Coping With Natural Disasters—Part 2

by Doc Orman, M.D.

How To Cope With Natural Disasters Part 2This week, we’re looking at how to cope with natural disasters, such as the one the northeast U.S. recently experienced in Hurricane Sandy. 

Instead of taking the typical route of highlighting positive coping skills, I prefer to focus on how people can often make dealing with natural disasters far more stressful than it needs to be. 

Natural disasters are stressful events—there’s no denying this.  But how much stress and suffering any person experiences is dependent upon a number of internal, individual factors.

In my first post this week, we saw how the media can add additional layers of stress to any natural disaster by focusing primarily on all the negative aspects of  the tragedy as well as people’s responses to it.  But even without media influences, we are perfectly capable of adding additional layers of stress ourselves.

Today, I want to explore how we can make the stress of dealing with natural disasters even worse through our own stress-generating thought patterns.  Then, in my third and final post on this topic, I will look at how we can do the same with our own stress-worsening behaviors.

Here are six very common thought patterns that can make any terrible situation much, much worse.

1) Unrealistic Expectations

When disasters strike, and we survive them, a recovery and rescue process begins almost immediately.  Emergency personnel are dispatched, needs are assessed, and complex support efforts have to be planned and coordinated.

All of this takes time, and if we have unrealistic expectations about how quickly some forms of help and relief should reach us, we can add additional layers of anger, blame, and resentment to an already stressful situation.

2) Negative Thinking

Even without the media’s help, we can easily get caught up in our own internal patterns of negative thinking.  Feeling helpless, fearful, pessimistic, or constantly focusing on what we’ve lost is not going to help us very much. Having negative thoughts about our fellow citizens, about local and national government, about rescue and law enforcement people , etc., is also not going to make our predicament any better.

3) Resignation

One particular type of negative thinking—resignation—is a significant stress generator.  When you adopt an attitude of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness in response to a major disaster, you may not be as creative and resourceful as you probably need to be.  Hence, you may not seek out help, or take other actions, that could improve your immediate crisis.

4) My Value As A Person Is Dependent Upon….

Loss is a big part of the stress of any natural disaster.  This can include loss of life, loss of your job, loss of transportation, loss of community services, loss of possessions, loss of food and shelter, etc.  As bad and as painful as such sudden losses can be, we can make our pain even worse if we consider our value as a person to be intricately tied to these external things.

Yes, having certain possessions, or having a nice job, or having a nice car or home can make us feel proud and happy about ourselves.  And while it can sometimes feel like this is part of who we are…it is not!  This illusion quickly gets swept away in the wake of any destructive disaster.  But if we don’t let go of it ourselves, our suffering will be amplified.

The truth is you can lose everything you own, and everyone who is close to you…and your value as a person will not be diminished one bit…at least it shouldn’t be.

5) This Shouldn’t Have Happened To Me

Another common thought pattern that inappropriately surfaces in response to a natural disaster is a profound sense of unfairness and unjustness.  Thoughts like “why did this have to happen to me,” or “this definitely shouldn’t have happened to me,” are commonplace, but they aren’t very realistic.

Taking such natural disasters personally, or thinking they shouldn’t have happened to someone like you, is an excellent way to increase your anger and make your problems even worse.

6) I Shouldn’t Be Feeling This Way

An finally, it’s important to recognize that when disasters strike, your body and mind are going to go through certain arousal responses, whether you want them to or not.

You may start feeling anxious, nervous, irritable, or otherwise agitated.  You might not be able to easily quiet your mind down, or keep it from thinking about what just happened.  Your appetite and/or your sleep might become disturbed.  You might begin having bad dreams or frequent flashbacks of bad memories.

These are all normal physical and mental reactions to major traumas, and you shouldn’t become upset if they begin happening for you…especially in the first few days of recovery.  They usually resolve on their own, and it’s a mistake to think this is a sign of weakness on your part or that you shouldn’t be having these types of thoughts or feelings.

The best thing to do is not to resist them too much and not to be overly concerned about them unless they grow to extremes, or unless they persist for weeks or more.  If that should occur, you might want to consider getting some help.

So there you have just six common thought patterns that can make the stress of dealing with a natural disaster even worse.  Once a disaster has happened, there isn’t much you can do to reverse it.  However, you do have some degree of control over your own internal thought patterns.  This is why it’s good to know what some of these added internal sources of stress are, so you can keep from engaging in them, when you have far bigger problems to focus on.

Special FREE Download Gift!

Free Downloadable Four-Book Stress Relief Library

To get your own complete download of this entire four-book Stress Relief Secrets REVEALED library, go to and download it right now. Also, when you get these four PDF e-books on your computer, don’t just let them sit there! Don’t promise yourself that you’ll eventually get around to reading them later. That usually doesn’t work, and it’s very likely you will never, ever get around to reading them. And the information they contain is way too valuable and useful for you to miss out on any of it.

Once you do download these four e-books, I’m going to send you an email every day, for the next seven days, to support you in reading them all.

Go to right now and submit your best email address. Then, you’ll get an email asking you to confirm your intentions. When this email arrives (if you don’t see it within 10-15 minutes, check your spam folder), please click on the highlighted link and you’ll go directly to the download page, where all four e-books can be downloaded as one composite .zip file.

Best wishes and happy reading (and learning)!

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