Friday, September 8, 2017

Post Harvey: Coping, Resilience, and Self-Care

"If we embrace our challenges, and give away our blessings, we'll find fewer obstacles in our life, and more blessings. If however we cling to all that is good, we'll crush it. If we push away and ignore hard things, we'll never learn."
- Waylon H. Lewis

Hurricane Harvey and its wake has been and continues to be a very stressful, scary situation for our community.  Everyone has been affected directly or indirectly. The immediate experience of one's life being in danger or fear of injury to oneself and others, poses emotional risks. After the storm, there's ongoing stress for many related to loss of the safety of one's home, temporarily living elsewhere, loss of friends and social networks, loss of personal property, unemployment, and costs incurred during recovery to return to pre-disaster life and living conditions. Witnessing the suffering of loved ones, family, friends, and neighbors, adds to the toll.  The emotional toll that disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business, or personal property.  Exposure to extended media coverage can exacerbate this.

Strong emotions in the aftermath of Harvey are very normal.  They may include:
  • Loss and grief
  • Anxiety about your own safety and that of your family and close friends
  • Anger and irritability
  • Helplessness and powerlessness
  • Guilt and survivor guilt 
  • Stress dreams and nightmares
  • Frequent crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Remember that everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • Talk with someone about your feelings - anger, sorrow, and other emotions - even though it may be difficult.
  • Do not hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event or be frustrated because you feel you cannot help directly in the rescue or recovery work.
  • Take steps to promote your own physical and emotional healing by healthy eating, rest, exercise, relaxation, and meditation.
  • Limit media exposure to limited times of day and to trustworthy news outlets
  • Maintain a normal family and daily routine, limiting demanding responsibilities on yourself and your family.
  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Participate in memorials.
  • Use existing support groups of family, friends, and religious institutions.


Seek counseling if you or a family member are experiencing disaster-caused stress. When adults have the following signs, they might need crisis counseling or stress management assistance:
  • Difficulty communicating thoughts.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Difficulty maintaining balance in their lives.
  • Low threshold of frustration.
  • Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
  • Limited attention span.
  • Poor work performance.
  • Headaches/stomach problems.
  • Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
  • Colds or flu-like symptoms.
  • Disorientation or confusion.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Reluctance to leave home.
  • Depression, sadness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
  • Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone.
Seeking appropriate mental health care for depression is important and possibly life-saving.  Please contact a licensed mental health professional if you are concerned about post-traumatic stress in yourself or a loved one.  

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