Preparing for and anticipating the arrival of a large-scale hurricane can be distressing for people living in the hurricane’s path. There may be uncertainty ahead about your living arrangements, work and other important life factors, especially if you have been evacuated.
You may also be concerned about storm damage to your home, neighborhood and community. The near-constant stream of news about the storm’s arrival can give rise to feelings of stress, anxiety and fear. Recognizing these common emotional reactions and taking steps to prepare for the storm will be helpful in safeguarding your emotional well-being.
Here are some simple and effective ways to manage your storm-related fears and anxiety. Many are essential ingredients for a healthy lifestyle and adopting them can help improve your overall emotional and physical well-being
Steps to Take to Prepare for a Hurricane
Have a plan and implement it. It is important to have a plan for you and your family (including pets) to be safe during the storm. Recent hurricanes and other weather-related events have illustrated the importance of emergency preparedness. The American Red Cross recommends steps you can take to prepare. Find out about available transportation, relatives who might be able to take you in, shelter locations and other important details. Knowing in advance that you are prepared for the storm can lessen your anxiety.
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.
Seek additional help. People who feel an overwhelming anxiety, fear or other prolonged reaction that adversely affects their interpersonal relationships or job performance should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers can help people find constructive ways to manage adversity and deal with extreme stress.
Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead. Putting into practice some of these tips may help to strengthen your emotional well-being.
Special thanks to Raymond F. Hanbury, PhD, ABPP and Eva D. Sivan, PhD for their assistance in preparing this document.