Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: Coping Skills & Back to Basics

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In these initial weeks following Hurricane Harvey, many people are trying to figure out what our new normal will be.  Some are headed back to work, some are helping with clean up and recovery, some are still in the midst of dealing with their devastation.  I think most of us are left with the question, "what the hell do we do now?" 

From what I've heard, seen, and been involved with, people have jumped into problem solving, fixing, and helping mode.  Over the last week homes have been stripped, laundry done by the masses, donations made, and volunteer hours served.  Everyone has been doing what they could to help.  People with damage have been calling insurance companies, having cars picked up, finding places to stay, and picking up the pieces of their lives.  Slowly our city is returning somewhat to normal operations.  Most businesses are open and people are back at work talking about their experiences.  It's a lot to process. 

How do we move forward from such a traumatic event?  The good news is that most people - and I mean the vast majority - will recover from this disaster, even those directly affected.  People are inherently resilient and able to utilize their strengths and coping skills to get through such an event.  We know this to be true from research, and so I've been exploring the idea of getting back to basics.  Right now the best way to help yourself and others move forward is to access simple ways to recover so you can reset your mind, body, and spirit.  

After all, this recovery process will take a long time.  We cannot expect that anyone could keep up this pace of triaged care and resources for the long haul.  I'm sure you've heard, it's a marathon and not a sprint, so we need to train and prep now for the journey we're going on.  

So what does back to basics practically look like? 

Sleeping 6.5-8 hours a night

Watch my video here that discusses why you've been experiencing sleep disturbance in the last couple of weeks and maybe for the next few weeks.  It's fascinating stuff and there are some good tips to get you back into regular sleep patterns so your brain and body can reset.  

Drink lots of water 

We need to flush out our stress hormones and chemicals that have backed up in our system from the last couple of weeks, and replenish our organs back to optimal functioning.  Being in survival mode for so many days takes a toll on the nervous system.  

Eating Healthy Foods

I think you get where this is going...restoring our bodies and brains to the best possible condition and functioning will reset everything. 

Daily exercise or movement 

Yes, again, to get the stress chemicals out of the body but also to bring about more balance.  Many people got stuck inside their homes and experienced a higher than normal amount of worrying and anxiety lately.  This takes place in the thinking part of our brain, and you can alleviate some of those symptoms by activating the moving part of the brain, allowing the different parts of the brain to have balance and work together giving you access to more of your coping skills.  Cool huh? 

Avoid caffeine, chocolate, nicotine, and alcohol

These substances all create a boost those chemicals that are keeping your body in overdrive.  I know you think they're helping, but they're actually prolonging your sleep and appetite disturbance.  

Engage in a Familiar Routine

This will help your body know what to anticipate and prepare your organs and brain for the activity you are going to complete.  Did you know if you go to the gym at the same time on specific days that your body starts to produce enzymes and chemicals that prepare the body and enhance your work out?  Same concept here as your mind and body are recovering.  

Give yourself some time

Remember that most people will return to normal functioning in a relatively short amount of time and that the reactions you are experiencing now are most likely normal.  Everyone experiences situations and reacts differently, and that's ok.  You don't need to worry if you experience it one way and your friend is having a different response.  The range of normal reactions is huge! The more you worry, the longer it will take to see the symptoms go away.  Give yourself time and permission to react however you are naturally, and be patient and mindful with what you need.  

For additional ideas, support, or to have a free 15-minute phone consult with me, call (832) 827-3288.  I'd love to hear from you and explore together how I can help. I'm a Marriage and Family Therapist in the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas.  I offer couples therapy, individual counseling, online sessions, and in home support.  

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