Hurricane Harvey is long gone, but the effects of it will be around for a very long time to come. Dealing with a disaster while it is happening can be overwhelming, but at least you have a task at hand. When things are over, depression can set in, as can other feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Here are some coping strategies for you and your children to help get through this trying time.
• Turn off the TV. Watching the images of devastation over and over on the news can be more psychologically harmful than you may think. It actually reinforces the trauma. Get the information you need to keep safe, then shut it down. This will allow you to focus on other things and give your brain and emotions a break.
• Talk about it. Keeping silent about how you’re feeling will not make it go away. Talk with your family and friends, a counselor, or spiritual leader. Talk with your kids and let them know it is ok to share their feelings with you. If you don’t, they may think it will upset you too much and they might not bring it up on their own. Don’t assume you know how they are feeling, allow them the opportunity to tell you in a calm environment. Remind them that they are loved and that things will be ok, and try to do “normal” activities with them if possible. Keeping to a regular bedtime routine and sleep schedule will help immensely, too.
• Help others. If you are fortunate enough to be able to help others, volunteering can be very cathartic. Simply getting out of the house will make you feel better, but the warm feeling you’ll get inside from knowing that you’re being a part of the greater good is very healing.
• Donate. If you’re financially able, donate to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Humane Society, Houston Food Bank, or other reputable charity. You can even do this directly from your cell phone by texting HARVEY to 90999 and the $10 donation will be applied to your wireless bill. Can’t donate money? Consider donating blood to the Gulf Coast Blood Center. Again, doing good for others will help you to feel better.
• Be aware. Take care of yourself so that you are able to care for others in your family and community. Look out for signs of stress like inability to sleep, loss of appetite, nightmares and irritability. Be aware of your feelings and cope with them in healthy ways for your own good and for those that depend on you.