Support from one’s family, friends and others close to us is important after a disaster. How long it takes to process the events will depend on the seriousness of the experiences, the degree of mortal danger, gruesome eyewitness experiences and any injury to or loss of siblings or close friends.
What are usual acute stress reactions?
There are many different ways people may react after disastrous events. Often, the initial reactions are shock, fear and sadness. Some people also feel confused and disoriented. Sleep problems, jumpiness and bodily complains such as headaches, stomach pains etc, are common.
Advice for those who experienced the disaster
- You are safe now
Remind yourself that you are safe now and that the danger is in the past.
- Stay together
Do not be alone with painful thoughts and experiences. Seek out others. Let others help you. Feel free to tell others how you are. Not everyone wants to talk all that much about what happened, which is also alright. It is possible to be together without talking about what happened.
- Think ahead sometimes
Remind yourself of your strong points. These qualities will help you cope with your experiences. The same strategies you have found useful during previous experiences will also be useful now.
- Back to everyday life
It is important to resume everyday routines, such as school, studies or work. Make sure to get enough sleep and eat regularly. Do things that make you feel better (such as practical activities, walks, listening to music).
- Stress levels
Physical activity helps to reduce bodily unrest. Go to a gym, take a walk, or find a form of exercise that suits you.
It may help to be careful with alcohol, coffee, nicotine and sugar. These substances increase the body’s level of activity.
- A feeling of guilt
It is not uncommon to experience a feeling of guilt in connection with disasters, such as thoughts that one could have done more to save others. In that event it is important to focus on the fact that it is only the perpetrator who is responsible for what has happened.
Many of the young persons who were affected at Utøya may move out of their homes or go away to study when school starts. When moving far away from family and friends, plans should be made in cooperation with the heath service or others to ensure that any needs for follow-up are met at the new location.
If you are having trouble printing this article, you can download it in PDF format