Managing traumatic stress: Dealing with the hurricanes from afar

Even if you were not directly affected by the hurricanes, you may be distressed from watching images of the destruction and worrying about people’s who lives have been turned upside down. This can be especially true if a relative or loved one was affected by the disaster.

APA offers the following suggestions on for managing your hurricane-related distress:

  • Take a news break. Watching endless replays of footage from the disasters can make your stress even greater. Although you'll want to keep informed — especially if you have loved ones affected by the disasters — take a break from watching the news.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Some feelings when witnessing a disaster may be difficult for you to accept. You may feel relief that the disaster did not touch you, or you may feel guilt that you were left untouched when so many were affected. Both feelings are common.
  • Keep things in perspective. While the disaster can feel overwhelming, it is important to appreciate those things that continue to be positive and a source of well-being and strength.
  • Find a productive way to help if you can. Many organizations are set up to provide financial or other aid to victims of natural disasters. Contributing enables you to participate in the recovery and engage proactively.
  • Control what you can. There are routines in your life that you can continue and sometimes you need to do those and take a break from even thinking about the disasters.

When should I seek professional help?

Many people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands brought about by a natural disaster by using their own support systems.

Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can work with individuals to help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact.