The curious thing about natural disasters is that those who weren’t directly affected can be just as traumatised as the people who did lose a family member, or their homes, business, job and pets. And that trauma can stick just as well as flood mud.
What’s good to remember is that the strategies you were already using to help you cope with day-to-day life are just as helpful now. This might seem self-evident, but when you’re in shock from an event like the floods it’s easy to underestimate their healing power.
First, try to re-establish your routines: Like getting up and going to bed at the same times. This will help reassure your subconscious, settling the biochemical stress reaction that can lead to chronic health problems. And it helps give you a sense that you’re regaining control. Resume your exercise, and keep eating well. Meditation, music, prayer, taking time out to just rest with a cuppa, and connecting with people. This all helps. The strategies to avoid are the ‘false friends’ like alcohol and drugs.
Also, keep an eye out for physical health problems. When your body is exposed to relentlessly high cortisol levels from post-trauma stress, illnesses can develop. Like stomach aches, headaches, digestive problems, skin problems. Your emotions can change your body.
If you’re in the position of supporting friends and loved ones who have lost so much, one of the most useful things you can do to relieve their stress is just listen. And listen. And listen some more. As you’ve probably noticed, people can respond in some unexpected ways when they’re in shock; so a little tolerance goes a long way.
Lastly, remember that one of the most challenging aspects of managing the stress that emerges from an event like these floods is allowing yourself to reach out for help; whether that’s a cuppa and a chat with a trusted friend, or a consultation with your health professional. As much as you want to help other people recover, there are many people who would love to help you recover too.
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Image credit: Swan Dive by Eve Liddell via MorgueFile