Hurricane Harvey just hit Houston, Texas and devastated the southern part of the state. I grew up in north Texas but at this point in my life have spent more years living in South Florida than I did Texas.
Hurricanes, to us, are par for course. It’s been 12 years since Florida has been hit by a major storm. Smaller ones have threatened over the years but they always seem to pass by or downgrade to a tropical storm and we all breath a sigh of relief. I was at the end of my pregnancy with my second child during the last big storm, Wilma, and without power for two weeks. Talk about being sweaty and uncomfortable! And let’s add hungry to that too.
Although I know we made it through the last storm “just fine,” whenever a huge one threatens, anxiety automatically goes up. It starts in my stomach. My whole body feels tight, like I can’t get a deep breath really. My trips to the bathrooms increase in frequency. Forget about sleeping through the night.
As an anxiety specialist, I know that the first thing to do is try not to fight it. In the case of a hurricane, anxiety is here for an evolutionary reason – to get your ass in gear! Acknowledge this and move to the 5 things you can do to reduce anxiety when a hurricane is on the way.
(1) Check in with friends who are calmer than you
Everyone starts talking when there’s a hurricane coming. “Are you ready?” “What are you going to do?” “Are you leaving town? Are you staying?” “Have you been through a hurricane before?”
Listen in to someone’s tone of voice and rate of speaking. There are definitely people who go over the top as a storm approaches. They can’t contain their own anxiety and tend to spill it all over you making declarations such as, “You CAN’T stay!” or “You HAVE TO do x, y, z.” Notice the use of “You” and run it through your translator. What they really mean is “I can’t stay” or “I have to do x, y, and z.” Don’t catch the You’s that they’re trying to put on you.
Change it to an “I statement” for yourself, try it on for size, and see if it fits. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, assume it was about your friend all along instead of you.
Seek out your friends who calm you down. reassure you, and even make you laugh instead of the ones that rile you up running disaster scenarios out loud.
(2) Take Action – Do Anything
Anxiety can paralyze but just as often it motivates you to action. That is part of if’s function so realize this and go with it instead of trying to fight it. Transform the anxiety to action.
- Inventory your house (video or paper).
- Grab supplies.
- Make lists.
- Go for a walk or a run.
- Put up the shutters.
- Survey the yard for projectiles and move things inside that need to be inside.
Anything that moves the body will help reduce anxiety and work it out of your physical system.
When the blue haired teen heard she was going to her dad’s house but couldn’t take all of her beloved books, she spent an hour or two making a paper inventory of them. She also had to move around the house as her books are in several different spots.
It was one of the best things she could do as it focused her mind and her intention and gave her a sense of having accomplished something.
Her inventory of her books is something physical she can look at and hold. It reassures her that if she loses all her books, she knows which books they are. It was a spontaneous but perfect example of Taking Action.
(3) Nod your head Yes
Parents are great at this one as they attempt to not freak out the kidlets! But it works. Picture the mom with a smile plastered on her face telling a 3, 6, and 8 year old that everything is going to be just fine. What’s she doing? Nodding!
I was at a restaurant the other night when I asked the server how he was. He said, “Everything is well” while nodding his head up and down. I loved it and said so. Turns out that a psychologist once taught him that both the phrase and the action helps to calm the body down and gives the message to it that everything truly is well. You can say this while smiling, while going to calm breathing, while drinking a cup of tea or driving around collecting your supplies.
(4) Seek out the “calm in a crisis” professionals on Social Media
Similar to #1, there are always people who get very calm in a crisis. Their blood pressure goes down instead of up and some freaky internal system that others don’t seem to have goes off. They often make up our doctors and nurses, our military, our police force, our first responders, and our psychotherapists. Although I feel anxiety internally, on the outside, I’m very, very calm as any friend who has been in a car accident with me will attest.
Seek them out or follow them on Social Media. It’s almost guaranteed that they’re posting things that are calming or that will make you laugh. A hurricane to them is a chance to help.
(5) Make your mantra “Everything I truly need is replaceable” or “I have insurance.”
Really, pretty much anything you truly need you can be replaced. A home, a bed, food.
Family heirlooms? No, not replaceable. Pictures that weren’t digitized. Nope, can’t replace them. Realize it’s the memories you want to keep and the pictures are just triggers for the memories. Refer to #2 – video the pictures and upload it to the cloud. You can always go back and use the video as the memory trigger.
If your thoughts go to losing loved ones, acknowledge that our time on this planet is always limited. We could lose someone at any moment. Use the anxiety to tell people how much they mean to you.
- Make calls
- Write letters
- >Send emails
- Check in on Social Media with them.
Next time . . . Prepare ahead
I got this tip from an older friend who lived in Florida her whole life and it’s served me well over the years. You’ll notice that the people who prepared weeks or months ahead are not running around like chickens with their head’s cut off. They have the generators at the ready and the food supplies. They may be gathering water and gas, but they already have batteries. No scrambling around at stores except for things that are optional.
At the start of every hurricane season, prepare a big storage container with about a week’s worth of batteries, flashlights, snacks, and canned food. If a hurricane doesn’t hit and you don’t need them, once hurricane season winds downs use those supplies up.
Drop me a line and let me know how the tips work for you! I love to hear from people! I specialize in hypnosis for anxiety and chronic conditions in Broward county and the Fort Lauderdale area. If you need help AFTER the hurricane, schedule your free consultation.
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Yours in health,