Triumph over Tragedy
Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
Many Floridians living along the Gulf Coast have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. While many are concerned about the potential environmental and economic impacts, disasters often cause personal distress, too. Gulf Coast residents are used to preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, but this human-made disaster is characterized by a unique set of circumstances. Human-made disasters are often unfamiliar and lack a clear ending since damage can extend well into the future. Because of the uncertainty and lack of control, human-made disasters may be more stressful. Anger and frustration are common reactions when citizens feel powerless to help. Many communities along the coast are experiencing this anger as countless volunteers sign up to assist with recovery efforts but only a few are put to use.
Exercising with friends is a great stress reliever. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller
We see communities mobilizing resources in preparation of oil reaching Florida shores, but we must not forget that disasters impact people as well. Individuals can lessen the feelings of distress by practicing the following stress management strategies:
Seek out additional sources of support. Friends and family may be experiencing stress as well, so you may need to look outside your normal support sources.
Maintain routines and normal social contacts. Distractions from the disaster are an important coping strategy for many people.
Physical activity is a great stress reliever. No matter what you choose --walking, running, working in the yard, or playing your favorite sport--you may find physical activity not only relieves your stress but that you have a little fun too!
Limit the media coverage. We have 24-hour access to news via television, radio and internet. Research has shown this constant coverage and media exposure during and after a disaster increases anxiety and distress.
Seek trusted sources of information. Rumors and misinformation can increase uncertainty and fear. Seek accurate information through local, state, and federal agencies. Educating yourself also helps give you a sense of control.
Avoid using substances like drugs or alcohol to relieve stress. Substance abuse leads to difficulties in family relationships, job performance, and disaster recovery.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, take time to relax and know your own limits. You are more helpful to others if not over-tired and stressed. Many people find yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques beneficial.
Participate in recovery efforts but follow the advice of experts and know your own limits. To find out how you can help call 866-448-5816 or go to and check the listing by county.
A person should seek professional help if he or she is:
Anxious most of the time
Experiences significant behavior changes
Experiences great difficulty in functioning at work or home
Is using drugs or alcohol to cope
Has difficulty enjoying life
A disaster is a significant stressor. Emotional reactions can range from very mild to extremely debilitating, but even troubling reactions may be normal in an abnormal situation. For more information on stress management, contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at your local UF IFAS Extension office.
Source: Triumph Over Tragedy: A Community Response to Managing Trauma in Times of Disaster and Terrorism, 2 edition, 2004.