Stress in Emergencies

Tips for dealing with stress in an emergency

Emergencies can cause emotional and physical reactions. Most people caught in an emergency situation can feel confused and may not act like themselves for awhile. It is common to feel bewildered, shocked, and relieved to be alive. It's important for people dealing with an emergency to take good care of themselves and their families.

Following are tips for families dealing with an emergency:

  • Rest often and eat well.
  • Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do one job at a time. Decide what needs to be done right away and defer the rest until a less stressful time.
  • Get as much physical activity as possible.
  • Ask for and accept help from others.
  • Touch is powerful – give someone a hug and follow public health’s guidelines should an epidemic occur.
  • Think about the coping skills used at other difficult times and use them.
  • Focus on positive memories.
  • It’s important to be aware of children’s reactions. Children might withdraw and try to be brave when they really need reassurance. To get the family back on track, talk about what’s happened. Here are some suggestions:
  • Encourage children to express themselves. They may want to do this by drawing or playing instead of talking.
  • Take their fears seriously. Reassure them and give them additional attention.
  • Talk to them about what has happened. Be honest but gentle.
  • At a time like this, it’s important for the whole family to stay together, even if it seems easier to look for housing or help without them.
  • Give them a real task to do in helping the family back on its feet. Let them help in planning something to remember the loss.
  • Watch for health problems and signs of stress, such as nightmares and depression, in you and all members of the family. Seek help if needed.
  • Continue with regular routines (teeth brushing, bedtime stories) and chores (picking out their own clothes to wear, etc.).
  • Avoid or minimize watching news reports of frightening events.


During times of stress, our body has a physical response as well. Without good self-care, our physical body struggles to return to its normal functioning level. If after a couple of weeks you are finding that the new stress related symptoms that you are experiencing are not going away, or that you are not able to return to the normal routine you had before this event, it is important to reach out for support. 

Here is a list of counselling and support resources available in the community:

  • If your employer has an EFAP program, you can access counselling support for you and any family members on your health plan.
  • If you have a current case worker/social worker through the Department of Social Development, they may be able to help you access counseling services.
  • Family Enrichment and Counselling on Queen Street has programs available to make counselling more affordable for those not able to pay customary rates. Call them at 506-458-8211.
  • The Downtown Community Health Centre has counselling services available at 506-452-6383.
  • Mental Health Services: 506-453-2132
  • Various local churches also offer counselling. Brunswick Street Baptist Church is one church that has a counseling centre.
  • You can also consult with your family doctor of other medical practitioner for recommendations and care.
  • CHIMO Support Line 1-800-667-5005


Helpful Links 

Canadian Red Cross - Psychological First Aid Pocket Guide

Canadian Psychological Association - Responding to Emergencies and Disasters

Horizon Health Network - How to Identify Psychological Changes After a Traumatic Event