Hurricane Harvey has had a devastating effect on the City of Houston and the surrounding communities. Some have called it, “The 500 Year Flood,” while others
call it, “A 800 Phenomenon.” No matter it is called, it still seems impossible that Houston has suffered three serious floods in just over four years.
Having previously lived in Clear Lake, just 25 minutes Southeast of Houston, I’m all too familiar with hurricanes and other serve weather events. What most people outside the impact zone don’t realize is the degree of damage that has taken place. We’ve all seen pictures of submerged cars and water up to rooftops. We’ve also seen the piles of debris – sofas, carpet, and drywall – all along streets as residents begin to salvage what they can of their belongings. What is not visible, is the emotional damage that Hurricane Harvey inflicted. The emotional and the psychological effects on those impacted, both hit directly and indirectly, is important to recognize.
What is not obvious, is that many people maybe quietly reeling with anxiety or fear. Concerned for how they will move forward. Fear that these events could happen again very soon. Some may feel overwhelmed by the loss of property or loved ones, such as pets. While others may be experiencing “survivor’s guilt,” because their loss or inconvenience was far less than others.
To help yourself and those with whom you work start the recovery process, keep these ideas in mind.
- Practice patience with yourself and others. Recognize that this event was traumatic, whether you label it as trauma or not.
- Remember that we all process experiences differently. Some people will seem to be just fine, while others will appear to have lost control.
- Encourage yourself and others to talk about the experience. Share worries, concerns, and fears without allowing them to be permanent truths for you.
- Be a good listener when another person needs your ear. Avoid one-upping them – making your story bigger or worse than theirs. Just be a good listener.
- Take time to reflect on what you are grateful for. Make a list, if only in your head, of the things you have gratitude for. Remind yourself throughout the day what is right with the world.
- Focus on the things you can control. Let go of the things you have little or no control over.
- After returning to work, gather your employees or teammates. Take time to connect with each of them. Encourage them to connect with one another on a personal level. Ensure that they all feel safe before trying to return to production as usual.
- Consider facilitating group discussions around the following topics. These kinds of conversations will help your employees feel centered and foster a team-bond with one another to get work done more quickly.
- How did the events of Hurricane Harvey impact you personally?
- What did you witness during the events that surprised you most?
- How are you dealing with the experience?
- What have you learned about yourself through this experience?
- What do you want others to know about you or this experience?
- How can we support you right now?
It will take time for life to return “normal.” In the meantime, remember to be patient and kind with yourself and others. Stay respectful, open and honest about what you think and feel. Allow others to be authentic, and in the months to come you soon create a new normal.