The flood, like it did to most of Boulder County, left me in its wake exhausted. Although comparatively we suffered little damage—merely that our finished basement is no longer finished—the stress, cleaning, concern, loss, and FEMA frustration definitely took its toll. I felt compelled to get everything done, to “go, go, go,” to restore order where chaos had struck. This was at the expense of my own health, and at times, sanity. Luckily, I finally recognized when I needed to change tack and go more gently into that basement. If you are still struggling with the aftermath, here are some ways to recognize typical signs of distress.
Bone-weary, achy, beat, burnt out, depleted—if any of these words describe you, you are over taxing yourself beyond necessity. Even though there is plenty to be done, try taking lots of breaks, getting a good night’s rest, and making the pace less frenetic.
Wading through insurance claims and FEMA are bureaucratic tangles that can easily create major irritation. If frustration is your predominant state, it might be time to get out of town. Take a break from all of the flood logistics and get perspective—go stay with friends in the mountains, or take a trip to visit family. Being removed from the situation for even just a weekend can do wonders for morale.
Distress expresses itself in all kinds of ways. The flood revealed the raw underbelly of our psyche by reminding us of the impermanence of life, landscape, and shelter. It’s normal to be have a range of moods, and to get teary more than usual.
Who knew that rain could trigger a panic attack? If you feel yourself getting antsy during an enthusiastic thunderstorm, you are not alone. The rain is re-instigating the trauma response, making you relive the flood “event.” Be patient with yourself.
If any of these “signs” strike a chord, you might want to strengthen your coping response. My favorite strategy for self-care is being kind to myself, however that looks in a given moment. If you can tune in, you will know just what you need. Some other basic ways to ground are to get plenty of sleep, take naps, exercise, and get some fresh air now that most of the open space has re-opened. Though cooking might be the last thing from your mind, make smart, sustaining food choices. Try not to indulge in too much media. Read enough to keep abreast, but don’t get bogged down in obsessive detail. Find support among friends, but don’t get stuck in a constant retelling of your story. Don’t make the flood your only topic of conversation.
If you are not able to sleep, feel constantly on edge, or feel like you are stuck in depression, it might be time to work with a therapist. Therapy will help you move through whatever is keeping you locked in a negative pattern—you may only need a few sessions to process and release whatever the flood has triggered.
If you find yourself laughing again, or discover you are in the midst of a random moment of enjoyment, take heed. Resilience in the face of suffering is what defines us as humans. Know that laughter, pleasure, and gratitude are a welcome harbinger of healing.