Recovering Your Health After Hurricane Harvey

Imagine this: You’re sitting in your home, watching The Weather Channel to get up-to-date news on a major natural disaster, just like every other Texan, when all of a sudden water starts seeping through your walls, your doors, your floors…everywhere. Fortunately, you have a two-story house so many of your belongings can be elevated and/or taken up to the second story to avoid being damaged by the floodwaters. Half an hour goes by and you’re wading through six inches of water in your dining room. You’re told the water is only going to continue to rise so you must leave now, or your chances of getting out of your home are not likely. You’re taken to a friend or family member’s home, or even a local shelter, given dry clothes, food and maybe a warm blanket for the night but as you sit there, your mind begins to wonder about what’s currently going on in your home – the place you house all your valued possessions, the place you’ve built and raised a family in, the place that stores every single memory of your children’s lives, the place you can always count on when you need a hot meal, a warm shower and a soft place to lay your head at night. And in an instant, you’re questioning yourself in a way you never thought you would need to. Has the water stopped? Has it continued to rise? How high has the water gotten? Did I remember to unplug the washing machine? What did I do with all my photo albums? What about my cars? What is it going to look like when I go back? When will I get to go back? Will I ever get to go back?

Sad and anxious are the two best words to describe someone in this situation and it breaks my heart in knowing that hundreds of thousands of Texans are currently feeling this way. Are you one of them? What about your mom? Your dad? Your brother or sister? Your newly graduated child? Are you a first responder (or a spouse to a first responder) who is seeing this and feeling this way day in and day out?

As the floodwaters begin to recede, we begin to realize there is more than physical damage this devastating disaster has left behind: the emotional disaster that is to follow it. The trauma that follows after an event, such as Hurricane Harvey, is almost just as devastating emotionally as it is physically. You can see it in the eyes of those who are experiencing this reality: exhausted, stressed, sleepless, apprehensive and overall, drained; both emotionally and physically.

After an event such as what we have just experienced as Houstonians, the body begins to change. You lose your appetite, sleep is intermittent (if that), and your body is in this phase of hypersensitivity, preparing you for more trauma. Over the course of the next few weeks, the body will slowly begin to relax as it realizes the initial trauma is over. However, depending on your situation, you realize you’ve got to take on whatever comes next. Is it demolishing your recently flooded home? Is it rebuilding your home? Is it rebuilding your parent’s home? Is it renovating your business?

No matter what your situation may be, I think I speak for many of us when I say that we are currently overwhelmed. We’re not sure what to do, how to feel or even where to begin.

If you’re feeling apprehensive and overwhelmed, which is most of us currently, I encourage you to take these steps to help yourself begin the recovery process:

  1. Do normal; be normal. One of the best things you can do for yourself in this moment of need is find your new routine and begin making your way back to normalcy. While your life may look and seem a lot different right now, I know this is probably far easier said than done, but it is crucial that you find one aspect of your life that you have control over and make sure it becomes part of your routine once again. It could be something as simple as enjoying a warm cup of coffee or tea in the morning, taking your dog for a walk, or a daily phone call to a loved one. Once you’re able to incorporate one normal part of your day back into your life, then another will follow until eventually, you will have a new normal.
  2. Talk about it. Something I’ve learned over the years is that talking through a situation helps mend the heart. The more you open up about what you’re experiencing, the more likely you are to heal from it so find someone you can talk to each and every day to help your mind and body begin the healing process. I think you’ll find that it puts your mind at ease when you get your feelings out into the open rather than keeping them locked up inside.
  3. Help someone. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how happy it makes you when you help someone else, even when you’re needing help yourself. It is gratifying to know that you’ve made an impact on someone else’s life by helping them during a time of need, even if it’s a complete stranger. It’s almost an instant mood-booster. I experienced this myself while working at a medical clinic at a church this week. The hugs and smiles I received gave me immeasurable happiness. The look in the eyes of people whose blood sugars were in the 400’s because they had to flee without meds or those with rashes all over their bodies due to the dirty water in their homes … helping them brought me more peace than I’ve had in a long time. This is a place I will continue going back to because it not only helped the people there tremendously, but it truly touched my soul as well.
  4. Take care of you. In order to recover from any stressful situation, especially a catastrophic hurricane, you have to make sure your health is up to par so now, more than ever, it is crucial that you put your health first. I have no doubt that renovating and remodeling a home and filing insurance claims is a LOT of work and takes up a tremendous amount of time but in order for you to come out of this, you’re going to need a good night’s rest each evening followed by enough energy to take on the next day. You also want to make sure you don’t become deficient in your core vitamins because nutrient deficiencies can almost guarantee fatigue, a poor immune system and the inability to handle stress.
  5. Be consistent in taking your bio-identical hormones. The thyroid and adrenal hormones help your body to cope during stressful situations so by maintaining balanced hormone levels, you’ll find that you not only feel good, but you’re able to handle more stress than if your hormones were not balanced. If you think your adrenals or hormones are suffering, take this quick assessment and it will guide you to helping you understand your level of hormonal imbalance.
  6. BREATHE! This last one might be the most important. If there is one thing that you can do today, right now,to feel less stressed and overwhelmed and more empowered it is to focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath by inhaling for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds. This is what I call my square breathing technique. You want to fill your lungs up with air and let it all out. It may seem simple and silly but breathing is one of the absolute best ways you can physically release stress from your body and more importantly, your mind. Practice this at least three times each day to help handle stress.
  7. Take it a day at a time. It’s easy to feel the need to get everything accomplished today…right now. But that’s also the easiest way to feeling an extreme amount of pressure. Recovering from an event such as this one is a marathon, not a sprint. Take each day in stride and remember that you’re only one person but you are resilient and you will continue to move forward despite the current circumstances.

I hope you find these tips not only helpful but more importantly, applicable and practical. I encourage you to try each of these this week and see if it improves your outlook and current feelings of stress or anxiety. Best of luck to each of you. My prayers are with you and your families in this time of need. My team and I are here to help you in any way so please don’t hesitate to reach out. God Bless!

Posted in: Health, Stress Management

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