How to Manage Anxiety During Hurricane Season
Clinically Reviewed & Edited By: Doug Hodges & Tammy Hill LMHC
Getting ready for hurricane season involves a number of factors. As any Floridian can tell you, addressing logistical and physical demands often take priority when a big storm is heading in. What many of us forget to do, however, is take care of our emotional health and prepare for the psychological toll of hurricane season. Learning to manage one’s anxiety during a hurricane can be as essential as stocking up on water and food and boarding up windows.
As hurricane season approaches, we thought we would compile some tips and recommendations you can use to manage your anxiety and prepare yourself psychologically. Utilizing these tips can make waiting out the storm a much easier process for you and your loved ones.
Part and parcel of dealing with the psychological impact of a storm involves ensuring that you ensure the physical safety of you and yours. The following recommendations from the Governor’s office are a good guideline for the steps you should take when a large storm approaches:
Have an evacuation plan ready. Review the plan with everyone in your household.
Make sure that you have on hand:
- Water (1 gallon per day per person for 7 days)
- Food (sufficient for the household for 7 days)
- A can opener
- Flashlight and batteries
- Pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags
- First aid kit and prescription medications
- Battery-operated radio
Consider, too, that banks and ATMs might be out of commission during and after a storm. Make sure that you have cash on hand for supplies, gas, etc. Run through each member of your household, as well, and make sure that you have any special items each person might need (e.g., diapers for an infant.) Finally, consider storing important documents in a waterproof container so that you can protect them from rain and floodwaters.
Taking these steps to prepare you and your family for the storm is a critical first step in ameliorating stress. Now let’s take a look at some additional steps you can take to manage your psychological and emotional health during a hurricane.
Recognize What You Can and Cannot Control
An important step you can take for yourself is understanding and acknowledging what you can and cannot control. Preparing your supplies ahead of time is part of this. You also want to make sure that you listen for evacuation orders from the appropriate authorities. Do not, however, watch the news obsessively. Turn off the news and radio so that you don’t have to hear the same news again and again. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides storm updates every 6 hours; control your exposure to storm news, which can compound stress.
Acknowledge, too, what you cannot control. None of us has the ability to control the storm or its path. We can only control ourselves. Take a moment during your preparations to process this crucial fact. This can also be a good opportunity to connect with a faith tradition.
Stay attuned and be sensitive to the needs of others. Reaching out and providing help to friends, neighbors, and strangers alike is a great way to help yourself. Staying connected with others not only reduces stress but also reminds us that we are not alone. If you are required to work during a storm, take breaks and take time to communicate with your co-workers. After the storm passes, share supplies, food and continue to offer support to those around you.
Create “Hurricane Traditions”
Let’s face it— when you live in Florida, you know hurricanes will keep on coming. In light of this, establishing “hurricane traditions” is a great way to create consistency in the midst of the chaos and promote emotional well-being. Options can include anything from a board game you play as a family during storms or an art project you take on together that does not require power. You might even designate a particular snack as your “hurricane snack.” The next time a storm comes and you turn to these traditions, they will serve as reminders that you and yours got through the last storm, and that you can get through this one.
Maintaining a positive state of mind as much as possible is another key component in managing storm stress. Don’t forget your sense of humor. It is ok to take a break from the stress and laugh from time to time. Host a Dad joke competition with your family or at work as a way to de-stress. You might also consider making a hurricane video with your kids in which they play the role of intrepid news reporters covering the storm. Above all, remember the storm will pass. A hurricane may come with some lasting effects, but they can be overcome and the impact will be temporary.
Dealing with a hurricane can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned Floridian. There is always professional therapy in Florida available to help your cope with increased emotional stress. Seeking help from a therapist may be helpful to discuss the effects of a storm. With all of these tools in place, you will be better positioned to cope with this unfortunate reality of Florida life.
Want to learn how to take control over your anxiety of hurricanes? Book an appointment at one of our Florida therapy clinics today!