Dealing with the aftermath of a flood is, needless to say, a very stressful time. Taking care of you and your family’s mental and emotional health is a crucial step as you cope with cleanup and recovery.
Many people have a range of reactions. Most fade after several days, but if you’re having these symptoms for two weeks or more, and they’re interfering with your normal responsibilities, consider seeking professional help.
Feeling afraid, helpless, angry, numb, worried, or frustrated
Constant yelling or fighting with family and friends
Difficulty with concentration or decision making
Eating or sleeping too much or too little
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Unexplained aches and pains, such as headaches or stomachaches
What you can do
Take care of your physical health. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, taking breaks, and exercising are as important as ever. Establish a routine with regular meals, bedtimes, a positive activity to look forward to, and exercise.
Connect with others. Reach out to family and friends to give and get support.
Avoid exposure to too much news. If you feel overloaded, particularly by seeing images of flood damage, turn off the news or social media. Look for a few reliable sources and stick to those.
Be patient with others. Everyone is stressed; extend to them the same patience that you would like to receive yourself.
Call or text the Disaster Distress Hotline, 1-800-985-5990. This hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing natural or human-caused disasters. This service is provided in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and interpretation for over 100 other languages is available.
Helping children and teensKids are often the most vulnerable group during natural disasters, which are unfamiliar events that are confusing and hard for them to understand. How they cope is influenced by how they see their parents and caregivers react. They may not have words for their feelings so their emotions might be expressed in changes in their behavior. Kids may withdraw from family and friends, become more clingy, lose interest in favorite activities, become disruptive or aggressive, or have difficulty concentrating.
Take the following steps to help kids:
Be a good role model. Stay calm during an emergency and manage your stress by establishing routines.
Be a good listener. Let kids express their feelings and ask questions. Offer comfort and support, and when you don’t have the answers, it’s okay
Give them age-appropriate opportunities to help others. Young children should not participate in disaster cleanup activities for health and safety reasons.
Most reactions will fade as their sense of security returns. If it has been several weeks since the event and children continue to be very distressed, seek professional help.
The CDC interviewed four teens about what helped them to cope with natural disasters; watch the video here.
For more information
American Red Cross, Impacted by Disaster? Take Care of Your Emotional Health
SAMHSA, Disaster Distress Helpline: Floods
SAMHSA, Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A Guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers (PDF)
CDC, Taking Care of Your Emotional Health
CDC, Helping Children Cope with Emergencies