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Coping Tips in the Stressful Aftermath of Sandy

Sandy - Emotional Health
People really need to know two things. One is that they are not alone and they need support.

As residents struggle to move forward in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the American Red Cross has tips to help people cope with stress and take care of their emotional health in the days ahead.

“People need emotional support at this point. Their lives have been turned upside down,” said Tara Hughes, disaster mental health advisor for the Red Cross. “People really need to know two things. One is that they are not alone and they need support.”

Disasters are extremely stressful events to go through and there can be a variety of reactions, all of which can be common responses to difficult situations. These reactions can include feeling drained, difficulty focusing, becoming easily frustrated, arguing more, feeling sad or worried, or experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns.

Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Individuals should try to accept whatever reactions they may have. Look for ways to take one step at a time and focus on taking care of their disaster-related needs and those of their family.

Keep a particularly close eye on children. When disaster strikes, a child's view of the world as a safe and predictable place is temporarily lost. Children of different ages react in different ways to trauma, but how parents and other adults react following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and more completely. Your local Red Cross can give information about helping children cope with disaster and trauma.

“As a mother myself, we’re used to holding everything together and doing as much as possible,” says Hughes. “Cut back expectations to make handling stress easier. Divide what you need to do every day to make the workload lighter and not as daunting. Look at what’s important in your life and focus on that.”

The process of emotional recovery takes take time. Below are some tips for those experiencing stress.

  • Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed.
  • Seek medical attention if necessary. Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
  • Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Get some rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
  • Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do. Try to do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
  • Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order. That includes you!
  • Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
  • Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs.
  • Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.
  • Learn more about taking care of your emotional health after disaster. In addition, the American Red Cross Hurricane App has a section for people recovering and returning home. Topics include flooding, generator safety, indentifying unsafe food, getting rid of mold and more.

    Tags: Sandy.
    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.