In Australia, the direct impact of Cyclone Debbie was felt across Queensland and New South Wales. The combination of damaging winds and flood waters caused by heavy rain deeply affected many communities. In moments such as these, we should consider how we can take care of ourselves, our families and our communities before, during and after a natural disaster.
Whilst it is important to remember the physical and practical preparations we undertake when preparing for a natural disaster, it is equally important to be psychologically prepared and to understand how to cope emotionally, during and after the disaster. In consideration of this, the Australian Psychological Society has released several helpful resources to assist you and your family prepare for natural disasters. These resources provide useful tips on how to anticipate, identify and manage how you might feel before and during an emergency. After all, being psychologically prepared can help you feel more confident, more in control and better able to make effective emergency plans. This can help reduce distress and minimise the emotional and psychological long term problems that can develop from the trauma of being involved in a natural disaster. So next time, when confronted with such an event, how about considering some of these tips to assist you and your family prepare emotionally and psychologically.
Quick tip 1: Remember there is no right or wrong way to feel. Spend time with people who are predicable, familiar and respectful and try to maintain a normal routine. Ensure you make time to practice relaxation, and avoid overuse of alcohol or other drugs to cope.
Quick tip 2: Reactions to cyclones and disasters may result in changes to your child’s normal behaviour, therefore it is important to look out for changes which may indicate they are unsettled or distressed. To help them recover, provide comfort, reassurance and support to reinforce they are safe. Listen to your child’s concerns and correct any misconceptions about the disaster.
Quick tip 3: Preparing psychologically for a disaster does not mean we are emotionally ‘bullet-proof’ however being prepared can help in coping with the event as it unfolds and assist in reducing distress after the disaster. A helpful acronym is AIM: Anticipate, Identify and Manage. Anticipate that you may experience worry and anxiety, and remember that these are normal emotions to such an event. Identify the specific physical sensations you are experiencing with the anxiety and whether any fearful thoughts are adding to the fear. Manage your response using relaxation strategies (i.e. controlled breathing and self-talk) to stay as calm as possible.
The good news is that most people will recover well, however some people may find they are struggling to cope. If your feelings about the disaster don’t subside with time, then you may benefit from some additional help. If you would like some assistance please speak to your local treating Psychologist or contact Mates4Mates to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists.
If you would like more reliable tips and information on how to protect yourself and your family from the psychological impact of natural disasters please use the links below.
Promoting safety, comfort and help after cyclones
Guidelines for parents and carers
- Preparing children for cyclone season
- Looking after children who have been affected by cyclones
- Looking after children who have been affected by disasters
Psychological preparation for natural disasters
- Psychological preparation for natural disasters
- This document also explores some unhelpful psychological ‘traps’ that people can fall into in response to a threatening natural disaster. This section lists normal common reactions and provides some helpful alternatives to move away from ‘traps’.