I hope you are all doing better and taking care of each other in this difficult time. The disaster has passed, yet we are left with the aftermath and many fields of life will need attention. Self care is extremely important because you cannot take care of anyone or anything else if you, yourself, need help. It is normal and common for people to have posttraumatic stress after an earthquake. This feeling might last for days, weeks or even longer, but it needs to be addressed so it does not get worse. It is extremely important to have support of family and/or friends and to learn some simple methods of de-stressing: basically trying to get back to your usual routine as soon as possible. If you feel like you need help, please ask because asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Take care of yourselves and each other.
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I am a forty-year-old woman working as a teacher. Ever since the earthquake last week, I am having trouble stepping outside the house. Yesterday when I went to the school, the entire time I kept thinking about reaching home as fast as possible. I feel safe only when I am at my house these days and this is not helping me. I tried to go out again today with my son for a walk, just to feel normal but I started getting anxious within ten minutes and rushed back home. Is there anything you can suggest I do or try so I can get rid of this fear?
AR- I can imagine how hard this must be for you but acknowledging the concern is the first step to recovery. Even if the worst is behind us: many people will have trouble sleeping, some may feel more irritable or become more numb, and fear that the incident may repeat again like in your case. It’s natural to keep thinking about the earthquake as it was a major event that destroyed many lives, however, it is also necessary to try to treat that feeling so it does not become a long-term problem. Your feelings of fear and anxiety are normal but continuing to live in fear of the past will have a negative effect on your present and your future. You can try some relaxation exercises such as taking deep breaths or meditation. I think it is crucial to express how you feel to someone, either a family or a friend. You may also benefit from psychosocial first aid. If talking to a loved one and home relaxation methods do not help, you can seek support from a mental health professional, who can help you with counselling and medication, in a more severe case. Just remember that it is natural to be afraid and that it is also possible to treat this feeling and get back to (almost) how you used to be. Have faith and stay positive. Good luck.
Anjana is a certified mental health rehabilitation technician and has four years of experience in adult mental health in Maine, USA.
Surviving Trauma, Anjana Rajbhandary