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Responding to Stressful Events

When Something Big Happens Your Mental Health and Well-being Are Affected

When something big such as destructive storm or an event where there is loss of life happens, people react in different ways. When you are able to understand how you may feel and what you can do to help yourself and those around you during and after a traumatic event; you are more likely to cope with the effects on your mental health.

How Might I Feel?

Right after it happens, you may feel:

  • Afraid
  • Shocked
  • Numb

It may be hard to decide what to do next. You may want to:

  • Find out as much as you can about what happened
  • Help yourself and your family
  • Help others who are going through the same thing

A few weeks after it is over, you may feel:

  • Really mad
  • In a bad mood
  • Afraid of the future
  • Guilty because there was nothing you could do

You may also feel that:

  • You don’t trust anyone
  • It was “all too much for me” (overwhelmed)
  • You are not getting enough help
  • The help you are getting is not good enough
  • You want to be alone

The way you feel may affect your body. You may have:

  • No desire to eat OR you may eat too much
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • A hard time sleeping
  • Crying spells

What Can I Do?

Here’s what you can do:

For Yourself:

  • Try to eat meals at the normal times
  • Get enough sleep
  • Do some kind of exercise
  • Take a step back and look at what happened
  • Try to solve problems WITH other people, not alone
  • Take some time to be alone
  • Take some time to be with loved ones or friends
  • Try to enjoy the small things of life
  • Go easy. Do not ask too much of yourself

For Your Spouse:

  • Take some time to be alone together
  • Take time to talk about what happened
  • Keep an open mind. The way YOU think about what happened may NOT be the way your spouse sees it
  • Be more willing to listen
  • Take turns hearing what the other has to say
  • Hug each other
  • Don’t take your anger out on the one you love

For Your Children:

Kids have their own way of dealing with things. If you have young children you may find they:

  • Go back to baby things, like sucking their thumb OR wetting the bed
  • Want to be close to you all the time
  • Don’t want to go to bed
  • Have bad dreams
  • Cry and scream
  • Pretend that the “bad thing” never happened
  • Become very quiet
  • Don’t want to play active games
  • Don’t want to go to school
  • Start to have problems at school
  • Hug them or hold them. This makes them feel safe
  • Tell them about safety rules so they know what to do if it happens again
  • Spend more time with them
  • Try to be there at bedtime
  • Praise them when they do things right – child is coping

Here Are Some Things You Can Do To Help Your Children:

  • Talk about what happened
  • Tell them about it in a way they will understand
  • Say how YOU feel about what happened
  • Let them know they are safe. Tell them this OFTEN

For Older Parents, Friends or Relatives:

  • Let them talk about how they feel
  • Try to find out what they are afraid of AND what they need
  • Respect what they say and the choices they make
  • Let them know that they WILL be able to cope. Remind them that they coped with many other bad or sad things in their life
  • Offer to help them out by driving them places or helping around the house
  • If you can’t help them, tell them about people or groups who can
  • Plan to do something with them that they enjoy, like playing cards
  • Don’t pressure them to make any big changes, like selling their house

For Your Community:

  • Listen to people who are having problems
  • Say how you feel about what happened
  • Keep in mind that tempers may be short. Some people may be having a very hard time
  • Tell people where they can go for help, if you know where to go
  • Give credit to all those who are helping out

Are There More Resources I Can Access?

The following links provide resources to help you: