Dealing With Disaster Stress

BILOXI (WLOX) - The memories of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, no doubt, has left an indelible imprint on the coast.

But, now, as the coast cleans up after Gustav and braces for incoming storm threats, Dr. Bill Martin says we have to try, despite Katrina's painful legacy, to focus on the here and now.

"As we concentrate and focus on what we need to deal with now, it will help to put those other memories in the background, for now," says Martin, Ph.D.

Dr. Martin, a mental health volunteer with the Red Cross, offers this suggestion if people find themselves having a hard time focusing on what's happening now.

"If we have too much trouble putting those memories aside, another way of dealing with that is to get busy.  The more physically active we are the more likely we are to be dealing with the here and now," says Martin.

In times of disaster, Martin says it's important not to neglect the smallest victims, the children. He says parents should try to take steps to get their kids back into as normal a routine as possible.

"Normal routine in terms of sleeping behavior, normal routine in terms of eating behavior, normal routine in terms of play activity and normal activity in terms of studying if we're talking about school-age children...routines are a very important of where a sense of security comes from," says Martin.

Dr. Martin says re-establishing routines, little by little, will help one develop good coping skills. They also include re-establishing and depending on important relationships in your life and pacing yourself, remembering to stop and eat and stay hydrated

"Those are the kinds of coping skills that work really really well," says Martin.

Anxiety, irritability and lower frustration levels are to be expected.

But, Martin says taking the steps advised and asking yourself the following question will help during the difficult times of natural disasters.

"What can I do right now in this instance that will make my life a little bit better as opposed to a little bit worse."