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Coping With Community Wide Disasters - Recent Flooding in the Midwest

It is, without a doubt, one of the most seriously devastating times here in Nebraska and Iowa. According to the Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, one-third of Nebraska has been under water at some point in the past few weeks; some parts still are under water.

We have all been impacted – deeply – by what has occurred. Perhaps many reading this blog today have been directly impacted by the flooding; others reading this know someone who has been directly impacted by the flooding. No matter who you are or what is going on for you, the information and the heartbreak are inescapable.

When News and Events Affect our Mental Health

It’s on the news, TV, radio and all over social media and every one of us is feeling it. Many, if not all of us, are left wondering how to pick up the pieces and start over, where to start over, or even if we have the energy to start over. There is no doubt that the physical impact and the devastating loss of homes, businesses, livestock, roads and more will have a pretty big impact on all of us for months and possibly years to come.

As care providers in a large health-care system, we are naturally concerned for the physical well-being of our patients. There is another side to your health, though, and we just thought it might be a good idea to help with the mental and emotional side of this type of devastation.

Remember to Care for Your Mental Health

I think it’s important to remember that feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty are normal responses to abnormal events. According to some common responses to this type of an event are: disbelief, fear, feeling numb or angry, having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or perhaps a sense of being out of control - a sense of powerlessness. Other responses might include using alcohol or drugs to cope, having nightmares, or having trouble making decisions.

Some Healthy Ways to Cope With Stressful Events Are:

  • Focus first on some of the basics - like safety, food, water, and shelter.
  • Create routine meal and sleep schedules as best you can. Routine is really important at times like this. It helps with a sense of security and normalcy for adults and kids.
  • Take it one day at a time. There’s only so much you can do in a day. Do the best you can and then let it be until another time.
  • Acknowledge what you did get done today. It’s easy to forget to take stock of what you did get done today, especially at times like this. If you got groceries, take note and trust that you did the best you could for today.
  • Talk to your neighbors, friends at church or the local fish fry. Share your story and listen to theirs. Talking helps reduce the sense of loneliness and generates a sense of community.
  • Avoid drugs and overusing alcohol.
  • Know when to get help for your mental health – if you need help, ask for it. There are so many people who want to help, including your health care providers. Let us know what we can do to help – even if it’s just to sit and have a good cry. It could be the best medicine.

There are other positive things we can all do to help, but patience with ourselves, each other and the situation can take us a long way.

For anyone reading this, please know that the entire CHI Health community has you in our prayers and thoughts, and our behavioral care team is here to help in any way we can.

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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