With another hurricane on the warpath up the East Coast of the U.S. this week, many people are scrambling for shelter and safety. Evacuations are taking place, and while everyone is rightfully focused on their physical safety, our emotional health is at risk during times of increased stress too. There are ways you can better cope emotionally with an impending hurricane — to brace yourself emotionally from the significant amounts of stress you’re about to endure.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that a hurricane is a fairly short natural event. For most people, it means having to deal with a couple of days of moving out of the area and then moving back. While the effects of the hurricane may endure much longer — especially if your home was damaged or destroyed — the actual hurricane itself tends to move fairly quickly through each region.
The impact of having to deal with the significant damage of your home or even losing it altogether can be much greater than the stress of getting out of the hurricane’s path. People who lose part or all of their home go through a typical grief reactions — grieving the loss of all that they’ve accumulated or built.
The American Psychological Association offers this guide for how to prepare emotionally for a hurricane. Here are some tips from that guide on how to prepare for an impending hurricane or tropical storm:
- Get the facts. Gather information that will help you accurately determine your risk so that you can take reasonable actions. Find a credible source you can trust such as your governor’s office, local or state public health agencies or the National Weather Service. Limit your exposure to news reports that focus on damage and destruction.
- Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends and others are important. Even those separated from their families, can build connections among new acquaintances. Some of the most inspiring stories from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina spotlighted people evacuating from New Orleans accompanied by – and emotionally attached to – fellow evacuees they had just met. Coming together and helping one another can be positive for your emotional health.
- Stay healthy. A healthy lifestyle – including proper diet, exercise and rest – is your best defense against any threat. A healthy body can have a positive impact on your thoughts and emotions, enabling you to make better decisions and better deal with the hurricane’s uncertainties.
- Reach out to your children. Help children by restricting constant viewing of the news, giving them assurances that plans are in place to keep them safe and maintaining their routines as much as possible.
- Maintain a hopeful outlook. Remember that the federal government, your state government, and many non-governmental disaster services agencies have already mobilized to address the threat of the hurricane. Also, many improvements have been made to those response systems since the last large-scale hurricanes. Also, recall times when you’ve successfully managed challenging life circumstances. Draw upon those skills and experiences to help you through the current storm.
You can read more of these hurricane coping tips here.
And as an added bonus, here are some additional tips from the American Psychological Association to help you cope with a hurricane, even when you’re not directly affected by one.
- Take a news break. Watching endless replays of footage from the disasters can make your stress even greater. Although you’ll want to keep informed – especially if you have loved ones affected by the disasters – take a break from watching the news.
- Keep things in perspective. Although a disaster often is horrifying, you should focus as well on the things that are good in your life.
- Find a productive way to help if you can. Many organizations are set up to provide financial or other aid to victims of natural disasters. Contributing can be a way to gain some “control” over the event.
- Control what you can. There are routines in your life that you can continue and sometimes you need to do those and take a break from even thinking about the disasters.
After the hurricane has passed, you may need help managing the stress with dealing with the cleanup or returning to a home damaged or destroyed. After all, it’s not every day most of us have to deal with this kind of damage or devastation to our property and home.
If you’re in the path of this current hurricane, please seek safe shelter away from the hurricane’s path. And trust that if you prepare yourself as well as you can, you will make it through this storm unscathed — physically and emotionally.
Have you survived a hurricane?
What are some tips you can share that helped you emotionally make it through a hurricane or tropical storm?