Disaster Fatigue

“Since COVID-19 started, we’ve lived in various states of stress, depression, exhaustion, sleep problems, anger, and growing cynicism,” Dr. Chatigny says. “We’re tired of seeing the news. We’re tired of seeing the numbers, the forecasts, the predictions. We’re worn out, honestly. And in some people already prone to anxiety or clinical depression, the toll can be even worse.”

Recent area fires may have activated our mental state, causing psychological stress.  Past experiences from disasters, including memories, smells, sights, sounds can all evoke feelings from before and/or news ones from a recent event.  

These are normal. You are having a normal reaction to an abnormal and stressful situation. This can seem more intense than in the past, possibly because you have “been through this before” and so may feel heavier that before, and/or just can feel heavier because it can seem like its one thing after another. Those can all produce a great deal of stress and wear us down physically, mentally and emotionally.  

There are three intensity stress levels. Eustress (positive, motivating type of stress) Distress (excessive stress) and Dysfunctional (which becomes an impairment in our lives).  
Disasters often cause distress which is understandable in these types of situations.  

Its important to try and manage these stress and access supports to that can help reduce those stressors. Below are more resources, tips and ways you can help reduce the stress and feelings of disaster fatigue.  


SAMHSA Hotlines SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline 
Toll-Free: 1-800-985-5990 (English and español) 
SMS: Text TalkWithUs to 66746 SMS (español): “Hablanos” al 66746 TTY: 1-800-846-8517 
Website in English: https://www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov 
Website in Spanish: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/espanol  

CalHOPE (833) 317-HOPE (4673) 
Live Chat on website Website- https://Calhope.org  

California Surgeon General’s Playbook for Stress https://osg.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/266/2022/05/california-surgeon-general_stress-busting-playbook.pdf  

Coping With Stress During A Disaster

What You Should Know When you hear, read, or watch news about a disaster you may feel anxious and show signs of stress—even when the disaster affects people far from where you live. These signs of stress are normal, and may be more likely or pronounced in people with loved ones in parts of the world affected by the disaster. In the wake of a disaster monitor your own physical and mental health. Know the signs of stress in yourself and your loved ones. Know how to relieve stress, and know when to get help.

Know the Signs of Stress

What follows are behavioral, physical, emotional, and cognitive responses that are all common signs of anxiety and stress. You may notice some of them after you learn about a disaster.

    Woman with Headache Sept 2020

    Your Behavior:

    • An increase or decrease in your energy and activity levels
    • An increase in your alcohol, tobacco use, or use of illegal drugs
    • An increase in irritability, with outbursts or anger and frequent arguing
    • Having trouble relaxing or sleeping
    • Crying frequently
    • Worrying excessively
    • Wanting to be alone most of the time
    • Blaming other people for everything
    • Having difficulty communicating or listening
    • Having difficulty giving or accepting help
    • Inability to feel pleasure or have fun

    Your Body:

    • Having stomachaches or diarrhea
    • Having headaches and other pains
    • Losing your appetite or eating too much
    • Sweating or having chills
    • Getting tremors or muscle twitches
    • Being easily startled

    Your Emotions:

    • Being anxious or fearful
    • Feeling depressed
    • Feeling guilty
    • Feeling angry
    • Feeling heroic, euphoric, or invulnerable
    • Not caring about anything
      and Feeling overwhelmed by sadness

     Your Thinking:

    • Having trouble remembering things
    • Feeling confused
    • Having trouble thinking clearly and
    • Having difficulty making decisions

    Talking on Phone Sept 2020

    Know When To Get Help

    You may experience serious distress when you hear about a disaster, even if you are at little or no risk of the disaster itself. If you or someone you know shows signs of stress (see list above) for several days or weeks, get help by accessing one of the resources at the end of this tip sheet.

    Contact the Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away if you or someone you know threatens to hurt or kill
    him- or herself or someone else, or talks or writes
    about death, dying, or suicide.

    Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline


    Know How To Relieve Stress

    You can manage and alleviate your stress by
    taking time to take care of yourself.

    Keep Things In Perspective:

    Set limits on how much time you spend reading or watching news about disasters. You will want to stay up to date on news of the disaster particularly if you have loved ones in places where the disaster has taken place. But make sure to take time away from the news to focus on things in your life that are going well and that you can control.

    Get The Facts:

    Find people and resources you can depend on for accurate information. Learn from them about the disaster and how you can protect yourself, if you are at risk. You may turn a state or local health department, U.S. government agencies, or an international organization.

    Keep Yourself Healthy:

    • Eat healthy foods, and drink water.
    • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and
    • Do not use tobacco or illegal drugs.
    • Get enough sleep and rest.
    • Get physical exercise.

    Man Breathing Sept 2020

    Use Practical Ways To Relax

    • Relax your body often by doing things that
      work for you—take deep breaths, stretch,
      meditate, wash your face and hands, or
      engage in pleasurable hobbies.
    • Pace yourself between stressful activities,
      and do a fun thing after a hard task.
    • Use time off to relax—eat a good meal, read,
      listen to music, take a bath, or talk to family.
    • Talk about your feelings to loved ones and
      friends often.

    Pay Attention to Your Body, Feelings, and Spirit

    • Recognize and heed early warning signs of
    • Recognize how your own past experiences
      affect your way of thinking and feeling about
      this event, and think of how you handled your
      thoughts, emotions, and behavior around
      past events.
    • Know that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty,
      or angry is common after an event like an
      infectious disease outbreak, even when it
      does not directly threaten you.
    • Connect with others who may be experiencing
      stress about the outbreak. Talk about your
      feelings about the outbreak, share reliable
      health information, and enjoy conversation
      unrelated to the outbreak, to remind yourself
      of the many important and positive things in
      your lives.
    • Take time to renew your spirit through
      meditation, prayer, or helping others in need. - 1b*

    Fresno County Resources

    Behavioral Health 

    • Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline 9-8-8 

    • Fresno County Behavioral Health Access Line 1 800 654-3937  

    • Mobile Crisis Response for Mental Health or Subtance Use (559) 600-6000 


    Public Health

    Información en Español


    Information in Hmong


    View & Download the Phases of Disaster pdf(PDF, 103KB)


    Disaster Fatigue Tips for First Responders


    Tips Include:

    • Preparing for the Disaster: Know your role in the response, practice, keep a go-kit in your car, live a disaster ready lifestyle.

    • Practice stress management: Know your personal signs of stress, take time for yourself, practice ways to release stress that are effective for you, control your breath, practice healthy sleep behaviors.

    • Prepare with your loved ones: Be disaster ready at home, have a plan so you know your loved ones are safe and your possessions will be protected. Develop a communication plan.

    • During the Disaster:  Get briefings daily, wear all PPE indicated based on the disaster, know your assignments and duties, rehearse your disaster response as you arrive at the scene, communicate with teammates, take breaks and pace yourself, limit exposure to very high intensity of work, implement stress management techniques.

    • Be self-aware:  Recognize your personal stress signs and those of your team.

    • Avoid over-identifying with survivors grief and trauma: Remind yourself you are OK, this is not a disaster that has directly impacted you. Use stress management tools, know where to refer survivors to supports and helpful services.

    • Disaster Recovery:  Conserve energy, recognize fatigue as a stress response. Take time away from the scene by alternating duties. Use stress management tools. Focus on reintegration with friends and family.

    Available resources online from SAMHSA and Red Cross



    Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health Offers Resources To Those Struggling  with Mental Health In Times of Crisis.

    The Creek Fire, coupled with COVID-19 has left many Fresno County residents dealing with “disaster fatigue.” Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health urges anyone who may be struggling to reach out for help. 

    Disaster fatigue is classified as an onslaught of “bad news” from global things such as COVID and some of its impacts (job loss, distancing from friends and family, added stress, etc.) to the regional wildfires or hearing about national disasters like hurricanes throughout the country. 

    Disaster Distress Helpline - a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.

    • English: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 
    • Spanish: 1-800-985-5990 and press “2” or text Hablanos to 66746


      SAMHSA Hotlines SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline
      Toll-Free: 1-800-985-5990 (English and español)
      SMS: Text TalkWithUs to 66746 SMS (español): “Hablanos” al 66746 TTY: 1-800-846-8517
      Website in English: https://www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov
      Website in Spanish: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/espanol 


      Fresno County Resources

      Fresno County Behavioral Health Access Line 1 800 654-3937
      Central Valley Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988
      Lets add Mobile Crisis Response Team (559) 600-6000





      1a* - https://www.leehealth.org/health-and-wellness/healthy-news-blog/coronavirus-covid-19/sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired-energize-yourself-against-disaster-fatigue

      1b* - file:///Users/dbhvideo/Downloads/Coping%20with%20Stress%20During%20Infectious%20Disease%20Outbreaks.pdf