Mental Health Resources for Self-Care
Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness.
It is common to feel stress after a crisis. Whether the crisis is caused by a natural event such as a flood or severe storm or by the actions of another human being, disasters can devastate individuals and communities. Anyone who sees or experiences the disaster can be affected. Most of the time, these effects are temporary and resolve on their own. But sometimes they do not, and a person may need some extra help coping with their stress.
Some people do not recognize the warning signs in themselves or others that they are having trouble coping with the disaster. Others may feel their reactions are not right or that others may have it worse. Some people even feel that if they reach out for help, they will suffer consequences in their personal or professional lives.
- If at any time you have thoughts of harming yourself or completing suicide, please reach out immediately and call or text 988, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- Para ayuda en español, llame al 988. Envía un mensaje de texto HOLA al 741741 o mensaje de texto a 442-AYUDAME en WhatsApp para conectarte con un Consejero de Crisis capacitado en español.
- For Deaf or hearing-impaired individuals, please call TTY: 1-800-799-4889
- Individuals who are Transgender or identify as LGBTQIA* and wish to speak to a counselor specifically trained on LGBTQIA* mental health needs can call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-8860 or visit www.translifeline.org
- Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990. Call or text for immediate counseling help to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic incident. It is free, confidential, and multilingual crisis support. You will be connected to trained and caring professionals to provide counseling, referrals, and other needed support services. www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline
First responders are the ones we turn to for help when something goes wrong. These professions include police, fire fighters, EMS and EMTs, medical providers and nurses, 9-1-1 operators, clergy, counselors, emergency services staff and volunteers, housing and shelter staff, animal rescue staff, and other staff and volunteers who help to organize communities after a crisis. The community looks to their first responders in a crisis. From the moment a community member dials 9-1-1, the community places their trust and sometimes their lives in the hands of first responders.
First responders are physically and emotionally evaluated during an emergency, and they may have loved ones in the area for whom they are concerned. This is a huge responsibility that all first responders take very seriously but can lead to specific and unique experiences while dealing with a crisis in the community.
Warning Signs for First Responders
- Rapid heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, headaches, and tremors
- Feeling fear or terror in life-threatening situations or perceived danger, as well as anger and frustration
- Being disoriented or confused, having difficulty solving problems, and making decisions
- Engaging in problematic or risky behaviors, such as taking unnecessary risks, failing to use personal protective equipment, or refusing to follow orders or leave the scene
- Becoming irritable or hostile in social situations, resorting to blaming, and failing to support teammates
First Responders Who are Most at Risk for Emotional Distress
- Those who have prolonged separation from loved ones
- Those who are in, or were in, life-threatening situations
- Having had previous professional experiences that caused disruptions in home or work life
- Having witnessed or been exposed to difficult stories of survival or loss
- Lost a loved one in the disaster
Resources specifically for First Responders
- Copline - This resource is a confidential, 24-hour law enforcement officer hotline staffed by retired law enforcement officers trained in active listening. 1-800-267-5463
- Fire/EMS Helpline – Confidential, 24-hour hotline created for first responders by first responders. This program is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of firefighters, EMTs, rescue personnel, and their families. 1-888-731-FIRE (3473)
- Safe Call Now - This confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service is for all public safety employees, all emergency services personnel, and their family members nationwide. 1-877-230-6060
- Emergency Responder Crisis Text Line – Connect with a trained counselor on this free, confidential service available 24/7 for all emergency responders. Text “BADGE” to 741741.
- Lock to Live - This website can help you make decisions about temporarily reducing access to potentially dangerous things, like firearms, medicines, sharp objects, or other household items. https://lock2live.org/
How do I know if someone is not ok?
Before we talk about self-care, it is important to understand the warning signs that you or someone else is struggling. Not everyone struggles in the same way, but there are some red flags that are important to pay attention to if you see them in yourself or someone else.
General warning signs at any age:
- Eating too much or too little
Sleeping too much or not enough
- Pulling away from friends and family
- Little or no energy
- Unexplained pains and body aches like constant stomach aches or headaches
- Thoughts of hurting themselves or others
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feelings of fear, helplessness, or hopelessness
- Excessive alcohol or substance use, or the misuse of prescribed medications
- Excessive feelings of worry or guilt
- Difficulty adjusting to changes, even small or good changes
- Easily irritated, blaming others, lashing out at loved ones
Warning Signs in Children ages 6 – 11 years
- Not wanting to play with friends
- Wanting extra attention from parents and teachers
- Unwillingness to leave home
- Becoming less interested in school or favorite activities
- Becoming aggressive
- Fighting with friends, other children, or siblings
- Difficulty concentrating
Warning Signs in Teenagers and Adolescents
- Teenagers are likely to have physical complaints
- Loss of interest in school, sports, or other hobbies
- Resisting authority or compete for adult attention
- Becoming disruptive or aggressive at home or in school
- Participate in high-risk activities such as underage drinking, or misusing prescription drugs, or even using illicit drugs
Children and Teens Who are Most at Risk for Emotional Distress
- Survivors of the current crisis
- Survivors of previous disasters or crisis
- Youth with non-permanent or unstable housing arrangements
- Youth who have lost a friend, family member, or someone else they were close to in the crisis, or a previous crisis
Warning Signs in Adults
- Crying spells or bursts of anger
- Difficulty eating
- Losing interest in daily activities
- Increasing physical distress symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains
- Feeling guilty, helpless, or hopeless
- Avoiding family and friends
Adults Who are Most at Risk for Emotional Distress
- History of post-traumatic stress disorder
- Exposure to other trauma, including secondary trauma
- History of medical illness or psychological disorder
- History of experiencing poverty, homelessness, or other economic instability
- History of experiencing racism or discrimination
- Experiencing a recent major life stressor or change
- Adults who do not speak English
- Lost a loved one or friend in the disaster
General Self-Care Ideas
How can I practice self-care after a crisis?
It is important that you take care of yourself after a crisis. You need to keep your body healthy and strong to help you cope with what happens after a crisis. It is equally important to recognize that self-care IS NOT selfish! In fact, self-care is non-negotiable! You are an important member of the community and your health, both physical and mental, is vital to the work the community needs to do to cope with the crisis. The following information is not a comprehensive list of self-care ideas. For a much bigger list, please visit 101 Self Care Tips for Trauma Survivors at https://www.beautyafterbruises.org/blog/selfcare.
- Trauma can freeze you into a constant state of hyperarousal and fear. Exercise can help you burn off all the excess adrenaline and release endorphins (a chemical in your body that helps relax you).
- Try to exercise for 30 minutes per day, it does not have to be all at once. Break it up into 10 minutes so you can keep moving all day long.
- Do exercises that are rhythmic such as walking, running, basketball, or dancing. This helps you connect your mind to your body.
- Really focus on your body. Pay attention to things like how your muscles feel, the sound your feet make when they hit the ground, or the feeling of the air on your skin.
Be Around Others
- After a trauma you might feel like you need to isolate yourself, and while a little time to process things is ok, too much time alone can make things so much worse.
- You do not need to talk about the trauma if you do not want to but talk to a friend or loved one about anything at all, just reaching out to others can help us feel connected.
- Participate in your usual activities like going out with friends, attending church, or sporting events, or taking your pet to a local park.
- Join a support group and meet other people who are going through the same thing you are.
- Try something new – take a class, listen to a new podcast, or learn a new sport. Finding a new hobby does not only help you deal with the current crisis; it can help you cope with life’s challenges later too.
Take Care of Your Body
- Make sure you eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Your body will need the nourishment to help keep you going during and after a crisis.
- Get enough sleep. This allows your body and mind to recharge after the emotional and physical stress of dealing with a crisis.
- Treat yourself to a session of pampering. If you like getting your nails done, or getting a professional shave, go for it! Let someone else take care of you for a little bit.
- Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, and other substances such as illicit drugs. It might be tempting to consume things that can numb the pain or fear, or can help boost your energy, but these substances can be habit forming and cause more problems for you than they solve.
Secondary trauma, also known as Compassion Fatigue, is a type of second-hand PTSD. It comes from frequent exposure to other’s trauma. There is a limit to how much suffering and sadness a first responder can carry.
Warning Signs of Professional Burnout
- Confusion or impaired memory
- Difficulty making decisions
- Distressing dreams or fantasies
- A sense of numbness
- Feeling overwhelmed or emotionally spent
- Changes in professional relationships
- Increased sense of cynicism
Self-Care Activities at Work
- Diversify your tasks at work, try to vary your caseload to the extent that you can
- Use your personal and vacation time when needed
- Seek out, or establish a profession-specific support group
- Do things that make you happy but have nothing to do with your job, like gardening, religious activities, sports, and other activities that bring you peace
- Seek out counseling when needed
What should I do if I get overwhelmed or have trouble getting my emotions under control?
Trauma can freeze you into a constant state of hyperarousal and fear. Exercise can help you burn off all the excess adrenaline and release endorphins (a chemical in your body that helps relax you). Try these techniques to help you focus on your five senses and keep you in the present moment.
- Sound – Blasting your favorite song, calling a loved one, or even reading aloud are wonderful grounding techniques.
- Touch – Grounding yourself with touch could include taking a hot or cold shower, cuddling a pet, or popping bubble wrap.
- Smell – This can be a comforting grounding technique by lighting a scented candle, sniffing peppermint, or using essential oils with positive associations.
- Taste – Eating a mint, biting into a lemon, or letting a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth can ground you.
- Sight – Focusing on specific objects like counting the pieces of furniture around you, counting the number of objects of a certain color, or looking for all the square objects in a room can help you focus on the physical space around you and grounding you in your present surroundings.