endorphins (feel good hormones) are released and cortisol (the stress hormone) is lowered.

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