As a country, we're still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Images of the destruction show just how much has been lost to the storm, leaving many families unsure of how they will recover and move on.
Thankfully, the people of Texas and Florida are not alone. There are many great examples of people providing emotional and financial support to turn things around. Before the storm came, Success Path--the educational platform of HGTV's "Flip or Flop" stars, Tarek and Christina El Moussa--donated $150,000 to Habitat for Humanity to repair damaged homes.
A fundraiser by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans raised over $37 million for hurricane relief. And donations to the Red Cross have topped $200 million. While these donations are bringing hope to those who need it most, moving through the aftermath of these events emotionally can be challenging.
It's essential to your recovery and long-term well-being that you find ways to build emotional strength following these, and other difficult events. Read the items below to discover four of the best ways to build emotional strength during hard times.
1. Remember that it's okay (and healthy) to grieve.
We often mistake feelings of anger or sadness as a sign of emotional weakness--but that couldn't be further from the truth. These intense emotions are a normal reaction to tragic events, and while everyone may experience them differently, the fact that you are grieving doesn't mean you are emotionally weak.
Appropriate grieving allows you to accept what happened and begin to adapt to your new situation. Take a few moments (every day, if needed) to acknowledge what you are feeling. Typically, sitting down and processing your feelings will allow you to move on with the rest of your day without obsessing over your emotions.
During the grieving process, don't be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family are often more than willing to lend a listening ear, while support groups can provide an opportunity to meet with others who have gone through similar situations. Even when you don't feel like spending time with other people, seeking out this extra support can help you stave off feelings of loneliness or hopelessness so you can heal.
2. Maintain your healthy habits on a consistent basis.
One of the biggest mistakes that many people make after tragedy strikes is giving up on their healthy routines. There are a lot of basic habits we take for granted when things are going well--getting a full night's sleep, eating right and taking care of personal hygiene.
These basics help us manage stress and stay healthy. Giving them up in an attempt to focus on things we mistakenly identify as "more important" ultimately increases stress and hurts our resiliency. It also increases the risk of getting sick, which makes keeping up with your healthy routines an absolute must.
Little habits count. And it's important to establish them well before tragedy strikes. By making the effort to build a solid baseline for sound physical, mental and emotional health, you'll be better prepared to keep up with healthy habits when things go wrong.
3. Develop a positive, proactive mindset.
It can be hard to stay positive after tragedy, but trying to maintain an optimistic outlook is essential for building emotional strength during difficult times. This starts by changing your internal dialogue.
Rather than dwelling on how tough your situation is, switch your focus to the practical things you can do to address your situation. Looking for silver linings or learning opportunities. It may sound obvious, but re-framing limitations to opportunities can be empowering to people needing a more positive outlook.
Dr. Martin Seligman notes that it is especially important to recognize that tough times don't last forever. And it's important not to blame yourself for your current difficulties. This optimistic outlook allows you to develop persistence and resilience so you can make an action plan for moving forward.
4. Find someone to serve (to decrease your stress levels).
One of the best ways to draw emotional strength during hard times is to go out and find someone you can serve. You don't have to do big things like the celebrities mentioned at the beginning of this article, either. Research has consistently found that serving others is ultimately a win-win.
It doesn't matter whether you're volunteering at a food pantry, teaching a child to read or simply offering an encouraging word to someone else. While providing service, your stress levels are lowered while your brain's reward centers become more active, leaving you feeling relaxed and upbeat.
Providing service certainly doesn't mean that you should ignore your own needs during times of tragedy. But when you go out and look for ways you can help others, you'll feel better about your situation and have the emotional strength to face your own challenges.
Developing emotional strength requires patience, practice and a lot of hard work. But as you take these principles to heart, you'll be able to become more resilient in the face of challenges so you can move on to a brighter future.