From the Desk of Marcie Vaughan, CEO/President:
Disasters are frightening, intense, unexpected events which put one’s safety at risk. After a disaster individuals focus on re-establishing basic needs of food, shelter, safety and addressing physical injury. Often individuals recognize physical reactions to the disaster such as increased or decreased sleep and appetite, increased heart rate, headaches, cold sweats, or stomach nausea but the emotional wounds, invisible to the eye, are unnoticed during the initial response. It is common for disaster survivors to feel irritated, nervous, stunned, disbelief, anger, fear, numbness, or have trouble thinking clearly. The physical and emotional reactions can re-appear suddenly when conditions similar to those of the disaster occur (i.e. severe weather warnings, heavy rains, emergency alert sounds) in the future.
Time is instrumental in the healing of trauma suffered during a natural disaster such as our recent flooding. One should allow themselves the opportunity to adjust to the losses, time to grieve, time to recover. The symptoms of trauma and depression are common and most times temporary following such a disaster. Many are able to recover without assistance from organized treatment. The recovery can be directly influenced by socialization, developing a routine, limiting media exposure, and knowing when to get help.
Involving yourself in social activities helps normalize your experience and reactions. Expressing your feelings and talking with others who also experienced the event leads to the realization you are not alone. Maintain a balance – don’t think and talk about the event constantly but don’t ignore it either. You don’t want to be consumed by the trauma or in denial of the trauma. By doing “normal” things, unrelated to the disaster, you are offering a return to what is familiar and comfortable which increases the sense of safety and security. Engage in activities you enjoy – walking, reading, listening to music, spending time with pet or volunteer with an organization to which you belong. Avoid alcohol and drugs which only mask your feelings. If you are in recovery for an alcohol or drug addiction be aware of the increased risk of relapse. Re-connect with supports to help you through this stressful time and increase your chance of maintaining sobriety.
Re-establishing a routine also brings a sense of familiarity, safety, and security. Set a time for meals, time for bed and a time to wake. Refrain from challenging activities that may create additional stress and do not make major decisions immediately following a traumatic event. Allow yourself time to adjust to the situation and make an informed decision.
By limiting exposure to media following a disaster you reduce effects of repeated visual images, memories and recollections associated with the event. Do not watch the news or view social media accounts while preparing for sleep.
Accept your feelings as real. Allow yourself time to heal.
Be patient with yourself. Feel without judgment or guilt.
Know when to seek professional assistance.
If months have passed and you continue to experience symptoms of stress, contact a behavioral health provider. If you are no longer able to make it through your day, can’t sleep due to nightmares, are isolating yourself, using more drugs or alcohol or experiencing suicidal thoughts – seek professional assistance immediately.
Seneca Health Services has been providing behavioral healthcare for our communities for over 40 years. Services are available regardless of ability to pay. Many can receive treatment at no cost. Contact the office nearest you if you need assistance recovering from this recent natural disaster.
Greenbrier area 304.497.0500
Nicholas area 304.872.2659
Pocahontas area 304.799.6865
Webster area 304.847.5425