Manage the Stress Following Tornadoes and Severe Storms

May 22, 2024, 9:27 am | David Brown

Two people holding hands by Farknot Architect/, Iowa – Iowans are coping with the surge of tornadoes and severe storms that impacted many communities. Many will be affected regardless of whether they were hurt or lost a loved one.

“We may also start to experience distressing thoughts and anxious feelings or responses, such as having difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Such strong reactions are common with such extreme events,” said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

It is very important to identify early signs of stress and to incorporate stress management strategies, Brown explained. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Services Administration has identified the following signs of stress to look for:

  • Feelings of numbness, anger, anxiety or fear.
  • Having headaches or stomachaches.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Wanting to be alone or isolating yourself.
  • Having difficulty making decisions or feeling confused.
  • Using alcohol or illegal drugs.

Some key stress management strategies that may help manage disaster related stress can include: 

  • Talking to others, such as family members, friends or coworkers.
  • Staying active by talking walks or doing gentle stretching exercises.
  • Making sure you get enough sleep and rest per day.
  • Listening to gentle music or taking deep breaths to help relax.
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, especially in large amounts.
  • Helping others and neighbors in any clean-up effort.
  • Engaging in fun activities, including hobbies.
  • Engaging resources, such as primary care providers or hotlines, if stress continues past two to four weeks.


Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or visit the website,, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

The Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 is the first national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 to all residents in the United States and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Finding Answers Now, from Human Sciences Extension and Outreach, offers resources for the human side of disasters to help you cope with concerns about healthy eating, relationships, mental health and wellbeing, personal finance, food safety, and nutrition and wellness.


Originally published May 2, 2024.

Photo credit: Farknot Architect/

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