From Status Quo to Natural Disaster: Healthy Coping Skills

So there we all were going about our daily lives, getting used to the kids being back at school, talking about if winter would be mild or hard, deciding if we needed to buy wood this year or if we had enough…and then it started to rain. In the beginning it was just another rainy afternoon in the mountains, an opportunity for some of us to talk about how summer afternoons in Colorado used to always include rain. Then, just like that, everything changed. Intersections began to flood, schools closed, parking lots filled, roads were impassable, creeks overflowed their banks, mobile homes were floating down roads, towns were cut off, roads were sinking and disappearing, and walls of water were coming down canyons. Friends and family all over the world began calling us and folks from around our country started coming to Colorado to help.

Up here, mostly cut off, we are facing a wide variety of experiences. Some people have severe water damage to their homes and property; others have friends and family who’ve lost homes and businesses. Folks are grieving those who’ve lost their lives in this storm. Others are working at the Nederland Community Center shelter, offering to watch peoples’ children while schools are closed, and making sure they get into work so we all can still get services. Some people are monitoring the TV, internet, Facebook and e-mail list-serves, letting us all know what’s going on. As the power has gone in and out people are hosting impromptu get togethers to share food, light and good conversation.

While folks begin to address our outside infrastructure, what can we do to shore ourselves up psychologically? Notice how much media you’re taking in, if it increases or decreases your anxiety, and adjust as needed. Balance talking about everything that’s going on with trying to keep some semblance of “normal life.” Remember difficult circumstances can bring out the best and worst in all of us (sometimes in the same afternoon!); take an extra breath before speaking. Know that large-scale disasters can bring up memories of past difficulties; take some time to feel and grieve. Experiment with the broadness of your perspective. If you’re getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, narrow your focus. Finally, don’t forget to ask for help. We are all here for each other.