When Floods Strike

Recovering from any natural disaster is challenging, both emotionally and physically.  The recent Memorial Day weekend heavy rains that damaged central and north Texas have left many with destroyed property and heavy hearts.  There are multiple points that flood victims need to address following this type of natural disaster, such as completing insurance paperwork and restoring their homes to a normal state.  However, less instruction is given on emotionally how to cope with the devastation and loss that can result from flood damage.

Dealing with the stress that comes from natural disasters can be extremely overwhelming.   Asking for help can be one of the most important and effective steps a person can take after experiencing a natural disaster.  When you start to feel like you are experiencing more stress than you can handle, it may be time to reach out for help.   Such symptoms might be:  difficulty communicating with other, trouble sleeping, a low threshold for frustration, a limited attention span, headaches or stomach aches, cold-like symptoms, feelings of hopelessness, overwhelming guilt and self-doubt, feelings of grief or loss, and a fear of being alone. 

For those survivors of the recent Texas floods, tapping into one’s natural strengths to deal with the  crisis could be the most powerful tool at your disposal.   Taking a minute to remember the times you have made it through other difficult life circumstances can be useful in reminding yourself how much personal strength and natural resiliency you do have.   Relationships and maintaining connections can also be a significant source of strength during these times.  Reaching out to friends, family members, or your own community can support not only your physical, but emotional health as well.  A good supportive network, even if it consists mostly of volunteer organizations, is necessary.

It is also important to remember that this is a trying time and that your emotions will roller-coaster on a fairly regular basis.  Given the understandable stress of the overall situation, it is important to have realistic expectations for your own progression in restoring your life to its pre-flood status.  Compassion for yourself and your family is an important component of this, remembering that you have suffered a loss and that these emotions are natural responses.

Making a list of tasks that need to be accomplished and prioritizing that list can also assist in making flood recovery seem less overwhelming.  This will also help you to keep a pulse on you reactions to stress during this strenuous situation.  During times of stress, it is easier for us to neglect our overall health by cheating our sleep schedules, adding more junk food to our diet, and not engaging in self-care.  Maintaining your regular routine as much as feasible during this time will assist in regaining a sense of normalcy.

It is also important to reach out to your children following a flood.  Maintaining their daily routine as much as necessary will give your children as much of a sense of security as it will give to you.  Restricting their viewing of the news or other media that references the flood will also assist them in feeling more confident with your family’s recovery.   You can help your children to feel more at ease if they are informed of future safety plans.  Educating your children on emergency reaction procedures for possible future floods and then practicing those procedures can help you and your family feel more empowered should a similar tragedy happen to occur in the future. 

Natural disasters elicit a number of emotions from fear to sadness to anger.  These emotions can make recovery from any disaster particularly difficult.  Recovering from a flood can be especially challenging given the amount of time it can take to restore damaged property.  Having confidence in your own strengths and abilities during this process can go a long way.  Focusing your energies on the components you can control and supporting yourself in healthy ways during this period can go a long way during such demanding times.

Authored by:  Kaitlan Gibbons, PsyD