You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Tips to Cope with Anxiety Caused by Recent Disasters

OKC family speaks with Red Cross volunteer
"Talk with others, make a plan, become active in assisting the community..."

With recent flooding, tornado warnings and severe weather in Colorado, many residents may be experienced heightened anxiety as they remember last year's disasters.

“Across the board, we’re seeing a heightened level of anxiety in Colorado. People are very concerned about rain and runoff,” said Katie Fisk, a recovery specialist for the Red Cross of Colorado. “Even in communities where they’re seeing average rainfall and runoff, people have a heightened sensitivity because of what they experienced last year.”

According to Marlene Husson, a licensed professional counselor and the volunteer lead for Red Cross Disaster Mental Health in Colorado, this increased awareness and anxiety are a normal reaction to the type of trauma that thousands of Colorado residents were exposed to during the 2013 floods and wildfires – disasters that affected more than one third of Colorado counties.

“After the 2013 flood, people have been working on recovery and learning to cope with the traumatic events. Now with the return of severe weather, past memories, feelings and fears can occur. This is common and there are many ways to deal with them,” Husson said. “Talk with others, make a plan, become active in assisting the community to respond to flooding, get sleep when possible, have time to exercise and be ready to deal with whatever comes along.”

To assist Coloradans in coping with post-disaster stress and anxiety, the Red Cross offers these tips:

1.    Get connected. If you have existing social groups – in your neighborhood, at work, among friends or people with shared interests – form your own support group.
•    Exchange phone numbers and discuss your emergency plans and how you can mutually support each other if a disaster were to strike.
•    Talk about what you’ve done to get ready, whom you would call in an emergency, where you would go and what you would take.
•    If you don’t have strong connections, reach out to social groups, coworkers and/or neighbors to build your network – talking about a disaster is a great ice breaker!

2.    Get prepared. Having a plan and supplies helps provide peace of mind. It can be difficult to plan and think in the midst of a disaster, when you’re under greatest duress, so take steps now to make it easier if disaster should strike.
•    Make an emergency plan that includes key contacts, evacuation routes and a plan for how you’ll communicate with loved ones. Practice your plan with your family and/or loved ones. You can get help making your plan by visiting or downloading one of the many free Red Cross apps from your Google Play or iPhone store.
•    Build an emergency kit with essential supplies for at least three days. Include food, water, medications, important documents (like your insurance card), sanitation items, a weather radio and chargers for your phone. Find a full list of what to pack here:
•    Sign up for emergency alerts from your local county or emergency agency, get a weather radio, and download free Red Cross apps for your phone so that you can be informed when there is a potential threat in your location.

3.    Take care of yourself and others. Physical health supports your mental and emotional health.
•    Get enough sleep. Eat a healthy diet and make time to exercise.
•    Volunteer in your community helping others or assisting with flood or wildfire recovery projects. Helping others can strengthen your support network, build positive feelings and help you feel more in control as you take action to achieve change in your community.

4.    Get Help. Anxiety is a normal reaction to experiencing a disaster. However, if your fear or anxiety is affecting your work, relationships or ability to function, it’s a good idea to reach out for help from a professional. Many workplaces offer free emotional counseling through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many insurance plans also cover mental health services. Finally, individuals can call the Red Cross Flood Relief hotline at is 888-635-6381 to connect with a caseworker who can provide referrals to agencies that are assisting flood survivors with mental health services.