Handling extreme stress during personal emergencies and disasters

Disasters and emergencies, like the spring flooding that’s currently impacting Canadians across the country, put a lot of stress on people who are affected.  It’s important to remember that living through a disaster or emergency is extremely stressful, and because of that it’s totally normal to feel extremely stressed out.

Extreme stress can seriously affect your health, your ability to work, and your everyday life. Some people will experience physical and emotional reactions, such as:
  • Sleeping problems
  • Muscle tension and body pains
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Trying to avoid being reminded of the crisis situation (trying to avoid being triggered)
  • Nausea
  • Fixating on the event
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • It’s important to know that some people may not feel anything at all

It can take a long time to feel better after going through an experience like this, here are some ways that may help you cope:
  • Allow yourself to feel sad and grieve
  • Accept support and assistance, there are many who want to help
  • Take time to socialize with other people. This can be as simple as meeting up with a friend for a coffee or going for a walk
  • Make plans for the future, but don’t take on too much too fast
  • Give someone a hug
  • Take the time to take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get sleep, and exercise if possible
  • Do you best to maintain daily routines
  • When you can, take time off to do things that make you happy

Children and teens can be especially vulnerable to extreme stress during times of crisis. Children’s grief can be abrupt, and often they may switch quickly from intense grief reactions to playing and having fun.
Some common behaviours in children who are going through extreme stress are:
  • Separation anxiety
  • Clinging to caregivers
  • Behaving aggressively towards caregivers or other children
  • Regressing in behaviour (bedwetting, thumb sucking, or not being able to sleep alone)
While it is normal to have these kinds of reactions to extreme stress - that doesn't mean it’s not worth seeing a professional if you are concerned. If you are worried that you, or someone in your care, is struggling to function or feeling extremely stressed, consider seeing a doctor.

Find a printable pamphlet about handling crisis here

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