Preparedness blog

Coping Strategies for Mental Health

By Emily Hutchison
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One in four people will suffer from mental illness in one form or another at some point during their lives. 450 million people are currently suffering from mental health issues worldwide. Treatment is widely available, but many of those who suffer never seek professional help due to the stigma associated with mental illness.  The World Health Organization suggests that mental health support should be moved from large mental institutions and towards community health programs. Mental health care should ideally become a part of primary or general care. However, the sad reality is that 40% of countries have zero mental health policies, 30% have no mental health programs, and 25% have absolutely no mental health legislation. When a disaster strikes those with mental health programs will be strained to the breaking point.

A crisis is understandably difficult for everyone. Disasters can be very overwhelming those suffering from mental health issues.Rates of depression and anxiety are likely to increase. Panic attacks may become more severe. It is important to have coping skills to rely on during a crisis. If you take prescription medication talk to your doctor about getting an extra supply for when pharmacies and medical professionals will be unavailable.

Emergency Coping Tools

Depression and anxiety episodes can come at any time and anywhere. Having little simple things to help distract you will help. The physical touch from another personal or object can be beneficial. Hug a person or object tightly. Wrapping yourself in a blanket can make you feel safe and relaxed, weighted blankets are especially helpful. Weighted blankets may be difficult to take when evacuating, have a scarf or smaller blanket in your bug-out-bag. Music or books can help take your mind off the negative thoughts for a minute. Biting into a lemon or something sour can help to quickly snap the brain back to reality. Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and dopamine to chemically help your body fight back, just 5 minutes of physical activity can help.

  • Hugs
  • Small Spaces
  • High Vantage Point
  • Distraction with movies or books
  • 5 minutes of physical activity
  • Journaling
  • Smile
  • Listen to music to change your mood
  • Wrap up in blankets
  • Scarf
  • Lemon


Deep breathing will distract your mind and help oxygen get into the blood. Box breathing is easy to remember. Breath in deeply to the count of 4. Hold for 4. Slowly breath out for 4. Hold for 4 and repeat until you have calmed down. Think of it like a box, breathing in and out around the edge. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is the same idea. Breath in for 4. Hold for 7. Very slowly breath out for 8. Take a minute to relax and breath, you'll feel much better.

  • 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
  • Square or Box Breathing
  • Take 10 deep breathes

Coping Strategies 

During an emergency level of stress will definitely increase. Staying cool and collected will be essential. Yoga is a great way to de-stress. Yoga combines stretching, meditation, and deep breathing that will lower your stress response. Daily laughter will also help bring stress levels down. Find the humor in whatever situation you are in and be grateful because it could always be worse.

  • Exercise
  • Stretching
  • Meditation
  • Deep Breathing
  • Laughing

Be Safe, Be Sane 


6 years ago