Practicing good health and having a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to combat emotional and physical stress following a disaster. A healthy body copes better than an unhealthy one – both physically and mentally- when trauma is involved.
In order to maintain good health when life comes at you point blank, it’s important to include a healthy diet, consistent physical exercise and good emotional health. Below are some suggestions to assure that you are physically and emotionally prepared if or when a catastrophe occurs:
Eating a variety of natural, wholesome and healthy foods is vital, and following a balanced diet–rich with fruits, vegetables and whole grains– and avoiding bad foods– like sugars, processed foods and gluten– is optimal and will keep you feeling physically good and mentally strong. By practicing a good diet, you can greatly increase your odds of getting all the necessary nutrients.
Some foods may not be available after a disaster. Substitute nutritionally similar foods, when possible. For example, when necessary, eat canned fruits instead of fresh fruits, or drink powdered milk instead of fresh milk. If you are more physically active during and following a disaster, for example if you’re aiding in relief efforts that require quite a bit of exertion, you’ll need more food calories to nourish your body from the additional energy you’re expending. Starchy foods, such as cereals, pastas, vegetables and breads are great sources of additional energy. Whole-grain breakfast cereal and milk is good at any time of day – not just at breakfast.
Additionally, make sure your snacks are nutritious and aren’t adding any undue “bad” calories. Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of fluids, especially water. Again, if you are physically active, you may need more fluids. Keep in mind that thirst is not always an accurate indicator of the need for fluids. You can lose enough water to impair your performance and still not feel thirsty.
Stay Active and Exercise
Regular physical activity is essential, especially during times of stress and disaster. While many people are very active during and after disasters, others may become less active. Healthy levels of physical activity keep a person feeling better, looking better, and more able to cope with stress. If you lean a little more towards a sedentary lifestyle, try to exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes per session.
Another thing to keep in mind when talking about exercise is to not overdo it. Take one or two days off each week to allow the body to recuperate, because those who exercise every day are more prone to injuries. Find an exercise activity that fits into your schedule and is fun for you. Check with your doctor to determine what kinds of exercise are right for you. Walking is one of the safest and most enjoyable forms of exercise for many people.
Recovery from the trauma of a disaster continues days or months after the event as you and your family face the emotional and psychological effects of the event. Reactions vary from person to person and may include nightmares, fear, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, mood swings, anger and restless sleep. All of these responses are normal, but it’s important to be prepared for these emotional traumas ahead of time, and when they do happen, let yourself and others react in their own way.
Additionally, talk with your family and friends about what happened and how you feel about it. It might help your emotional state if you increase your volunteer activities at food pantries, local shelters and blood banks to help with emergency efforts. This gets you out of “yourself” and your self-pity, and gets you involved in helping others, which greatly helps with depression and fear.
You might even want to talk to a minister, spiritual advisor or other counselor. Also, encourage your children to share their feelings, even if you have to listen to their stories many times. This is a normal way for children to make sense of traumatic experiences. You may also want to share your feelings about the event with your children. All of this will make you emotionally strong during a disaster.
Through a nutritious diet, an effective fitness program and a good emotional healing techniques, all of these strategies will help lower your stress and keep you healthy during those times when endurance, strength and hope are required. Staying healthy is the foundation of making it through disaster, trauma and catastrophe for you and your family.
David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit http://www.healthline.com/.
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