HEALTH MINDED . . .
THOMAS FIRE & FLOODING IN MONTECITO
Counseling Services Available for Those Affected by Recent Natural Disasters in Santa Barbara County
by Cheryll Puyot
Several counseling services are available for those affected by the recent natural disasters in Santa Barbara County.
Hospice of Santa Barbara is providing counseling services as well as a Community Gathering Space for those in need of support as they process the tragic events of this week.
Trained counselors are on hand at Hospice of Santa Barbara, located at 2050 Alameda Padre Serra Suite 100, and available to discuss families’ experiences with the natural disaster. All community members were welcome to come to the gathering space, share their experiences, and process their feelings about the devastation.
Disasters, especially those with great loss, have the potential to cause emotional distress. “Loss of any kind is never easy, and we feel our community’s pain and challenges,” stated Lynda Tanner, President and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC). “If you or someone you know is struggling during or after this disaster, please know you are not alone. At VNHC, our bereavement services are available for free assistance to anyone in the community.”
WHY IS SUPPORT COUNSELING IMPORTANT?
Experiencing great loss means life as you know it has changed. You may find yourself grappling with how to adjust to these changes while longing for things to be the way they used to be. It is natural to feel a range of deep emotions in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Though social pressures may urge you to move along and “get over” your loss and grief, it is important to understand that your grief is real and natural and you will heal in your own time.
Some people are more at risk than others:
Stress, anxiety, and depression are common reactions after a disaster. Warning signs of distress may include:
Sleeping too much or too little
Stomachaches or headaches
Anger, feeling edgy or lashing out at others
Worrying a lot of the time
Feeling guilty but not sure why
Feeling like you have to keep busy
Lack of energy or always feeling tired
Drinking alcohol, smoking or using tobacco more than usual, using illegal drugs
Eating too much or too little
Not connecting with others
Feeling like you won’t ever be happy again
TIPS FOR COPING WITH STRESS AFTER A DISASTER
Take care of yourself. Try to eat healthy, avoid using alcohol and drugs, and get some exercise when you can; even a walk around the block can make a difference.
Reach out to friends and family. Talk to someone you trust about how you are doing.
Talk to your children. They may feel scared, angry, sad, worried, and confused. Let them know it’s okay to talk about what’s on their mind. Limit their (and your own) watching of TV news reports about the disaster. Help children and teens maintain normal routines to the extent possible. Role model healthy coping.
Get enough “good” sleep. Some people have trouble falling asleep after a disaster; others keep waking up during the night. If you have trouble sleeping:
- Only go to bed when you are ready to sleep
- Don’t watch TV or use your cell phone or laptop computer while you’re in bed
- Avoid eating (especially sugar) or drinking caffeine or alcohol at least one hour before going to bed
- If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, try writing in a journal or on a sheet of paper what’s on your mind.
Take care of pets or get outside into nature when it’s safe. Nature and animals can help us to feel better when we are down. See if you can volunteer at a local animal shelter- they may need help after a disaster. Once it’s safe to return to public parks or natural areas, find a quiet spot to sit in or go for a hike.
Know when to ask for help. Signs of stress can be normal, short-term reactions to any of life’s unexpected events- not only after surviving a disaster, but also after a death in the family, the loss of a job, or a breakup. Talk to your physician if you notice increased levels of:
- Depression (including having thoughts of suicide)
- Alcohol or Drug Use