Natural disasters are devastating. Right now our community is coping with the aftermath of the recent historic storms that hit our county. Last week’s atmospheric river storm has left residents in and around Capitola and Santa Cruz in shock and disbelief.
The destruction of the Seacliff Pier in Aptos, as well as the Capitola Village, Esplanade and Wharf have been particularly shocking. The unpredictable nature of natural disasters can make them particularly stressful. The loss of property, including homes, businesses and community landmarks can leave those affected on edge and experiencing strong emotions. Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts and behaviors as our communities recover from the storms.
We understand the devastation the storms are causing our friends, neighbors and colleagues in Santa Cruz, Capitola and other local communities. We want to help any way we can. Below you’ll find resources to seek or give help, in addition to tips on how to cope with the stress, trauma and impact of the storms and other natural disasters.
Coping With The Emotional Impact of Natural Disasters
Understand What You Are Feeling
Two common emotions you may be experiencing are shock and denial. Both are typical responses to large-scale natural disasters, especially shortly after or during the event. They are normal, protective reactions.
This is stressful, scary and you will also have feelings of anxiety, fear, grief and sadness. Know that you don’t have to keep it together. It’s okay to cry, scream, laugh, or just fall apart. Whatever you are feeling, it is important to allow yourself to feel those emotions.
Know that after the initial shock wears off, you may find yourself experiencing a variety of different emotions (often simultaneously). That is normal. Some things you may notice include:
- Unpredictable and intense emotions. You may feel especially anxious or nervous, or feel more irritable than normal. You may fluctuate back and forth from feeling “okay” and “normal” to suddenly feeling very emotional or sad.
- Recurring memories of the event. Flashbacks or memories of the storms may come to you often, causing reactions like rapid heartbeat or sweating.
- It may be hard to concentrate or make decisions
- Your sleep may be interrupted
- Relationships can become strained. Everyone is dealing in their own way with the disaster and may be at a different point in the grieving process or be affected in different ways. Because of that, and the intense emotions and stress, you may experience arguments with friends or family, or find yourself or your loved ones pulling away and becoming more isolated.
- Physical symptoms can also be common when going through a traumatic experience. You may experience headaches, nausea or chest pain.
What You Can Do To Help Yourself and Your Family
First, know that there is no standard reaction to traumatic experiences like natural disasters. Everyone will experience it in their own way. But there are things that you can do to help yourself and your loved ones deal with the process.
- Breathe. Your first step when things feel overwhelming is to stop and breathe.
- Be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to adjust. This is a difficult time—allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced.
- Reach out. Reach out to friends, neighbors, family members, or even strangers.
- Take care of yourself. It is important to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Eat well-balanced meals, get some exercise and try to rest. If you experience ongoing difficulties with sleep, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.
- Take a break from all the updates. Of course, you want to stay informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in whether it’s from the internet, television, newspapers, or magazines. Being over-exposed to the news can actually increase your stress.
- If you have children, try to spend more time with them and let them be more dependent on you in the coming weeks and months. It may be the comfort they need.
- If at all possible, try to establish routines to provide some sense of normalcy in your days.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help! Some people can effectively cope with the stress and changes of a wildfire. Others may need additional help. Find someone to talk to. A profession can help you find constructive ways to deal with the trauma and impact of the wildfire.
Request Help or Sign Up to Volunteer
The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County has volunteers ready to help you shovel mud and debris, fill dumpsters, and clear or discard items. Visit https://scvolunteercenter.org/ and complete the form to request help from volunteers.
Volunteers are needed to help with the clean up efforts. Help will be needed for several weeks, so if you are able, we encourage you to join the flood clean-up volunteer crew. Visit https://scvolunteercenter.org/ and register to volunteer. The Volunteer Center volunteer coordinator will contact you.
The Santa Cruz County Disaster Fund is dedicated to supporting residents impacted by floods, wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, debris flows, and other local disasters. This fund has been activated to support local nonprofits responding to the atmospheric river storm and flooding of January 2023.
Contributions to this fund will be disbursed as grants to support trusted local nonprofit organizations working on the front lines of disaster response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. Your support will help benefit those most affected and offer ready resources to organizations responding to local needs.
Know that you are not alone. If you are needing resources or support, our team is standing by. Reach out at any time. Our team is committed to the emotional wellness of our community is our top priority. Now more than ever, we’re dedicated to keeping you connected to helpful ways to care for yourself and your loved ones.
At TherapyWorks, we’re on a mission to help people when it matters most – so you can make sense of what’s going on, create meaningful change, and get real results – because when you feel better, you live better.
Whenever you’re ready, here are ways we can help:
• Visit mytherapyworks.com/schedule
• Call us at 831-525-5000 or 408-508-6789
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org