People throughout the United States have been wracked by disaster after disaster over the last year—Hurricane Sandy, California and Colorado forest fires, the New Jersey fire on the boardwalk just rebuilt after Sandy, the tornado of unprecedented width and destructive power in Oklahoma, the major disastrous flooding in Colorado, various mass shootings—and that’s not even all! Reading about disasters and hearing about them on TV or the internet is creates stress to a certain degree. But when it happens in your own area and affects your own life, it puts your whole life into chaos and emotional disaster recovery—not even to speak of physical disaster recovery—will take a while. You’re in crisis mode over a period of time—you’re experiencing traumatic stress. This is different from Post-traumatic stress in that it’s still happening, right now. It hasn’t passed yet; you’re still in the middle of traumatic stress.
Symptoms of Traumatic Stress
Traumatic stress manifests as physical and emotional symptoms. Here is a partial list of possible symptoms of traumatic stress:
- Grief, heavy sorrow and a sense of deep or catastrophic loss
- Suddenly breaking into tears or sobbing without notice
- Feeling despair, helplessness and/or hopelessness that comes in waves, rising and falling throughout the time you’re awake
- Panic—difficulty breathing, heart rate goes up suddenly, feeling flushed, constriction in your chest
- Racing thoughts—inability to stop thinking about everything you have to do for disaster recovery
- Intrusive thoughts—inability to stop thinking about what happened
- A constant physical sense in your body that your nervous system is ratcheted up
- Going immediately from 0 to 100 stress level whenever any obstacle arises or anything goes wrong, even momentarily.
- Irritability and impatience with other people, especially those close to you
- Easily triggered anger
- Inability to relax enough to get some sleep
- Periods of fogginess, spaciness, being in a daze, staring mindlessly into space
- Inability to concentrate or focus—often people run through red lights while driving, forget where they’re going, or forget to check whether someone is in the way when they turn
- Difficulty thinking clearly
When Disaster Strikes, There’s Too Much to Deal With
When we’re caught in a disaster, there’s way too much to do at the same time that our nervous system is extremely stressed. We tend to feel harried and we feel we have to hurry, hurry, hurry. We jump from one thing to the next because there’s just so much to do, and we drive ourselves into exhaustion.
Here are Some Emotional Disaster Recovery Tips
These tips are practical ways to get through what you have to do day-to-day. As well, they’ll help you with emotional disaster recovery:
- Whatever you’re doing at the moment, focus entirely on that and try not to think about the next thing—as if what you’re doing right now is the only thing in the world. This helps not only to focus but to calm your nervous system down.
- When you’re interacting with others, speak more slowly than you automatically would. When we’re in the middle of feeling stressed, we tend to speed up everything, even our speech. This leads to arguments that escalate, and saying things you might regret later. So take a moment to breath before responding and speak slowly.
- If you do snap at someone, apologize and tell them where you were coming from and what you would actually want to have said.
- Rest at least several times during the day for at least 15 minutes. This helps you clear your mind and revive your body.
- Remember to drink water—and remember to eat. Many people get so busy they forget to eat. Which leads to low blood sugar and results in dizziness, fogginess, irritability or worse.
- Do something relaxing at least ½ hour and preferably an hour before you go to bed so that your nervous system has a chance to de-charge enough to go to sleep. You need your sleep. Without sleep, you’re too exhausted organize yourself, you can’t think clearly enough to come up with solutions, and you can’t get much done.
EFT Helps with Emotional Disaster Recovery
During times traumatic stress or after—the time of Posttraumatic Stress, there’s a healing method called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) that’s very effective to relieve and overcome symptoms of traumatic stress, and neutralize what you’re left with after a disaster, that is, PTSD.
EFT works very quickly to take the distress and emotional charge out of the symptoms you’re experiencing and those that you’re left with after the disaster is over. For more information, see EFTtherapycolorado.com.