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girl hugging teddy bear, using teddybear to recover well-being after a storm

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Fear and anxiety do not immediately go away when the storm subsides. Many children and adults often have difficulties coping in the aftermath of a storm or an emergency. People should remember that regaining a sense of well-being is an ongoing process.

Silvia Vilches, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System human sciences specialist, said it can take time to adjust to the new normal after a storm.

“We tend to focus on what we need to do in the moment and that makes us busy,” Vilches said. “We also need to calm down so we can think clearly. Whether it is a personal or business emergency, our hormonal systems kick into gear—which is great if you need that fight or flight response. Afterwards, though, we really need to calm down.”

Calming Down in the Aftermath

Vilches said it may seem counterintuitive in the moment, but tuning in to your senses is one good way to calm down.

“If is safe, take a moment to look around and focus,” she said. “Take a deep breath and listen. What do you hear? What do you see?”

She said focusing may help you hear small sounds, like birds chirping, cars driving or people talking. Connecting to your senses helps your brain shift out of the emergency panic response so that the logical part of the brain can take stock of the surrounding situation.

Helping Children Cope

Children are going to be aware of the damage a natural disaster has caused. Vilches said people tend to want to protect children from sights and images in the aftermath of a tornado.

“They are aware. They will have school friends or family members who are affected,” she said. “What we can do, though, is help children think forward and imagine the future.”

Vilches recommends beginning by talking about concrete change they will see, like the recovery of trees. Children can see the damage to the trees, but you can point out that as spring comes, new leaves and branches begin to grow. The trees will recover and people will, too.

“Children are very concrete,” she said. “It is difficult for children to connect with the idea that this is not likely to not happen again in the same place. They know it did happen. Just as a storm affects us, they will be nervous for a while—so pointing out how things like trees will recover or roads will be cleaned helps them have something concrete to look forward to.”

Tips to Recover Well-Being

Vilches offers the following tips and more in the Extension Brief Recovering Your Well-Being After an Emergency, available on the the Alabama Extension website.

  • Stop and focus
  • Practice breathing
  • Attach to others
  • Warm yourself

In the aftermath of a storm or an emergency, these tips can help adults and children begin recovering their well-being. Learn different techniques that may be beneficial as families navigate the aftermath of recent natural disasters.

More Information

Learn more about post-disaster recovery by visiting the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

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