Getting Back to "Normal" After a Disaster
By Dwight Bain
Nationally Certified Counselor
Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, and earthquakes are often the most destructive events that a person can experience in a lifetime. These types of storms are also among the most expensive disasters to recover from financially because of being out of work or not having enough insurance coverage to replace what the storm destroyed. It may take months to perhaps even a year for everyone to feel that things are back to “normal”.
The actual psychological impact of the storm will vary widely between people based on factors such as age, their previous experiences with storm recovery, and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the storm. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the storms, the longer it takes to recover, and with the additional stress of daily life coupled with the rise in gasoline prices the stress levels have dramatically increased on everyone affected by these storms.
Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your family life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster.
1) Reconnect in relationships.
You can't get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in awhile. Just checking in to see if they are OK will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you.
Simply talk about what each of you experienced through the disaster and how you got through the storm. Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to call you; their phone may not work! Go find them and then re-establish the relationship while helping each other rebuild.
2) Rebuild your routines.
This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bed time, dinner time, getting up to go to school, or work, or church or the gym to work out. To regain strength quickly, identify what your normal routines were before the storm and then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter, or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.
3) Reach out for faith.
In times of crisis, everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after the storm will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them. Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the storm. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you make it through the rest of your day.
Many churches and houses of faith have disaster and recovery teams, support services, and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being “too nice” to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this storm as well as the ones to come.
4) Retell your story.
Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived what will likely be the worst natural disaster they will ever experience. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.
*Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource, visit www.lifeworksgroup.org.
Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.
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