By Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist
There has been lots of attention paid to mental health by the media and the provincial government in light of the southern Alberta flooding in June. People often focus on coping during a crisis, providing support and assistance to those who are struggling to help them move through a difficult time. While this is certainly necessary, people often forget that after the chaos has settled and life begins to resume a more steady flow is another important time when support is needed.
The bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework is helpful in a recovery from disaster context, as it encourages health and wellness from a holistic perspective. It is important for individuals to attend to their physical health, as crises drain energy and internal resources. Getting lots of rest, including a solid night’s sleep, as well as drinking lots of water and fuelling the body with healthy, whole foods helps replenish used resources.
Only as things settle do the emotions surrounding events begin to surface; during crises people are often in ‘doing’ mode and focus on action, rather than feeling. However, crises generate many feelings that will not just dissipate as the need to ‘do’ subsides. These feelings can include grief, loss, sadness, frustration, anger and peace, serenity, gratitude, hopefulness, tranquility, and appreciation. It is important to take time to appreciate the spectrum of feelings that are arising and share these with a trusted and safe network.
Relationships and our perspective of relationships shifts in the context of a crisis. The people we thought were our closest supports may not be able to provide the support that is needed, whereas others who we have not been as close to become important relationships. It is important to connect on a feeling level with the individuals in our lives, rather than just on an instrumental or doing level. This is where authentic connection and support arises.
For some, natural disasters and crises spark a ‘Why me?’ thought pattern that becomes internally destructive and is fuelled by shame. Feeling that one deserves to be punished and suffer heartache are the symptoms of a deep-rooted feeling of shame, or feeling less than. If one can shift to see the Higher Power/universe’s messages in these moments, this is where personal growth and recovery burgeon.
HUM wishes everyone health and wellness as the city rebuilds after the flood and encourage you to reach out to those in your support network and keep talking!