Monday, September 24, 2018 / by Jen Reed
After a week of Hurricane Florence clean-up, and four intense days of KW Cares disaster recovery volunteer work, we are finding ourselves reminding each other to take a break and take care of ourselves. It's okay to have a quiet, "selfish" moment, and focus on your own well-being. It's the put-your-own-oxygen-mask-on-first strategy for dealing with trauma.
This is the week that the reality of our living situations is hitting many people full force. In our neighborhoods, we are finding out about Hurricane Florence's real destruction. Surprise: many homes that look fine from the outside are destroyed on the interior. Each one is a new, sad, realization.
Staying Balanced as You Assess Your Living Situation
For those of us with minimal property damage, there is a clear path to getting back to normal. Fallen trees can be removed and new trees planted. Roofs can be repaired, ceilings patched and repainted. It may take weeks or months to resolve insurance claims and get your home put back together, but you will get there.
Those people with serious property destruction, or catastrophic loss, are deep in financial and emotional assessment of their next move. There are resources to find assistance, from insurance claim specialists, FEMA counselors, and local construction or rehabilitation experts. Talk with friends for referrals and recommendations. Don't feel like you have to go it alone.
Many people are deciding now whether they will rebuild and stay, move to a new neighborhood, or leave Wilmington - maybe needing a new climate or relocating closer to family. Whatever direction your heart takes you, the judgement of others is not acceptable. Real estate decisions are - even in the most positive of situations - highly emotional. After a natural disaster, real estate decisions come bundled with a whole new set of emotions. Be aware of your feelings, and acknowledge them.
If you want to explore your options and discuss scenarios, you should reach out to a local real estate specialist who understands the current market and recovery status. Many local agents have had their sleeves rolled up, helping with immediate needs in the community, and many of them have personal experience with just the decisions that their neighbors are now making. Talking with someone who understands the push-pull of this decision-making process will help you stay balanced, and no one should expect you to come up with an instant decision.
One of our agents remarked yesterday that he took a break from working with a recovery crew to get a haircut. He said the experience was re-energizing out of proportion to just getting his hair cut. That is the value self-care.
Self-care Is Not a Luxury
Here are some other ways you can take care of yourself as we move toward post-Hurricane Florence Cape Fear:
- Be extra diligent with wound care; standing storm and flood waters can be dangerous. Wash cuts and scrapes using anti-bacterial soap, and use topical antibiotic ointment. If you note redness, infection, or failure to heal, seek medical treatment immediately. This isn't the time to tough out a little pain.
- Schedule a session with a mental health counselor to help you deal with feelings like helplessness, anxiety, anger, or stress. In-office visits can keep you moving forward productively, and many local therapists offer telehealth - video-chat - appointments, too. You can find a therapist through the American Psychological Association's online psychologist locator.
- Spend time with friends and colleagues, enjoying a meal or an evening out. Go to a movie. Play a game of tennis. Volunteering is an important way to work to feel like you are making a positive contribution after a disaster, but you have to let yourself relax and lift your mood, too.
- Get back to normal. Like our co-worker, get a haircut. Restart your exercise routine. Sign up for the classes, workshops, and programs that you were looking forward to before the storm. Renew memberships and subscriptions.
- Find resources online to help you understand what it takes to get through the emotions of having experienced a natural disaster. The National Center for PTSD and Mental Health America are good places to start.