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Protecting Your Mental Health in a Natural Disaster, Part 1

Find relief for in-the-moment stress

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When a natural disaster strikes, such as a wildfire, hurricane, or tornado, protecting our physical well-being, and that of our loved ones, is our immediate concern. But once we’re safe, we’re left to assess the damage, pick up the pieces, and deal with the emotional impact. Both in the moment and after a natural disaster, we often don’t consider how our mental health is affected.

This activity will give you tips on coping with stress caused by a natural disaster.

Situations like these can cause a range of responses, from anxiety, helplessness, and fear to depression or even numbness. Grounding techniques can be especially helpful for coping with stress from traumatic events. Below is a technique called “Coping with Difficult Emotions.” 

When you’re experiencing a difficult emotion, using your five senses can help provide comfort. Here are a few healthy self-soothing activities to engage each of your five senses. (Of course we recommend staying away from activities that can lead to unhealthy behaviors.) Give one a try or come up with your own!

Hearing

  • Listen to a favorite album or station.
  • Call a friend or family member.
  • Play a musical instrument.

Touch

  • Make a warm drink and notice the warmth as you hold it and drink it.
  • Get or give a massage.
  • Wrap yourself in your softest blanket.
  • Take a hot or cold shower or bath.

Taste

  • Add a favorite flavor to your water (try lemon, lime or mint).
  • Eat a few bites of your favorite treat.
  • Notice the taste of each ingredient in your next snack or meal.

Smell

  • Stop and smell some nature outside. (Bring the object to your nose.)
  • Put on a favorite scented lotion.
  • Light a scented candle.
  • Boil some citrus rinds or cinnamon.

Sight

  • View your favorite artist's work online.
  • Watch a dance performance.
  • Lie down outside and watch the clouds or stars.
  • Watch some baby animal videos.

For tips on coping with stress and finding meaning after a natural disaster, check out: Protecting Your Mental Health in a Natural Disaster, Part 2: Cope with stress and find meaning after a natural disaster