If you or a family member has been affected by a severe weather disaster, you may feel helpless (even hopeless). However, there are some important things you can do to care for your family’s mental health needs.
– Find ways you can help out. It’s easier to stay out of your own misery when you are helping other people. You’ll feel more hopeful that your own situation can turn around when you make a difference for someone else.
– Talk to other people about what’s going on. Listen to their stories, too. Just purging the thoughts from your mind can give you some relief.
– Your kids may react differently than you do. They may feel more stressed, or they may be more resilient. It often matters how you handle it, but some kids may simply be more sensitive to trauma and upset like this.
– As best you can, find your routine again. If a personal milestone or holiday passes during your difficult time, find a way to still acknowledge it. Even if it triggers some emotion for you to think about what you were going to do for Mom’s birthday or your anniversary, you might at least release some pent-up emotions. This release is very important!
– Expect things to go up and down for your family. Helping others, comforting your kids, and finding your routine may not make the impact of the situation dissipate any sooner. It’s normal for some people to have delayed or extended reactions to something that literally rocks their world.
– Blow off some steam. Find ways to exert some bursts of energy. Play a game of tag, have a pillow fight, or watch a laugh-out-loud movie. Like I said earlier, it’s vitally important to release your pent-up emotions now and then. If you prefer to stay stoic for your family’s sake, that’s totally fine. Just be sure you let the pressure off somehow. As you move past the severe weather event, you may uncover new and different emotions along the way. Don’t let them pile up or you may trap a giant ball of stress inside. That can eat away at you for months or years if you don’t keep it in check.
– Get professional help if you need it. If you or a loved one is still feeling mental aftershocks of the event for a long time, it might be time to see a counselor or set up appointments with your pastor. Some people might need mental health support right away, others may slowly simmer long after the drama has died down. More than anything, don’t let it go on for too long if nothing seems to be helping. That will only add to the strain of recovery. The need for mental health support is no sign of weakness, only a sign that you are human.
To those of you in weather-ravaged areas, please hang in there. For those of you with family and friends near these areas, keep in touch and help them use these and other tips.
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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
The Psychology of a Heat Wave | World of Psychology (July 23, 2011)
Last reviewed: 4 May 2011