Have the floods devastated your business? Here are some mental health strategies that could help at this time

flood-support floods

Source: Unsplash/Jonathan Ford

The psychological stresses of enduring a natural disaster are devastating. Even after the event itself, the stress continues throughout the recovery process and beyond.

The catastrophic flooding that has occurred throughout NSW and Queensland in the previous few weeks has caused unimaginable damage to properties, destroyed homes, created financial burden and is likely to cause considerable emotional hardship. As devastating as floods as can be, coping with floods can also bring together communities, foster camaraderie and goodwill.

Experiencing a flood can be frightening, and the activities of normal life can be disrupted. For most people, feeling temporarily distressed does not interfere with their abilities to cope with the process of recovery. However, it is important not to underestimate the stress and strain of being flooded and cleaning up after floods. Take the time to consider your and your family’s mental health and wellbeing. Do not overdo it when cleaning up, and remember that tiredness, difficulty sleeping and anxiety are normal in these circumstances.

Here are the effects of flooding on mental health.

Emotional effects  

Experiencing a range of emotions, including significant anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, sadness and grief are normal in these situations. It’s a natural response when experiencing traumatic events, such as flooding, to experience difficulty sleeping, a loss of appetite, sad or angry moods and heightened feelings of anxiety.

When it comes to communities, longer term effects of floods can ripple through for years to come, with one of the most devastating experiences that flooding imposes being loss of life. This pain includes the loss of human life, livestock and our pets.

We can support each other by ensuring our family, friends and neighbours basic needs are met and also be aware of warning signs that someone may be struggling to cope.

A way forward  

There is no one simple strategy that will make things better right away. But there are things that can help you, your family and your community heal over time.

  • Follow a normal routine as much as possible;

  • Nourish your body with healthy meals (a healthy body can have a positive impact on your  thoughts and emotions, enabling you to make better decisions and better navigate the  recovery phase);

  • Engage in a form of exercise you enjoy — stay active;

  • Accept help from family, friends, co-workers or other community groups. Talk about your  feelings with them;

  • Limit your time around the sights and sounds of what happened if you can; and

  • Don’t dwell on media reports of the crisis.

Warning signs of stress are abnormal short term reactions to normal and unexpected challenges. However, it is important to recognise when we experience emotional distress that is persistent and difficult to manage. To help manage during these difficult times, it can also help to:

  • Make connections. Reach out and connect with close family members and friends. These relationships can be a source of strength. Coming together and helping one another can be positive for your emotional health;

  • Help children by restricting constant viewing of the news, giving them assurances that plans are in place to keep them safe and maintaining their routines as much as possible;

  • Maintain a hopeful outlook. Take a moment to recall times when you’ve successfully  managed challenging life circumstances. Draw upon those skills and experiences to help you  through current challenges; and

  • Seek additional help. For anyone who is feeling overwhelming anxiety, fear or anger for two weeks or more, with no improvement, I encourage you to seek additional support. Your local GPs are a wonderful starting point and can help link you with mental health professionals to find constructive ways to manage adversity and deal with extreme stress.

Perseverance and trust in our abilities will get us through the challenging days ahead.

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