Hurricane Anxiety: Strategies for Coping This Storm SeasonMental Health
The new hurricane season has put us all on edge. Who will ever forget Hurricane Ian’s devastation? Understandably, facing another unpredictable hurricane season has made our hearts beat faster and our palms sweaty.
Mother Nature has her own plans. That’s partly why we’re anxious. We lack control over the weather, of course. But we can still ease our anxiety by managing the things we can.
“It’s perfectly normal to feel fearful and vulnerable this time of year,” says Dr. Ronald Smallwood, a board-certified psychiatrist with Lee Health Behavioral Health. “After all, many of us are still coping with Hurricane Ian’s destruction. It’s no wonder our anxiety rises when weather reports indicate tropical storm activity brewing in the Atlantic.”
Dr. Smallwood says you can gain a sense of control that can help with anxious feelings. He shares some strategies for reducing your anxiety while also protecting your family during hurricane season.
“For starters, Lee County’s Hurricane Preparation Guide is a great resource,” he says. “Being proactive from a hurricane preparedness standpoint is important not only for your safety, but also for your mental health. By taking care of your emotional health, you’ll be able to think more clearly and respond better to the urgent needs during a weather event or emergency.”
Tips for taking care of your emotional health
Dr. Smallwood recommends developing a checklist and evacuation plan to help ease anxiety. Knowing in advance that you are prepared for a storm can reduce anxiety that results from lack of preparedness and subsequently feeling overwhelmed as a result
Try these approaches before, during, and after a storm.
- Get the facts. Reliable information is crucial to determining your risk so that you can take reasonable actions. Credible sources include the Lee County Emergency Operations Center, the command center for emergency information when a hurricane becomes an imminent threat. There’s also the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, and the new Lee Health Emergency Preparedness site.
- Get the facts but don’t overexpose yourself to the news. Give yourself a break from watching, reading, or listening to the constant barrage of news stories. You don’t need to constantly hear about the crisis or keep seeing images that might upset you. You can check for updates between those much-needed breaks.
- Make connections. Healthy relationships and strong support systems with family members, friends or others are vital. Talk with each other and share how you’re feeling. It’s important.
- Take care of your body. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating healthfully, regularly exercising, and getting plenty of rest can do wonders for supporting your emotional health. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
- Practice self-care. Do activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Meditation, for example, is a great way to help reduce symptoms and improve your overall well-being.
- Reach out to your children. Help your children by restricting constant viewing of the news, especially on social media. Reassure them that plans are in place to keep them safe and maintain their routines as much as possible.
Experiencing anxiety before, during and after a storm or other severe weather event is a normal reaction. Remember, you are not alone.
Dr. Smallwood adds that people with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms.
“They should contact their healthcare provider with any concerns or if stress gets in the way of daily activities for several days in a row,” he says. “With the right support and resources, you can manage anxiety with professional help, self-care strategies, and regain control over your life.”
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, reach out to our experienced, compassionate professionals at Lee Health Behavioral Health Services at 239-343-9180.
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