When life throws us lemons, we are supposed to make lemonade, right? How about when life throws us a worldwide pandemic followed by a 100+ mile per hour windstorm called a derecho? Are we still supposed to figure out how to make lemonade? I like to consider myself a pretty resilient person, but 2020 has been hard on all of us.
When the derecho hit Eastern Iowa on August 10, I had just come out of a meeting at work. Were you at the office? Or maybe you were working from home, still telecommuting due to COVID-19 when the severe weather sirens started going off. At first, I reacted like a typical Midwesterner and looked out the window as the winds began to blow. We joked to a new staff member who had just relocated from the West coast that we don’t get concerned unless we see a funnel or the sky turns green… Moments later, the sky did turn green as trees, siding, and shingles could be seen flying through the air. It became clear that this was unlike the typical Iowa windstorm.
After what seemed like an eternity, the winds calmed and we peeked outside to see the damage the storm had left in its wake. I looked over and saw a neighboring childcare center no longer had its roof. Quickly, we ran over to help the center staff evacuate the children. We brought the children to our office for refuge until their parents were able to make their way through the rubble to pick them up.
Hours later, I found myself at home with my own children hugging them a little tighter. Although we had damage to our home, I was incredibly thankful that it was still standing. We were some of the “lucky” ones. I took a deep breath and dove into cleaning up the mess. We cleaned up the damage to our home and helped neighbors with theirs. Staying busy was a welcome distraction to reality…
As we all know, 2020 has brought many challenges our way — the most recent being the derecho. For all people, how we handle challenges has a lot to do with our ability to be resilient. Resiliency is like a rubber band, the more resilient you are, the springier your rubber band and the quicker you are able to rebound from a difficult event. As we continue to stretch our rubber band over and over as we go from pandemic to home schooling to natural disaster, the harder it has become for our rubber bands to regain their original shape.
If you continue to stretch out a real rubber band, it will eventually snap. As people, how do we get the spring back in our rubber band of resiliency to regain our strength and ability to cope before we collectively “snap?” In a word, self-care. With the unpredictability of 2020 it is important that we don’t forget to care for ourselves.
Self-Care is Possible
A common theme is that there is simply no way to prioritize self-care right now. Many people may have lost their self-care tools due to the storm. With so much work to be done, others don’t feel like they can take time for themselves. The following are some things you can do to rebuild resilience after the storm even with limited time and resources:
- Prioritize 1-2 things that MUST get done each day. Remember, everything can’t be done in one day. It will still be there tomorrow.
- Breathe nice slow breaths. Breathing slowly and consciously helps to bring our fight, flight, or freeze senses back under control. Even therapists struggle with being resilient sometimes. Taking a deep breath was one of the first things I did after the storm to help calm myself.
- Talk to others and process through what you have been through. It is important that our bodies process though this tragic event. Talk to other storm victims. Or, pick up the phone and talk to a friend or relative who lives outside of the impacted area. I called my mom and just talked through the experience. Saying what happened out loud helped to clear the jumbled space in my mind that was spinning after the events of the day.
- Write a story about the situation or draw pictures. This is another way for our mind to process though what we have been going through. For kids this can be especially helpful. They might not be able to TELL you what is on their minds, but they can SHOW you their thoughts through drawing.
- Sleep and rest especially when your body and mind are unable to handle anymore. You will be more helpful to yourself and others with a good night’s sleep. Listen to what your body needs and be sure to eat and drink even when your brain tells you that you are too overwhelmed to do so.
- Find the rainbow after the storm. Back to making lemons out of lemonade, look for the good that has come out of the derecho. Perhaps, you have gotten to know a neighbor that you had only seen in passing before the storm. Your shared bonding over debris clean up, might have just turned you into lifelong friends. Or look at the miracles for a bright light. I keep thinking about the kids from the daycare center. Not one hair on any of their adorable heads was injured. There is some light even in the darkest times.
Normal Isn’t That Far Away.
Please remember that no one expects you to be immediately “back to normal” after an event like the derecho. Everyone who went through the storm is struggling — even therapists. As we talk and slowly begin to heal ourselves, “normal” starts to feel not so far away.
I encourage you to find a moment (or ten) to take care of yourself during this traumatic time. Self-care is crucial to your health. If you don’t know where or how to begin or just need a compassionate ear to listen, please reach out to us at Covenant Family Solutions. We are offering a free 30-minute mental health coaching session to anyone impacted by the derecho. We WILL all get through this together.