Managing Flooding: A Practical Step to Recovery
Flooding is a natural stress response. Flooding is that feeling when your heart is pounding, you can’t think, can’t speak, you can’t tell a story from beginning to end, and you can’t sequence anything.
In the BALM One Year Program, we teach the work of Andra Medea, author of Conflict Unraveled: Solving Problems at Work and in Families, where she explained flooding and provided tips on how to deal with it. She defined flooding as the adrenaline rush that accompanies stress, that triggers upset response, and sends blood to your feet.
One way to know if you’re flooding is to try to assess whether you’re thinking logically. When you’re being led by your emotions with no ability to access logic and you’re too upset to assess if you’re flooding, you are!
Flooding is contagious. Someone who is struggling with a loved one’s substance use disorder tends to flood a lot. Then the people around them will flood even more. It’s very contagious so you must know how to de-escalate the flooding.
Here are some tips provided by Medea.
To control flooding in yourself:
Watch for physical symptoms first.
Is your head pounding? Is your heart racing? Short breaths, sweaty palms, dry mouth? Make a list of your personal signs. Check your list when you’re under stress. It is more important than yelling at someone.
Watch for mental symptoms.
Are your thoughts jumbled? Are you thinking in circles? Are you unable to see options, sequence, or handle math? Watch out for sudden inarticulation, disjointed speech, or suggestibility.
Use large muscles.
Go out for a walk, do jumping jacks, or swing arms in windmills.
Reverse the symptoms.
If you’re having short breaths, breath deep and slow. If your fists are clenched, open your hands and stretch your fingers.
Focus on specifics.
Slow the pace. List facts and read them to focus your mind.
When you can’t break free from flooding at that moment.
In cases you can’t break free from the flooding at that moment, acknowledge that you can’t stop thinking and arguing. Tell them that you’d like to talk at a later time, leave, and regroup. Try again after you have repeated the earlier steps.
Prepare in advance.
If you feel a tough situation is coming, practice taking yourself out of flooding. Develop resistance to flooding or you can train yourself to snap out of it.
To handle flooding in others:
Watch out for symptoms.
Flushed face, pulsing veins, or disjointed sentences.
Don’t talk to them since they can’t hear you.
Let them talk. Give them time to vent. Ask sequence questions in a low, calm tone: What happened first? What happened next?
Don’t crowd them.
Don’t touch, don’t make fast movements. If they want to leave, let them leave.
Be prepared for thinking problems.
Don’t give complicated directions to someone who is flooding. Keep it simple or wait until they calm down.
Use short, clear sentences.
For chronic cases, talk about pain control, not anger control.
Work on yourself first.
Flooding is very contagious. So is calm. You can’t stop someone’s flooding unless you can stop your own.
Remember that flooding happens to everyone, in different ways, with different styles. No one has immunity over it. We are wired for this. When it hits, you should be prepared to bring yourself out of it. It is only then that you’ll have any chance of getting back to a sane, functioning life.
The BALM® program teaches people with loved ones suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD), other use disorders, or mental health challenges practical tips on how to manage flooding and communicate in a loving and effective manner.
Join our online retreat on November 6-8, 2020 where you will learn how to reduce flooding in your life! Participate in an awesome experience as we integrate activities such as meditation, journaling, and more with the practical, powerful 7 Steps to Be A Loving Mirror. Meet others who are learning to practice this method. Coaching on your preparation for a BALM® conversation will be available during the retreat as well.