Healthy State of Mind to Cope with an Emergency

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October 10 is World Mental Health Day

Mental health is as important as physical health to your overall well-being. Taking care of both your physical and mental health will help you protect yourself and your family during an emergency.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can affect how we think, feel, relate to others, and plays a role in how we handle stress and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life.

Emergencies or natural disasters can disrupt our mental health. It’s important to learn how to manage traumatic events that happen during and after an emergency or natural disaster.

A traumatic event is an event, or series of events, that causes moderate to severe stress reactions. They include natural disasters, loss of a loved one, acts of violence (assault, abuse, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings), car crashes, and other types of accidents.

Experiences such as these can cause feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression, helplessness, sadness, anger, and other emotions and reactions. These emotions are normal to experience at the onset of a traumatic event, but if they last too long, it can be problematic.(1)

Preparing to deal with the stress and challenges of an emergency is part of personal health preparedness. Knowing how to cope with feelings in healthy ways can help you stay calm, think clearly, and respond quickly during emergencies.

Prep Your Mental Health for an Emergency

Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control. You can lessen their impact on your health and safety by taking steps now to improve your preparedness, develop coping skills, and make social connections. These steps can help you respond to and recover from stressful situations, including emergencies.

Ways of preparing your mental health include:

  • Identify trusted sources of information, including CDC and your state and local health departments, so you can stay informed during an emergency. When you feel that you are missing important information, you may become stressed or anxious.
  • Learn new and refresh old practical skills that can help you build confidence and better respond in a crisis.
  • Take care of your body. Eat healthily, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, get needed vaccinations (flu and COVID-19), and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.(2)
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media.
  • Connect with others. It’s important to have strong, healthy relationships. It is also good to have different types of connections.(3) Get involved in your community by helping a neighbor prepare for emergencies or volunteering with an organization active in disaster relief.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do other activities that you enjoy.(2)

Know the Signs of Distress

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during and after a disaster. Everyone copes differently to stressful situations and your feelings can change over time. Stress can cause the following(4):

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances

Stress reactions after a traumatic event are very common and may resolve after a few weeks. Know how and where to get professional help if these reactions last longer and interfere with your everyday life.

Care for Yourself

Coping skills and self-care activities can help you remain calm in stressful situations.

Making time for self-care and practicing coping skills can help ground you before, during, or after an emergency and help you become more resilient in your everyday life. Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others.

The most effective self-care and coping skills are those you can practice anywhere at any time. Find a small way each day to care for yourself. Ways to do that include:

  • Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life.(3) Practicing gratitude can help you keep things in perspective and appreciate moments of positive emotion.
  • Staying connected with friends and family. Talking with people you trust about your feelings and concerns can relieve stress.
  • Helping others. Caring for others in your community can also help you feel a sense of purpose, mindfulness, and gratitude.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises. Relaxation techniques can help slow your breathing, lower blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension and stress.

The How Right Now campaign helps people cope with the effects of a natural disaster or emergency, such as COVID-19 . Visit the campaign website to find information and resources you can use to help yourself and others cope with stress, grief, and loss.

If you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities.(2)

If you are in crisis, get immediate help:





Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

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4 comments on “Healthy State of Mind to Cope with an Emergency”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    I have been a nurse for over 40 years. Three of those was 6 yrs. in Pharmaceuticals. I am Bipolar and have been about 30 years. During that time I have been in the hospital between 10 and 11 times. Most at different hospitals in Tennessee and most recently one in NC. I was abuse there twice. but it could not be proven. I worked as a State Surveyor for Nursing Homes. So I am aware of the regulations. I have written a book Bipolar a Blessing or a Curse. It tells of all the deplorable treatment of received in those hospitals. I did not give their names and I used my middle names.

    I agreed with the statement that said “Traumatic events and most emergencies are beyond your control”, “Coping skills and self-care activities can help you remain calm in stressful situations” and, “Taking care of yourself can also better equip you to take care of others”. Self-care and mental health are very important that one can build the practiced experience with confidence and can be resilient to the emergency situation in a calm way. Preparation is needed to be calm in an emergency. We could prepare the mind that the disaster or unwanted events can come and what to do when they come because an emergency such as a natural disaster could be out of our control yet we would prepare to control the consequences of it. We could practice such as packing the emergency bag and gathering the emergency contact numbers beforehand. Preparing simple things like that will give us less stress and more time to think for others during an emergency. Some of the mental illness such as anxiety disorders result in overwhelming fear and anxiety that progressively worse over time; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the anxiety disorder with nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, depression, and poor concentration which affects daily life negatively if not treated by the professional help (Clark, 2014). After a disaster, emotional support such as listening to their grieving stories and spiritual care for healing the mind in addition to food services and health services are equally needed for the victim who lost property, a family member, or the hope with the devastating impact (American Red Cross, 2022).


    American Red Cross. (2022). Emotional Responses. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from

    Clark, Mary Jo. (2014). Population and community health nursing (6th ed.), Mental Health and Mental Illness (pp 836-840). Pearson.

    Even before the pandemic hit us as nurses I have always felt like mental health has played a big role in our overall health. What we bring into our body mind and spirt is what we put out into the world. And as the University of Michigan Health (2020) stated that the brain does produce substances that can improve our overall health and those substances include endorphins (natural painkiller) and gamma globulin and these strengthen our immune system. My feelings have always been you have to think positive so it can be projected on your work in the real work. Our brain production depends partly on what we think, feel and our emotions. And with the pandemic of Covid 19 all we see is sadness, sickness and death. SO I feel as nurses we need to take a mental break for ourselves so we are not buried in all the sadness that we are surrounded with. Thats why I am in total agree that we need a mental health day for us to take a moment to step back and focus on our selves and take the time for our mental health.

    From a nurse’s perspective mental health and being prepared for emergencies is an important topic. The thing about emergencies is that they can happen at any time. Taking the time to prep yourself for an emergency will allow one to react in a more effective manner. In the event of an emergency knowing skills such as practicing deep breathing or meditating can relieve stress and allow one to process the situation more clearly. Also know when to reach out for assistance.

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Page last reviewed: November 23, 2021
Page last updated: November 23, 2021