Manage the Additional Stress following the Derecho

Written by Theresa Rose on August 13, 2020

AMES, Iowa – Iowans still are managing the uncertainly and anxiety produced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Drought related conditions have added another layer of stress for agriculture producers in many areas of the state. And now, many individuals and communities are facing the aftermath of an unusually powerful derecho – a widespread, straight-line windstorm – that surged through Iowa. Iowans may begin to wonder how much more stress they can take.

Some individuals may also start to experience distressing thoughts and anxious feelings or responses, such as having difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Such strong reactions are common with such extreme events, said David Brown, behavioral health specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“How do we maintain our resilience in the face of these challenges? Fortunately, there are a number of actions a person can take to restore their emotional wellbeing and increase their resilience,” Brown explained.

Brown offered the following suggestions:

  • Remember other hardships you managed well during different times in your life and tap into those same skills.
  • Take a break from the news and social media. All those pictures and videos of downed trees and damage can make your stress even greater.
  • Make time to talk to friends, family members and coworkers. This is important, since the COVID-19 pandemic has already weakened many support outlets.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. Relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, meditation/prayer or practicing mindfulness, may also make it easier for a person to sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Maintain routines in the home and school as much as possible.
  • Engage in fun activities, including exercise or hobbies.
  • Identify what your top priorities are and make a plan that breaks down the tasks into simple steps.
  • Help others in any clean-up effort.

There are also resources available. In collaboration with COVID Recovery Iowa, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will begin offering, “I Worry All the Time: Resources for Life in a Pandemic.” This virtual program is designed to provide education about anxiety and offer practical tools to manage worry. Opportunities for discussion also will be provided.

“We are all facing circumstances and challenges we never have before and there are no certain answers as we move through this pandemic,” said Andrea Gustafson, a crisis/outreach counselor with COVID Recovery Iowa.

“I Worry All the Time: Resources for Life in a Pandemic” (and in the aftermath of storms) will be offered during both lunch hours and evening hours to accommodate a variety of busy schedules. Each program will last for one hour. Those dates and times are as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 27 at 12 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m.

This program will be open, at no cost, to anyone interested in learning more about this topic. To register, go to https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences//events?filter= and select the program, date and time you are interested in. Registered participants will receive a unique URL prior to the program to access the Zoom hosted program. For more information, contact Andrea Gustafson at andreag3@iastate.edu.

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.

COVID Recovery Iowa offers a variety of services to anyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual counselors and consultants provide counseling, family finance consultation, farm financial consultation, referral information and help finding resources for any Iowan seeking personal support. Iowans of all ages may join groups online for activities and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. COVID Recovery Iowa will announce upcoming programs on the website and via all social media to help Iowans build coping skills, resilience and emotional support. To request support, go to https://www.COVIDrecoveryiowa.org or call 1-844-775-WARM.