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Mental Health Center

Americans Feel Katrina's Emotional Toll

Taking Action, Establishing Normal Routine Help Relieve Despair
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For Stress Relief, Take Action continued...

"There are lots of little things we can do," advises Kaslow. "If you don't have money, you can volunteer, you can donate clothes. Many people are trying to help in different ways. There has to be respect for that effort. Talking about the disaster helps, too. It helps us process our own feelings, which is part of the healing process. We also help others process their feelings."

When we help each other, we experience a sense of belonging to the community at large, O'Malley explains. "We have some distant sense of connection to those people who are suffering. So it's not a 'we're fine, you're not fine' feeling. It becomes 'we're with you.' It helps people feel more human. It's compassion, no matter how it gets expressed."

Build Feelings of Normalcy, Security

To help ease stress, it's important to take care of yourself -- especially if you're a volunteer, says Kaslow. That means eating right, getting regular exercise, staying in touch with friends and family. Prayer and meditation can also help.

Limit the amount of time you watch television coverage, Kaslow advises. "We all get into overload. [The media] has done a wonderful job, but there's not that much change in the news every 15 minutes. You need to monitor your TV viewing, otherwise it overwhelms you. You feel paralyzed. I don't mean quit watching entirely, but be mindful how much you are watching."

Getting back to your regular routine can help you cope, says O'Malley. "It's important that we all get back our regular routine, especially if we have children. They should not spend 20 hours a day thinking about this. They need games to play. They have friends to make."

In your family, introduce the feeling of problem solving, he suggests. "Without alarming anyone too much, it's useful for families to sit and talk about what's going on. It's helpful to talk about your family's plan for disaster. 'Here's what we will do if something happens; we'll go to Aunt Lily's.' Whatever you can do to support the idea that we're not helpless is good."

"Even though tragedy can strike, there's always something people can do to help themselves and their families to get through it," O'Malley says.

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