Following Flooding: Managing Additional Stress


June 24, 2024, 2:28 pm | David Brown

People holding hands by Johnstocker/stock.adobe.com.AMES, Iowa – Iowans are now managing another round of local disasters as several communities have been greatly impacted by flooding. Flooding can have a profound effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing, said David Brown, behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Distress is a common reaction for people following a flood. However, this distress is usually temporary since most people are resilient and cope with being flooded despite being challenged by it, Brown said.

“How do you keep resilient in the face of these challenges? Fortunately, there are several actions recommended by the American Psychological Association that a person can take to maintain their emotional wellbeing and increase their resilience,” Brown explained.

Brown offered the following suggestions:

  • It's easy to feel alone in your worries and other reactions, so connect with close family members, friends and neighbors.
  • Helping others in the clean-up effort can give you a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
  • You can't stop the flood waters, but you can change how you interpret and respond to them. Try to see beyond the current crisis to how future circumstances may be a little better.
  • Take a break from the news and social media. All those pictures and videos of flooding can make your stress even greater.
  • Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than avoiding the problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  • Remember other hardships you managed well during different times in your life and tap into those same skills.
  • Engage in healthy behaviors that will enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
  • If you experience difficulties sleeping, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, prayer or mindfulness.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs because these can increase feelings of sadness or distress and hamper your progress in successfully managing current circumstances.

Other resources

Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.

The Disaster Distress Helpline, 800-985-5990, is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 to all residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Visit ISU Extension and Outreach’s Disaster and Crisis Recovery website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/disasterrecovery/, for educational resources to reduce the personal impact of natural disasters and other crises.

Photo credit: Johnstocker/stock.adobe.com

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