Recovering from a Natural Disaster

The Woolsey Fire, The Hill Fire, and The Griffith Park Fire all hit Los Angeles and Ventura County at once. Over 150,000 people were forced to evacuate from their homes in Thousand Oaks, Malibu, Oak Park, Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Calabasas and more.

Natural disasters like brushfires, floods, hurricanes and other traumatic ‘natural’ events are extremely challenging for the people directly affected. The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to ‘burnout’ and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Some people will be able to manage the stress but for others it may be difficult to cope. Most people eventually heal and recover and go on to rebuild their lives.

Impacts of Natural Disasters

  • Feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted or confused

  • Feeling sad, overwhelmed or angry

  • Shock, feeling ‘numb’

  • Uncertainty about the future

  • Feeling lonely, isolated or withdrawn

  • Feeling unwell – headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating, weight loss/gain

  • Resentment or blaming others

  • Increased substance use

  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Strategies to Help you Cope with a Natural Disaster

Recovery takes time. It is important to allow yourself time to process your circumstances and regain a sense of normalcy. There are things you can do to heal and rebuild.

  1. Recognize when it’s getting too much - watch out for signs of stress and get extra support when things become overwhelming. Allow yourself extra time to get things done.

  2. Talk - release your emotions and tension by talking to someone you trust or a therapist. This can help put things into perspective. It’s likely others in your community are experiencing similar feelings so this gives everyone an opportunity to release negative feelings and discuss practical ways to deal with the situation.

  3. Develop an action plan - decide who’s going to do what and when. Summarize your financial situation and discuss your options with your bank to alleviate stress of any financial concerns. Having a plan will help you feel you are making progress.

  4. Take care of yourself - eat well, exercise and sleep. Try to get back to your normal routine when you feel ready. Wherever possible, schedule extra time for things you enjoy or that you find relaxing.

  5. Get help - lean on family and friends. Strong support networks can provide emotional or practical support. Explain your needs and tell them exactly how they can help. Make a list of places to go to for help e.g. financial assistance, emotional support, your GP a helpline Like Lifeline.

  6. Consider professional help - If you don’t feel some return to normal after four weeks, seek professional help (earlier if needed).

If you were affected by the fires in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are in need of extra support and a safe space to process the recent natural disasters, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!

Unpacking Emotional Baggage

When dealing with emotional baggage, you are constantly struggling under the weight of baggage, bad filters, and triggers. In any situation, nothing that is said is evaluated objectively. Everything is going through a filter that distorts the original message. It stops being about the content of the message, and instead becomes about our perceptions of the sender, and more importantly, about us. We have let ourselves get to the point where we're not really hearing anymore, we're just judging. If you've reached this point with someone, it's time to unpack your baggage.

Here are a few things that contribute to the problem and understanding them is important tp changing the situation:

  • Your brain processes most information using primitive filters looking only for the most basic information about threats that should be attended to.

  • Attention errors make it likely that you'll pay more attention and give weight to information that confirms your original point of view.

  • You don’t get to hear the intent of people’s messages; you only to get hear how their words come out and to feel how the message impacts you. The disconnect between intent and impact is at the heart of many strained relationships.

Start with a Positive Assumption

The next time you react to something someone else says, turn the situation on its head. Start with a positive assumption, rather than a negative one. Instead of assuming that a person is attacking you, start by assuming they are adding value.

  • Instead of having your normal reaction to what is said, really think about it. Repeat what they said in your head before responding. Think about the words, without reading between the lines or thinking about the back story. Hear the words coming out of someone else’s mouth—how do you interpret them now?

  • Pay attention to the positive, rather than the negative components of the message. Did the person start with a compliment and then share some constructive feedback? Focus on the compliment for a moment. Let it soak in.

  • Think about the possible positive intentions they might have had. How might the person have been trying to help? What were they trying to get at? What value are their comments adding?

If you start with a negative assumption, you waste all the value that others could be providing.  A positive assumption is the only thing that gives you a chance.

If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in understanding your emotional baggage and unpacking them, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!