Dealing with Stress Associated with Natural Disasters

The last few years have undoubtedly been eventful in British Columbia, and Canada as a whole. Our province has suffered through COVID-19, Deadly Heat Waves and the associated forest fires that saw an entire town destroyed, and most recently violent and powerful storms that has wreaked havoc on our communities.

Whether you have been personally affected by these extreme weather events and natural disasters or are watching it unfold, these events cause an immense amount of stress and anxiety. We have to know by now that there is no end in sight for future weather events and disasters.

The big question is how to deal with that stress and anxiety.

Well, the good thing is that we can take a number of steps to prepare ourselves as well as deal with any of that stress and anxiety.

  • Prepare, Plan, Prevent
    Prepare and Plan for emergencies by creating a comprehensive kit or go-bag, this takes away the stresses of having to frantically look for important items and packing everything when you may have hours to leave.From a mental health perspective, Preparing and Prevention comes from self-reflection, if watching the news from a safe location still brings you a sense of stress and anxiety, imagine what emotional turmoil you may be in if you’re personally affected?
    This is a good opportunity to seek preventative therapy to address those deep anxieties and stress. Building resilience so that you can face a disaster with confidence is prevention.
  • Take Care of Yourself
    Being in any sort of disaster is going to be stressful, no matter how much therapy you’ve taken, or how much planning you’ve done beforehand. Once you’re in a safe location, take care of your basic needs; ensure you’ve got food, water, and warm and safe shelter, these are essential for basic functioning at a cognitive level.
    If you’ve evacuated and are staying with friends and family and all basic necessities are met, set time for yourself to relax and unwind, this means limiting your social media intake, surrounding yourself with positive and affirming people as well as limiting or cutting out drugs, alcohol or caffeine that may elevate your stress levels.
  • Seek Help When Needed
    Don’t neglect your mental health during times of crisis, recognize when you need help and reach out for it. Part of the planning means having a safe person and space to go to for emotional support, there are also a number of community-based resources available when in crisis.
  • Help Others (if Possible)
    Whether you’re personally affected, or watching from afar, disasters can leave us feeling helpless and powerless. If at all possible, seek opportunities to help others in need, whether donating time, labour, or resources, helping others gives us a sense of purpose and power.We help ourselves by helping others.

Visit for a full list of local BC resources available to help Plan, Prepare, Prevent, Help Yourself, and Help Others.

Mike Stotland, CCBT
Wellness Director
Sandalwood Wellness

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