Family Resilience After Hurricanes Harvey & Irma: Why Art + Yoga = Relief

As our entire nation sends its heart and help to recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, focus is on basic survival needs: water, food, clothing, shelter. Yet, for those who lost most everything, what is to come in the weeks and months ahead? How will they address the fear, grief, stress and anxiety as the shock wears off and the long road to rebuilding lies ahead? And how do we help vulnerable populations—children, or adults with developmental disability, for example—to cope with the trauma, loss and change resulting from these giant storms?

clouds-428168_1920.jpg

Art Healed Children in the Aftermath of Katrina

Art therapy established itself as a powerful tool in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

We know that pictures are worth 1,000 words. That concept gave voice to children who experienced the storm and felt a complex range of emotions too sophisticated for their developing minds to verbalize. Yet, they could draw a picture of how they felt, and talk about the artwork. The process proved so powerful it drew national media attention. Rosie O'Donnell's For All Kids Foundation funded an entire year of art therapy for children; Faith Hill also donated over a million dollars to support art therapy for children living in shelters during the storm recovery efforts.

Art + Yoga = Communication

Simple line art is a powerful tool for processing emotions and can help parents support the emotional responses of their children following a disaster. Every member of the family can draw simple pictures and explain what they drew. Drawing can help every family member to literally be ‘on the same page’ as they remain emotionally united in the wake of a storm’s destruction.

 Following Hurricane Katrina, art therapists noticed that children who survived the devastating floods were no longer drawing houses from the familiar shapes of triangles and squares. Source: New York Times

 Following Hurricane Katrina, art therapists noticed that children who survived the devastating floods were no longer drawing houses from the familiar shapes of triangles and squares. Source: New York Times

Yoga is equally powerful. It can be adapted to be accessible to people of any age and range of mobility. As a resiliency tool it reduces activation of the nervous system, meaning it reduces the intensity of strong emotions and anxiety--while also helping the individual be more accepting and present with the stresses of the moment. Yoga will help the child manage his or her feelings of overwhelm, and also help adults cope with the enormity of needs as they move ahead.

Art + Yoga Wellness puts these two activities together into one fun, effective stress management and coping tool. The beautiful thing is that the entire family can do this single 75 minute program. They will all receive benefits, and the discussion about their artwork will help them stay emotionally connected.

The Art + Yoga of Disaster Relief

The South Texas Art Therapy Association (STATA) is currently mobilizing to provide post-storm trauma relief. "We expect to offer a range of programs across a huge geographic area as soon as people get their basic survival needs met," said Karen McGrarity, STATA's President. Please watch the STATA website, and this blog, for announcements and ways that you can help out.

Resiliency programs are most effective as the initial disaster shock wears off, and the reality of the long road to rebuilding lies ahead. Art + Yoga Wellness is positioning to provide support in a second-wave relief effort. Please contact Jodi for information or to discuss scheduling a program at your organization or disaster relief location. Jodi is available to train staff and first responders as well as provide direct programming to affected citizens.

Jodi Gonzales ATR, NCC, RYT200
 

Jodi Gonzales ATR, NCC, RYT200 is a credentialed art therapist, counselor and yoga instructor. She is the creator of Art + Yoga Wellness, a powerful program that provides effective tools for improving resilience, including emotional and physical health. Jodi offers presentations and group workshops both in-person and on-line. To learn about how Art + Yoga Wellness will benefit you or your organization, contact Jodi at shift@artyogawellness.com or 520-276-1878. Current events and workshops are posted at http://artyogawellness.com/events/ and on Facebook.