It was a big shift to move from New York State to North Carolina in 1997. I remember experiencing the first threat of a hurricane and was in panic mode. Gradually this lessened as I learned that most storms we get in Raleigh aren't as bad as those they get on the coast.
However, when I saw that this Hurricane Florence could be as a bad as Hurricane Fran (and I've heard my share of horror stories) my anxiety greatly increased. Worst case scenarios went through my head, what if our roof blows off? Should we leave town? Where can I go that will accept my cats? And so on the anxious thoughts flew around in my mind creating my own anxious hurricane of thoughts.
The more I learned about the upcoming storm the more fear I felt. The media can make it worse and I find they catastrophize every storm and sometimes we have just gotten a rainy, windy day here. So how do you keep your anxiety in check when a big storm is heading your way?
1) Think Safety first, if you are on coastal region its best to evacuate and don't try to "ride it out." Stay tuned daily for mandatory evacuations and follow instructions from local officials. If you are staying, begin taking in outdoor objects that could be blown like chairs, small plants and decorations.
2) Do make a plan and prepare! There are a number of hurricane preparedness kit ideas online. Make sure to have enough candles, battery lanterns, lighters, a grill if possible and plenty of non perishable food and water. Be sure to get gas in your car in case you do have to leave and enough gas for your generator if you have one. Find out where local shelters are.
3) Get moving! Once I hit spin class last night my anxiety diminished as I had to keep catching my breath. Exercise is a great release of worry and anxiety, the more I sat around the more I worried so it was a good break.
4) Limit your news exposure on the storm, don't have it on 24 hours a day. This can cause heightened anxiety. It can be hard to do but limit your time checking the storm to 1-2 times a day.
5) Find trusted friends, family and a good Therapist to talk too. This can help you to process your feelings and get the validation you need.
6) Accept there is a lot out of your control and learn to sit with the uncertainty. Excessive worries about all possible scenarios is not helpful. Remind yourself that you are taking necessary precautions and will handle things as they come your way. You can't possible plan for every potential problem so don't try too.
7) Now is a good time to practice some good relaxation skills. After some meditation, deep breathing and yoga this morning I felt much more centered and in my calm space again. Remember the more stress you are under the more coping you have to engage in.
You are not alone in this so continue to seek out support from neighbors, friends and family. Look at what you can control such as helping others and making necessary preparations.
If you are someone you know is struggling with worry and anxiety, the Therapists at Path to Hope Counseling can help. Reach out today for you or your child email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-618-6526.