October 10 is World Mental Health Day
Mental health is as important as physical health to your overall well-being. Taking care of both your physical and mental health will help you protect yourself and your family for an emergency.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can affect how we think, feel, relate to others, and plays a role in how we handle stress and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life.
Emergencies or natural disasters can disrupt our mental health. It’s important to learn how to manage traumatic events that happen during and after an emergency or natural disaster.
A traumatic event is an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions. They include natural disasters, loss of a loved one, acts of violence (assault, abuse, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), or car crashes and other types of accidents.
Experiences such as these can cause feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression, helplessness, sadness, anger, and other emotions and reactions. These emotions are normal to experience at the onset of a traumatic event, but if they last too long, it can be problematic.(1)
Preparing to deal with the stress and challenges of an emergency is part of personal health preparedness. Knowing how to cope with feelings in healthy ways can help you stay calm, think clearly, and respond quickly during emergencies.
Prep Your Mental Health for an Emergency
Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control. You can lessen their impact on your health and safety by taking steps now to improve your preparedness, develop coping skills, and make social connections. These steps can help you respond to and recover from stressful situations, including emergencies.
Ways of preparing your mental health include:
- Identifying trusted sources of information, including CDC and your state and local health departments, so you can stay informed during an emergency. When you feel that you are missing important information, you may become stressed or anxious.
- Learning new and refreshing old practical skills can help you build confidence and better respond in a crisis.
- Taking care of your body. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, get needed vaccinations (flu and COVID-19), and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.(2)
- Taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
- Connecting with others. It’s important to have strong, healthy relationships. It is also good to have different types of connections.(3) Get involved in your community by helping a neighbor prepare for emergencies or volunteering with an organization active in disaster relief.
- Making time to unwind. Try to do other activities that you enjoy.(2)
Know the Signs of Distress
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a disaster. Everyone copes differently to stressful situations and your feelings can change over time. Stress can cause the following(4):
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
Stress reactions after a traumatic event are very common and may resolve after a few weeks. Know how and where to get professional help if these reactions last longer and interfere with your everyday life.
Care for yourself
Coping skills and self-care activities can help you remain calm in stressful situations.
Making time for self-care and practicing coping skills can help ground you before, during, or after an emergency and help you become more resilient in your everyday life. Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others.
The most effective self-care and coping skills are those you can practice anywhere at any time. Find a small way each day to care for yourself. Ways to do that include:
- Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life.(3) Practicing gratitude can help you keep things in perspective and appreciate moments of positive emotion.
- Staying connected with friends and family. Talking with people you trust about your feelings and concerns can relieve stress.
- Helping others. Caring for others in your community can also help you feel a sense of purpose, mindfulness, and gratitude.
- Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises. Relaxation techniques can help slow your breathing, lower blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension and stress.
The How Right Now campaign helps people cope with the effects of a natural disaster or emergency, such as COVID-19 . Visit the campaign website to find information and resources you can use to help yourself and others cope with stress, grief, and loss.
If you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities.(2)
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 911
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chat or text: 8388255
- Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
- The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY Instructions
Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.
Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (http://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.